Human Rights Among Nations and Peoples

Living Faith tells us that “Justice involves protecting the rights of others. It protests against everything that destroys human dignity. Justice requires concern for the poor of the world. It seeks the best way to create well-being in every society. It is concerned about employment, education, and health, as well as rights and responsibilities.” (Living Faith, 8.4.3-4). The church supports the Declaration of Human Rights (A&P 1998, pp. 283-298) and other UN Conventions (A&P 1972, pp. 302-303, 70). Our understanding of human rights must be grounded in the whole thrust of the gospel – that peace and justice includes the welfare of all (A&P 1996, pp. 278-94). The church advocates for the full expression and dignity of every person’s human rights.

This page has general statements regarding the protection of human rights. Click a region below for church actions and statements regarding specific countries or areas of the world – content is listed by country.

Principles that General Assembly has endorsed

  • Christians should support the universal Declaration of Human Rights and encourage awareness of its provisions. (A&P 1998, pp. 283-298, 33)
  • Aid and development funds should be linked with human rights performance. (A&P 1992, pp. 341-357, 42)
  • Non-Indigenous people need to educate themselves about Indigenous peoples and issues. (A&P 1993, pp. 246-247, 38)
  • Congregations are encouraged to offer prayers for all whose human rights are violated including prayers for persecuted Christians. (A&P 2002, pp. 331-332, 25)
  • Access to land is a foundation of human existence and well-being. Biblical witness attests that access to land and the ability to derive sustenance from it are part of the prophetic announcement of good news to all. The church can support the right of people everywhere to access and enjoy the life-giving benefits of land by urging governments and corporations to honour the land rights of the poor and to allow the poor to glean some living from large plots of land owned by others. (A&P 2011, pp. 286-297, 17)
  • The church abhors political repression wherever it is found. (A&P 1989, p. 377)

Selected actions of the church

2022: The church advocated the Government of Canada that Canada become a hub for vaccine production, with a percentage being donated to middle- and low-income countries without the capacity to produce vaccines safely. Presbyterians are invited to learn more about Love My Neighbour, a Canadian campaign advocating for equitable access and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to communities in vulnerable circumstances around the world.

Congregations and individuals were encouraged to study food systems—how food is made, shared and eaten—and advocate for governmental policies that protect the human right to food. Presbyterians were encouraged to amplify Canadian Foodgrains Bank’s advocacy efforts to promote climate resilient food systems to support small-scale growers, improve food security, address the climate crisis, protect biodiversity and increase gender equality. (A&P 2022, pp. 141-5, 45)

2019: General Assembly wrote to the Government of Canada communicating the church’s commitment to the protection of religious freedom in Canada and around the world and asking that religious freedom be among the rights Canada encourages in conversations with other nations. Presbyteries were encouraged to pray at each meeting in 2019–2020 for persecuted Christians and other persecuted religious groups around the world. (A&P 2019, pp. 29, 284-286)

2016: General Assembly encouraged the Government of Canada to continue calling for an end to violence against LGBT people and for the respect of human rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identity in relevant international fora. (A&P 2016, pp. 306-314, 23)

2005: General Assembly urged the Government of Canada to affirm that access to clean, safe water for personal use is a basic human right. (A&P 2005, pp. 294-307, 14-15)

1997: General Assembly encouraged the Government of Canada to meet the commitments it made at the Rome Summit on Food Security and to communicate progress in this regard. (A&P 1997, pp. 301-316, 31)

1996: General Assembly affirmed the efforts of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to promote human rights and democratic development and encouraged the Government of Canada to emphasize human rights in Canada’s trade policy. (A&P 1996, pp. 278-294, 48-49)

1993: General Assembly asked the Canadian ambassador to the United Nations to work toward strengthening the institution’s framework to deal with issues affecting Indigenous peoples. (A&P 1993, pp. 246-247, 38)

1992: General Assembly praised the Government of Canada for ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. (A&P 1992, pp. 341-357, 42)

1972: General Assembly noted that the Government of Canada ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and asked the government to sign and ratify:  The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the Optional Protocol on Civil and Political Rights. (A&P 1972, pp. 302-303, 70)

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