Vimal Malik, in his April 4 letter, “Where does human respect live?,” says we must look at the world we actually live in, not through the “stained glass of dogma.” I agree, yet it apparently is Malik’s “dogma” that social justice sprang up spontaneously from late modern secularists and Scandinavian social planners.
At least in the West, the development of human rights has been inextricably linked to the Judeo-Christian patrimony.
The celebrated Montesquieu observed that it was Christianity that hastened the abolition of slavery in Europe itself (“Spirit of the Laws,” Book 15, Section 8).
The actual history of the abolitionist movement, reformers like William Wilberforce who ended the slave trade, and the Jesuits’ anti-slavery work in South America all showed the central role of religion in an evolving conception of human rights.
When St. Paul admonished Philemon that a slave must be treated as a brother, he didn’t rid the world of a 5,000-year-old scourge overnight, but he did provide a revolutionary moral framework for advancing human freedom.
Martin Luther King would be surprised, I think, to hear that human rights were invented in Stockholm just yesterday.
Even in India, religion isn’t all about reincarnation. I seem to recall a Mother Teresa and her followers caring for the dying and bringing compassion to the poorest of the poor very much in the here and now.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.