The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights has made a profound impact in fighting injustice and is “a landmark in the history of moral consciousness”, says the Archbishop of Canterbury in a lecture on Human Rights and Religious Faith at the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Centre in Geneva. However, Dr Williams also notes current tensions around the discourses of rights, faith and culture. He observes that there has been a more recent trend to develop Human Rights as a purely universal legal code around the entitlements claimed by individuals and in this lecture he offers an alternative approach that takes into account the cultural and the community aspects of human interaction - which is an integral part of religious belief:
Here you are, it is Ash Wednesday and you have just confessed your sins – corporately, of course. You go away with a black or grey smudge of a cross on your forehead, and if you are even remotely like me you will feel a bit strange in the crowd with this mark. Some may even wipe it off as soon as they have come out of church. This signing in the shape of the Cross is accompanied by the words: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Turn away from your sin and be faithful to Christ.”
Can you think of reasons why it is important to be reminded now and again that we shall not live forever?