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Sunday, December 09, 2007

humane treatment for the poor: global ethic and liberation theology

The recent talk entitled “Democracy Update: The Role of Religion in Democracy” by Mr. Peter Schier, representative of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, was a timely reminder about the mutual commitment we have for the entire humanity. His presentation of the principle “Treat others as you would want to be treated” admonishes that everyone has the role to treat others fairly because only when social justice prevails that true freedom, happiness and peace are achieved.
One of the global ethic principles that emerges from the foundational Golden Rule is “Every human being must be treated humanely.” For me, it means having the right to be recognized as a person. Even during the times when there are restrictions to anybody’s freedom, one’s entitlements for one’s person, dignity, ideas, and creed should be respected. In all circumstances, every human must be treated without any form of discrimination.
Humane treatment for every human being prohibits certain acts deemed too harsh to be deserved by anyone. These acts include violence to a person’s life, welfare and honor, chastisement against anyone or one’s properties, anybody’s abduction and detention, stealing from anyone, depriving anyone of access to basic necessities, and threatening anyone with any of these acts. At its most fundamental, respect for human dignity must be provided universally. Only when others are respected that individuals become true to themselves in their desire to be respected. To be humane is a duty over which all humans are responsible, being dependent and siblings to one another.
The abovementioned principle sees parallelism in a strand of Liberation Theology as tackled by Jon Sobrino, S.J., which reads thus: there is a reality of oppressed and subjugated world which calls us to liberate every human being so that they may become human. This aspect of Liberation Theology responds to that principle through the idea that as human beings, the poor should be treated as humanely as any other individual. It does not follow that just because they languish in limited material access, the poor also loses the privilege of being liberated from their plight. On the contrary, all the more that they should be freed because their poverty is an enslaving condition that can linger across generations unless action is taken to end it. Human history let us in on the continuing plight of the poor as the society’s underprivileged: the victims of violence, the materially disenfranchised, the exploited working class, the very components of the marginalized sector. The global ethic principle seeks to give an end to this misfortune by considering the poor as our equal in terms of personal rights. This can become possible when their inherent rights are recognized such that they become free to practice their beliefs, pursue their ideals, possess their dignity, and claim their humanity. This, of course, runs consonant with the Liberation Theology concept that only when they free from oppression and subjugation will the poor become fully human. It means that the suffering and death so familiar to them by virtue of the presence of poverty should also give way to hope, which should never be abandoned by the poor even in the direst times. Quite the opposite, the poor should hope more as poverty aggravates because only with hope will there be any opportunity to achieve freedom from it. Hope shall motivate the poor to remain believing that their burden can be assuaged and liberation can be had, eventually. The striking similarity of the global ethic principle with that of Sobrino’s brand of Liberal Theology is a telling proof that the need or duty for humane treatment is universal.
A world without prejudice is so much better than a world divided by borders steeped in poverty not only of material things but also of the soul. We may all be diverse yet a unifying principle can be found in the upholding of the right to humane treatment. We should commit ourselves to treating one another fairly because only with this commitment will we be able to enter, explore and understand one another’s world. We should will the necessity to cooperate because there is less difficulty in responding to the challenge to break the cycle of social injustices when everybody works together. Only then will we realize that as we alleviate others from their impoverished state, we also alleviate our humanity of our own poverty.

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