United Nations Sunday 2008, Human Rights: Dignity and Justice For Us All, Rev. Arthur G. Severance

Start Date

 The famous writing rabbi, Harold Kushner, author of the well known, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, wrote : "Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is like expecting the bull not to charge you because you are a vegetarian. Or as one cynic said recently, "Of course life is unfair. If life were fair, Elvis would still be alive and all those who impersonate him would be dead."

    In Japan, Sony Vaio machines have replaced the impersonal and unhelpful Microsoft error messages with their own Japanese haiku poetry, sounding very much like eastern religious scripture, especially during these trying international  :economic times:

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.

Stay the patient course
Of little worth is your ire
The network is down

Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.

    My computer often makes me scream, as does the economic situation actually and the international situation as well. It has for years. Since the Viet Nam conflict in the 60s! I have always been a strong peace advocate, and that�s why I�ve also been a strong supporter of the United Nations and especially of United Nations day and especially UN Sunday! You might like to know and be as proud as I am that UN Day was started, of course, by a UU. It was also started as an International Peace Day.

    A Unitarian Universalist,  lawyer, Frank B. Frederick wrote an article, THEY CALLED IT UNITED NATIONS DAY, in January 1979, and I found it on a website: In October 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations by unanimous vote established October 24th as an international day of observance to fortify a lasting peace, and they called it UNITED NATIONS DAY. October 24 was chosen for this observance because this was the day the Charter of the United Nations came into effect. It is the only International Day observed in the World. I have been called the Founder of United Nations Day, which developed from an idea which came to me in 1934 and from which United Nations Day evolved. Many people helped me, as you will see as this story unfolds.  We called this annual observance Peace day in the World.

    Frederick served as General Counsel and Treasurer of the AUA from 1945-1961 and then as General Counsel of the UUA. He was also a member of The National Citizens Committee for United Nations Day. As part of that group, he and other Committee members were received by President Harry Truman on September 15, 1949.

    I hope to make this an annual service to promote peace and human rights in the world. I hope we can get more involved in the UN and our UU-UN office.

    Liberation Theologian Robert McAfee Brown says: To think that we can be neutral in today�s world is to believe that we can fail to be present, that we can afford the luxury of being simply absent, taking no sides, no options. We are all present one way or another in this historical moment and we can either contribute to the liberation of the oppressed of the world or we can contribute to exploitation and injustice.

    Perhaps because the current news is more about the election or the economy than the UN and human rights, it seems harder to concentrate; perhaps we need to start with those two issues.

    Let�s start with the election, a historic event of firsts no matter who wins. If the Republicans win, well have the first woman vice president in history, and related to the UN, the first VP who can see Russia from her living room window! McCain will be the first President to have been a prisoner of war under a foreign power.

    But if the Democrats win, Obama is like his own United Nations story unto himself!  Obviously he would be the first African American President, but he is also the first generation African and American! Part Kenyan, part American. Think about that for a minute. Even his name. And here lets use his middle name for positive purpose- Barack Hussein Obama, We might describe him as mixed religion, from a Muslim father and Christian mother, but, and this is important to some people, evidently. Raised as a Christian and when it came time for his choice chose Christianity and is a practicing, progressive Christian. His name shows the multi-ethnicity of who the next President of the United States might be and how that might send a different message to the world of nations that are now far from United. How different a message than names like Bush or Clinton or Reagan or Carter- pretty Northern European While Anglo Saxon Protestant names, not that there is anything wrong with them, but this country is made up of more than just those names now, and the world is no longer controlled by those colonial powers, or should we say, at least not as colonial powers. Economically, of course, that�s another story.  Now, this is not an endorsement.

    The other issue right now is the economy, of course, and it is hard to think about anything else when we don�t know whether our own bank will be open tomorrow or who will own it if it is. Luckily, I don�t have to worry about having more than $100,000 in any bank account that wouldn�t be insured by the government. Who would have thought that would have been lucky?  But the economy is also its own United Nations. We�re finding out the international connections of just about everything, including our money and our mortgages. China owns everything doesn�t it? And for some reason puts lead in everything! Or the latest scandal is the terrible poison they put in baby�s milk formula to cover for the fact that they watered it down! All to make more money, of course. And lest, we feel too self-righteous, we were doing the same thing many years ago before the federal government began strict regulations; indeed, we might not be where we are in this economic crisis if the FDA regulated our money as well as our drugs! IN fact, many analysts have said that that is the exact reason that we are in this crunch that greed was left unchecked and unregulated and those of left paying the price are not the ones who profited. They have all escaped with their golden parachutes to their resort islands tax free! Again, I have suggested that even we UUs bring back the concept of Hell this one time only just for this occasion!

    But this financial mismanagement has spread to all countries and institutions like the World monetary Fund and are now competing with countries like China and Russia and Saudi Arabia for giving loans to countries that have political strings attached and want controls that may jeopardize human rights. Often times weapon sales are involved and always politics are involved, and we know from experience the age old conundrum of balancing the budget between guns and butter. United nation issues wrapped around economics.

    Twenty years ago. Rev. William F. Schulz, former president of the UUA, and Retired director Amnesty USA, from an address to the UN General Assembly's Third Special Session on Disarmament, June 1988:     "Justice is a sham if it is not universal. Plenty is a joke if even one child starves. Peace is an illusion if it not be peace for all. Those who would use religious differences as an excuse for violence dishonor the highest calling of their own faith traditions. Those who fail to see the connection between armaments and poverty forget the most elemental of religious lessons.

