When ELVIS-WURA TOWOLAWI walked into my office and discussed starting a human rights education project in churches in Makurdi, Benue state, I was amused. Yes, we will have a wide audience and reach, but such must be situated within the Bible to have the impact we normally desire. So I challenged him to posit human rights within the Bible before I will approve the project. He produced a beautiful and compelling argument which I have compressed below. Am glad I approved the project, as Lawyers Alert “Human Rights Education for Churches” project is turning out to be one of our most successful projects. That is a discussion for another day though.
Find below ELVIS-WURA TOWOLAWI memo to me which am sharing on Christianity and Human Rights…..Rommy Mom Esq
The concept and idea of human rights started at creation when God said, ‘Come, let us make man in our own image and likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish, the birds, and all animals, domestic and wild, large and small.” So God created human beings, making them in His likeness- to have dominion over all things. ( see: Gen. 1:26-28, Good News Bible). Little wonder, the Psalmist, awe-stricken by the garb of beauty and dignity conferred on humans by God exclaimed: “When I consider Your Heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honour. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet!” (see: Psalms 8:3-6).
So God is the author of human rights. Fundamentally, human rights are God-ordained entitlement given to humans in order to live a worthy life of dignity and dominion. According to the Indian Supreme Court, ‘’ human rights are calculated to protect the dignity of the individual and create conditions in which every human being can develop his personality to the fullest’’. These rights are inborn, innate, and inherent in every person for the mere fact of being human- made in God’s image.
According to the respected Nigerian Jurist Ben Nwabueze: When we speak of the human person as having an inherent dignity and integrity, it is the spiritual attributes of thought, choice, conscience, the ability to form or hold opinions, to have feelings, emotions, sensations and impulses that are primarily referred to as conferring dignity and integrity on the human person.
Now, these rights are recognized all over the world as belonging to humans- whether black, white, brown, yellow or red; whether rich or poor; educated or uneducated; believer or non- believer. And these rights are provided for and protected in our Constitution which is the supreme law of the land; and in the African Charter and the International Bill of Rights. They are your benefits as sons and daughters of God and citizens of Nigeria. No one can take these rights from you recklessly and with impunity; be it Government or man. These rights beautify our existence on earth and give our lives a meaning.
Clarity demands that we highlight the rights which every Nigerian is entitled to for ease of remembrance and enforcement in the Court of Law. These are the rights: (1) RIGHT TO LIFE ( no one can take your life without justification under the Law) (2)RIGHT TO DIGNITY OF HUMAN PERSON ( that is, no person shall be enslaved, tortured, or required to perform forced labour; or subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment); (3)RIGHT TO PERSONAL LIBERTY;(4) RIGHT TO FAIR HEARING ( That is, the right to be heard before condemnation if one is accused of a crime or wrong. After all, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, He heard their ‘defenses’ before chasing them away from His presence with respect even though He’s Omniscience ( see: Gen.3:8-13). So’ why should a man be judged without hearing his own story?) (5)RIGHT TO PRIVATE LIFE AND FAMILY. (6)RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF THOUGHT, CONSCIENCE AND RELIGION (every man has the right to think, and hold doctrines and ideology without fear; worship without force or disturbance his own God) (7) RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND PRESS.(8) RIGHT TO PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY AND ASSOCIATION.(9)RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT AND RESIDENCE IN ANY PART OF COUNTRY ( That is, a Nigerian citizen can go anywhere he fancies in the nation, stay wherever he wants and cannot be deported or banished from any part of the country as was done by the Lagos State Government for any reason except disaster or crisis.) (10)RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF DISCRIMINATION on whatever grounds: be it sex, religion, tribe, language, or even social status; everyone is entitled to equal treatment and opportunities to enjoy the goodness of the land. (11) RIGHT TO ACQUIRE AND OWN LANDED AND IMMOVABLE PROPERTY ANYWHERE IN NIGERIA. And properties cannot be compulsorily acquired by the State without adequate compensation and in line with the Law.
Yet the question is and reasonably too, if we humans and citizens of Nigeria and the World have such rights, why do indignities, harassment and victimization persist? The answer is with us: ignorance and fear. The Holy Writ affirms this—‘’ my people perish for lack of knowledge’’. And when knowledge comes, freedom comes: ‘’ for you shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free’’. Whenever you know that these rights of yours are violated or there’s a threat of violation, feel free to approach the nearest Court, lawyer of judicial office for redress, ‘’ for its God’s minister to you for good; for it does not bear the sword in vain; for it is God’s minister and avenger to execute wrath on him that practices evil’’ (see: Romans 13:4) Do not your rights be trampled upon by anyone. Human rights are God-given rights which human agency can help enforce their enjoyment.
.At LAWYERS ALERT we strive to be the voice of the voiceless and plead the cause of the poor and needy.’’ (see: Psalm 31:8-9) Remember, God gave you these rights for a life of dignity and dominion; so don’t allow anyone deprive you of them. No bird can build a nest on your head except you let it. As the mantra at Lawyers Alert goes, Know and Enforce your rights. ELVIS-WURA TOWOLAWI is an Intern at Lawyers Alert