Remembering rights

On Tuesday Iceland announced that it voted to recognize Palestine as an independent state, making it the first Western European country to do so. If you follow international politics at all, it should come as no surprise to you that this is a major development.

The issue of Palestinian statehood is obviously a divisive one far beyond the (contested) borders of Palestine and Israel. But regardless of where you may stand on the politics, morality, and interests associated with the issue, it’s difficult to deny that  the conversation can continue without some discussion of the rights of the Palestinians.

Rights of a slightly different sort were considered in October when the United States committed 100 troops to Uganda as advisors in the struggle against the incredibly destructive Lord’s Resistance Army, which has killed thousands of people in Central Africa in the last quarter-century. In this case, it is the right of those living in Uganda and the surrounding coutnries to simply be safe. The United States has no material interests in the area.

Vitally different cases? Perhaps. But they have a couple things in common: First, that the people involved do not enjoy the same freedoms that Americans do – the freedom to sit around and discuss the rights of other people, for example – and also that some Americans are sure to speak out against the efforts to recognize the rights of these groups using the language of American interests.

At Concordia, we are encouraged to think as members of a global community – as citizens of the world, not just of our individiual countries – and to remember that American rights do not trump human rights. It’s true that it’s impossible to give everybody everything they want. But to dismiss the discussion of human and political rights on such a ground is also too simplistic. Responsibly engaging the world requires remembering that somtimes we are called to wrestle with really difficult questsions. But the wrestling is worth it; if we are careful, we may find a way to balance the rights of all people.

Peace homes,

Mary Beenken, Editor-in-Chief

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