    So I believe that the next President is going to have to deal with the world in a way that was originally envisioned for the United Nations and hopefully help the United Nations organization become a true global community that might lead to peace, human rights, environmental stability, disease, and the elimination of poverty. I think that one of President Bush s biggest mistakes in going into Iraq, after the original mistake of them not having weapons of Mass destruction evidently, was not having UN support, or at least a majority even of major allies, but instead of acting very much like how much of how the world sees us-as a superpower bully who believes that we can do anything we want, because, like Teddy Roosevelt said, we can talk softly because we carry a big stick! Might makes right!  Our current rating in the worlds is at an all time low! I believe it is because we have not been a true part of the United Nations both literally and figuratively. And we are

    I hope that UN Sunday can be a way to remind us that we are connected to the world and to reach out in some way to help, especial by working for the candidate that we think will most help us become part of the UN again. 

We are all connected, all part of the web of this and even other universes. Even those of all nationalities who have left the earth and traveled in space and looked back to see the earth so far away like a blue and white marble.     And said Sultan Bib Saman Al-Saud: "The first day or so we pointed to all the countries. The third or fourth day we were pointing to continents. By the fifth day we were aware only of the earth."

    Does it make a difference that we are the first generation who have  literally seen  a different perspective of the earth-we have seen it from what used to be considered Gods perspective-from heaven looking down seeing it as one world-one earth-that one blue marble with no boundaries or borders! We have seen our earth from outer space, returning to earth! Like gods and goddesses!

    The United Nations is perhaps the first worldwide organization, formed to keep peace and solve world problems. It sounds to me that it is what God should be doing, doesn't it? Yet in all religions God works through us, as if humans must act in a certain way to save not just their souls, but the whole world's soul.

Making Progress on Human Rights for All:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 60
Bruce Knotts, the Executive Director of the UU United Nations Office,
Presents an Update on Lesbian/Gay Rights and the Paris Conference

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Bruce Knotts will talk about the amazing accomplishment we have achieved at the Paris Conference. As well as the Yogyakarta Principles, the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, and the way forward.  France plans to introduce a motion at the General Assembly to end homophobia. It will most likely not pass this year. We hope to focus LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Transgender) attention on getting US government support for this initiative at the UN and to mobilize inter-faith support to end the torture, abuse and legalized discrimination against LGBTs in the world.  United Nations Day is held annually on the anniversary of the coming into force of the UN Charter on October 24, 1945. UN Day is devoted to making known to peoples of the world the aims and achievements of the UN Organization. The Community Church of New York Unitarian Universalist The Mission of The Community Church of New York Unitarian Universalist is to grow as a caring, justice-making, anti-racist, diverse, spiritual community.

    I don�t know about you, but when I head those The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: I thought of how many atrocities I hear of instead, from the ones we are all to familiar with, like the holocaust, of course,- is it possible, we are  sick of hearing about that?- to the movies like Hotel Rowanda and others. I think of  the headlines especially in Africa- Biafra, Uganda South Africa, Darfur, and oh so many others, and I think of that famous reading from the holocaust from the German minister Martin Niemoller (probably spoken to a group of students in 1946 as his answer to the question: Why didn't the churches get involved?) "First they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out - because I was not a Jew.  Then they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.  Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out -because I was not a trade unionist.  Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me!"

    That�s why universal human rights always are so important especially to those of who have them and are comfortable and usually middle to upper middle class. There are those among us always who can tell their stories about times when their rights were lost or questioned. In the the 1960s I had long hair and a beard; I was what some people might describe as a hippie. There were some areas of the country I had to be careful in or I could get beat up or even killed. There were signs in some places that said, no hippies allowed. Did you know that the all American institution of  Disneyland I would not admit long-haired males, and of course, forget hiring them! (There were no signs, of course. I tell you this, because you all know that there was segregation and signs saying colored or whites only and much worse, but you might not know about the hippie signs. And the strange thing is, of course, that being a hippie, unlike being African American, or white, say, was completely voluntary, because it meant specifically for males, being long haired and usually bearded and maybe dressing funny. I could have been a short haired hippy in a suit and no one would have known or cared!  So what difference would it have made? Prejudice is a strange thing isn�t it, friends?

    One could argue that W.W.II and the horrors of the Holocaust was partly a result of the failure of the US to ratify the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations, after W.W.I  and that if the true purpose of League of Nations, which was to prevent war from ever happening again and help the nations of the world to learn how to live in peace together under a kind of world community  with countries having their own powers, had been realized what a different world we might ha have today. There is enough to go around if we will learn to share and play fair!  That world is still possible and we are poised on the brink of possibility to work toward a new world.

    Is the world half empty or half full? I believe the answer is up to us. I believe that we must try to change the world for the better, that we must speak out for human rights because it is the right thing to do, and that love is my guiding light. 

    I will vote for the candidate who I believe best personifies that same kind of love and who will represent that kind of love to the world as well helping us to work together for human rights with dignity and justice for us all!

Amen, Shalom, (Peace in Hebrew), Assalaamu Alaikum(may Peace be upon you in Arabic), Abrazos a todos (Hugs all around) Namaste, (A Hindu greeting the divinity within you) Blessed Be, and let me add one more blessing that I adapted from the Spanish long before I went in to ministry. Vaya con Dios is Spanish for Good-bye, but literally is Go with God, SO I adapted it to say Vaya Con Su Dios, Go with your idea or interpretation of God.

Event type
Worship Service