The histories of the WCC and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are intertwined. The Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, established in 1946 in anticipation of the subsequent foundation of the WCC, played a significant role in the drafting of the declaration.
To help mark this shared birthday, the WCC and United Evangelical Mission held a reception at the Ecumenical Centre on 28 September–-a date in between the respective birthdays of the WCC and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Those gathered shared reflections on the history of the declaration and its current and future importance for our global community.
In his remarks at the reception, Peter Prove, director of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, reflected on the shared history of the WCC and the declaration. “Our commemoration of this anniversary year is muted, even sombre,” he said. “The principles of human rights law seem to be more contested than ever before, and the commitment to multilateralism itself in retreat.”
He noted that we live in a time with new conflicts. “The World Council of Churches has consistently and repeatedly affirmed its commitment to the principles of international human rights law,” he said. “And yet we also have to acknowledge that within our own constituency – comprising 352 member churches in 120 countries and a total of over half a billion people – there are divergences and differences of opinion on the nature of the relationship between Christian faith principles and international human rights law.”
Dr Jochen Motte, deputy general secretary of the United Evangelical Mission, reflected on the history of the declaration and the organizations that have been strongly committed to it. “Today—as in many years after 1948—we face fundamental challenges for the implementation of universal human rights,” said Motte. “As church people, based on our faith and our biblical roots, we celebrate this day.”
Dr Michael Wiener, human rights officer with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, reflected that it’s important to discuss both the history and the future of the Declaration for Human Rights, and expressed his appreciation for how the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs helped shape the declaration. “That’s a very good example of how the various stakeholders, including civil society and faith-based actors, actually can and really have contributed to international human rights law,” he said. “The high commissioner looks forward to continued collaboration and to strengthening the engagement of faith-based actors in promoting and protecting human rights for all.”