The importance of human rights
Every year on Dec. 10, we celebrate Human Rights Day in honor of the date of passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights enacted by the United Nations in 1948. The protections granted by the declaration affect all aspects of our private and public life. Many of the protections that Americans have that come from the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution, such as freedom of religion and the right to assemble, are provided for those around the world by way of the UDHR. These basic rights are what our men and women in uniform are striving to attain for the people of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Human rights promotion is the work of all levels of society. Not only do the United Nations and international groups play a role, but so do national, state, and local governments. At the federal level, the U.S. Commission on Human Rights and at the state level Maryland's Office of Human Relations work to advance human rights. On the county level, the Montgomery County Office of Human Rights ensures protection. And at the municipal level, the City of Rockville has a Human Rights Commission. This commission consists of 11 Rockville residents who serve as a volunteer watchdog group to ensure that human rights are in the forefront of local priorities. The commission is engaged in a range of activities including sponsoring the city's celebration of The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. every January, probably our best-known fighter for human rights.
Human rights are much more than well-meaning aspirations set to legal language. It is important for society to live human rights through its practices, behavior, and attitudes. Celebrating human rights once a year is important, but living human rights every day is essential. To live human rights values means to support the oppressed, embrace the excluded, advocate for the voiceless, and celebrate the diversity of our community.
In order to raise the awareness of human rights in Rockville, the Human Rights Commission is sponsoring community forums. The next forum is at 7 p.m. Dec. 2 at VisArts Center in Rockville Town Center. This forum will focus on issues often viewed as international ones, but that can affect us locally such as human trafficking. We invite you to attend this forum and learn more about these basic protections and ideals that are important to live every day.
David J. Smith, Rockville
The writer is a member of the Rockville Human Rights Commission.