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I believe that from a biblical and theological perspective, the summary of the law, which Jesus Christ mentioned in the Gospels, lies at the basis of the articulation of the human rights charter. Jesus summed up religious faith in two verses from the Hebrew Scriptures: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." And due to a popular narrow definition of who constitutes a neighbor, Jesus gave the story of the Good Samaritan, which expanded the definition of neighbor to include every person - even one's enemy.
This is not only a summary of the law and the prophets in the Bible. We need to look at it today as the basis of the whole human rights charter. It is also the bridge that links us with other human beings and places all people on equal footing with each other regardless of their religious or non-religious affiliation.
Today, therefore, we find no discrepancy between our faith and our understanding of the importance and relevance of human rights. In fact, we believe that human rights stem out of our understanding of our faith and our interpretation of the Bible. Issues like the dignity of all human beings are integrally tied together with our faith in a creator God who loves all people equally. Once we accept "love" as the fundamental hermeneutic and use it as such in determining the human rights of others, everything else falls into place. All human rights are derived from fleshing out the concept of the love of others. Indeed, the respect and dignity of every human being derives from the principle of love. One of the best expositions of this in the language of faith is found in the words of the Apostle Paul:
"Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery; you shall not murder; you shall not steal; you shall not covet'; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law" (Romans 13:8-10).
Using this formula of love as binding, one can point to the following:
1. Prime Minister Netanyahu's emphasis on the Jewishness of the state of Israel is a sin against love of neighbor because it violates the human rights of a large segment of the population of the land, the Palestinians who were historically the inhabitants of the land long before the state of Israel came into being. This emphasis undermines their human rights.
2. The Israeli law that favors Israeli Christians over Israeli Muslims exposes Israeli government policies of divide and rule. It is a racist law that is a sin against love of neighbor, because it does not consider all people as equal in their standing
before the law.
3. The Israeli government's onslaught on the Aqsa Mosque (acting through extremist religious Jewish settlers) to divide it or take it over is a sin against love of neighbor; it uses the military power of the state to achieve unjust political ends that are contrary to international law and that infringe on the legal rights of Muslims.
4. The Israeli plan to draft Israeli Arab Christians into the army is a sin against love of neighbor because it aims at creating divisions within the Arab Israeli community and sows seeds of tension and strife.
5. Anytime we use half-truths in order to undermine others and cast them in doubt so that we appear innocent and better, while they appear as villains, is a sin against love of neighbor.
The Rev. Dr. Naim Stifan Ateek (Arabic: نعيم عتيق, Na’īm ’Ateeq) (born in the Palestinian village of Beisan in 1937) is a Palestinian priest in the Anglican Church and founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. He has been an active leader in the shaping of the Palestinian liberation theology. He was the first to articulate a Palestinian theology of liberation in his book, Justice, and only Justice, a Palestinian Theology of Liberation, published by Orbis in 1989, and based on his dissertation for his degree in theology. The book laid the foundation of a theology that addresses the conflict over Palestine and explores the political as well as the religious, biblical, and theological dimensions. A former Canon of St. George's Cathedral, Jerusalem, he lectures widely both at home and abroad. His latest book, A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation, was published by Orbis in 2008.