Human Rights (chr.)

 Citation link: Human Rights (chr.)  

(Turk. İnsan Hakları)

The term ‘human rights’ denotes fundamental rights accruing to the individual as such solely by virtue of his or her status as a human being. These rights are independent of membership in a particular ethnic group, social class, religion, ideology, political group; they are also independent of gender identification or sexual orientation. Human rights lay claim to universal validity, as they are held to apply even where they are not theoretically recognised in a particular legal system, or where, as a practical matter, they are ignored in reality. In terms of their contents, human rights can be divided up into three groups: liberal rights of freedom and defence (relationship between the individual and the state, protection of life and limb, privacy, property, freedom of religion and freedom of expression), rights of political participation (democracy) and rights of social participation (humane working conditions, social security, equality of educational opportunity, cultural and linguistic independence, clean environment). In today’s ethical-political discourse, the things we refer to expressly as human rights are not the content of any particular religion but rather an achievement of secular modern reason (1776: Virginia Bill of Rights; 1789: Déclaration des Droits de l’homme et du citoyen). The notion of human rights gained global significance only in 1948 with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights promulgated by the United Nations. This declaration justifies the universal claim to human rights on the basis of the dignity inherent in equal measure in all human beings. In keeping with the philosophy of the German Enlightenment (Immanuel Kant, 1724–1804), this dignity consists in the fact that every individual has the capacity for self-determination on the strength of the gift of reason. To preserve the unconditional nature of human rights, however, they must ultimately be anchored in the dimension of the absolute, and hence in that of the transcendent. The religions can provide just such an ultimate justification for human rights. Only after a long period of rejection and struggle, Christian theology discovered that human rights are not only consonant with many of the individual basic precepts of Christian ethics but that, in addition to this, they can also be considered as indispensable consequences of the Christian idea of humankind. From the point of view of Christianity, human rights emerge from the view that every individual person, by virtue of his or her creation, is a likeness of the living God (cf. Gen 1.26), and that it is only through God’s absolute love that his or her dignity is rendered inviolable. Because every religion can, in principle, provide a transcendent justification of human rights in its own way, human rights can be positively received and further developed by non-Christian cultures as well.

Martin Thurner

Related entries

This post is also available in German, German and Turkish.