How has Christianity helped the development of human rights?
Christianity arose in an age of terrible cruelty and abuse of the average man.
Christians themselves were persecuted and lived and died without religious freedom. The first great human right that Christians won for those in
the Roman Empire was that of toleration of religion. Christians themselves now had this human right based in law, but in practice these were not
human rights as we now understand them.
As time went on Christian leaders taught the Roman world that all people are created in the image of God and the cruelty and abuse of the common
man cannot continue. One Christian leader was especially responsible for ending the bloody games that took place in the coliseum of Rome, leading
to the understanding that no-one’s life is expendable – even a slave who was force to be a gladiator.
Over the centuries the Christian Church began to expand upon healthcare, providing treatment for the poor, as well as the rich. Education spread too,
and by the time of the great revivals in Britain, Christian Sunday schools made the first attempt to bring education to the masses. The right to education
and healthcare sprang out of Christianity and its influence.
The British Christian politician William Wilberforce was in his generation, inspired by the Bible to fight to see a complete end of the slave trade,
and others followed his call to see slavery itself formally ended.
For working class people who suffered, Christian leaders like Lord Shaftesbury fought for the rights of children, women and working men. He helped
improve pay, limit working hours and changed conditions for the better. Men, women and children were given these rights because Christian leaders
fought for them. Also, the first Union for workers was founded by a Christian preacher and his friends who demanded fair pay after years of abuse.
In the story of human liberty and democracy, Christianity often played a central role. The foundation of freedom in the modern world is Magna Carta,
the great charter of freedom – the author was a Christian who was inspired by the Bible. The first great peasants’ revolt – demanding basic human
rights was led by the Rev. John Ball, who preached from the Bible that all are equal. Christian leader Cromwell formally ended the absolute rule
of the Monarch in England and next Christian politicians removed the next Monarch, placing William of Orange on the throne and creating the
sub-structure of all modern democracies. Christian politicians later got into the highest circles of power and fought for the right to vote for every
Christianity helped develop almost all the human rights that we now take for granted. The right to healthcare, an education, the right to vote,
workers’ rights, women’s rights, the right of children to be children – all of this is the legacy of Christianity. As well as ending the slave
trade and slavery, opening schools, universities, hospitals – the list goes on and on. In the late 20th century, great Christian leaders like
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for civil rights in America and Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela fought to end apartheid in South Africa.
Finally, when Said Rajaie-Khorassani of Iran spoke to the U.N., he articulated the position of his country that the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights was essentially a Christian based document, by saying it was a “secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition.”
The find out more about the impact of Christianity upon the world, take a look at the book, ‘How Christianity Made the Modern World.’ Go