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Human Rights. A unit for post-16 General RE Suitable for use w ith NOCN framework and Extended Project. “It is useless to admit that a man has a right to the necessities of life, unless we also do all in our power to supply him with means sufficient for his livelihood.”

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Human Rights

A unit for post-16

General RE

Suitable for use

with NOCN


and Extended


“It is useless to admit that a man has a right to the necessities of life, unless we also do all in our power to supply him with means sufficient for his livelihood.”

Pope John XXIII, Pacem in terris, 32.

human rights
Human Rights

Section 1: The Declaration4

Section 2: Scripture 9

Section 3: Peace on Earth 17

Section 4: Church teaching 23

Section 5: Case studies 26

Section 6: Take action 40

learning objectives
Learning objectives


  • By the end of this unit, students will:
  • Be familiar with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Be familiar with scripture and Catholic Social Teaching relating to human rights, particularly Pacem in Terris (NOCN 1.1; 1.2)
  • Be able to explain some of the differences that theupholding of human rights can make to people in poor communities in developing countries, and give examples of how CAFOD partners have helped to uphold human rights (NOCN 1.2; 2.1; 7.1)
  • Have taken action to help some of those whose rights are being ignored or abused, both locally and globally (NOCN 6.1; 8.1)
how does it feel
How does it feel?


Section 1 The Declaration

human rights:pl.n. The basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled, and in whose exercise a government may not interfere.

declaration of human rights
Declaration of Human Rights


On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Section 1 The Declaration


It states that:

Everyone has a right to…



life, freedom and security

humane treatment

equal protection in law

freedom of thought, conscience and religion

rest and leisure

Section 1 The Declaration

access public service and social security

marry and start a family

take part in government

own property

be presumed innocentuntil proven guilty

Work, for a just wage

an adequate standard of living

free choice of employment

Freedom of opinion and expression

just conditionsat work

freedom of peaceful assembly and association

protection of privacy, family, home, correspondence and reputation

join a trade union


asylum from persecution

participate in cultural life

a nationality

rights lead to duties
Rights lead to duties


Section 1 The Declaration

UDHR, Article 29, states that:

“Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his or her personality is possible.”

“To claim one's rights and ignore one's duties, or only half fulfil them, is like building a house with one hand and tearing it down with the other.”

Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, 30.

  • Why is the above statement about duties contained in the UDHR?
  • Look again at the human rights on the previous slide.
  • Name a duty that corresponds to each right, for example, the right to life implies a duty to preserve life.


Section 1 The Declaration

“The right to development is the measure of all other human rights. That should be our aim: a situation in which all individuals are enabled to maximize their potential, and to contribute to the evolution of society as a whole.”

Kofi Annan

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life…”

Nelson Mandela

“If we all discharge our duties, rights will not be far to seek.”

Mohandas Gandhi

“Commit yourself to the noble struggle for human rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country and a finer world to live in.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his [or her] humanity.”

Mother Teresa

“Please use your freedom to promote ours.”

Aung San Suu Kyi, former political prisoner

More human rights quotes


Is this from the Bible?


Section 2 Scripture

5. If a man has two wives… he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn.

2. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

7. A man retains the right of redemption after he has sold himself [as a labourer]. One of his relatives may redeem him.

3. If a man sells a house in a walled city, he retains the right of redemption a full yearafter its sale.

1. I have the right to do what I want with my own money…

8. The king's edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves;

6. Do we not have the rightto food and drink?

4. No one has the right to redeem land that belonged to our brother except you, and I (Ruth) am next in line."


These are in the Bible


Section 2 Scripture

If a man has two wives… he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn. (Deut. 21:15-16)

A man retains the right of redemption after he has sold himself [as a labourer]. One of his relatives may redeem him. (Lev. 25:48)

If a man sells a house in a walled city, he retains the rightof redemption a full year after its sale. (Lev. 25:29)

The king's edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves… (Esther 8:11a)

No one has the right to [redeem land that belonged to our brother] except you, and I [Ruth] am next in line. (Ruth 4:5)

I have the right to do what I want with my own money… (Mtt. 20:15)

Do we not have the right to food and drink? (I Cor. 9:4)

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name,

He gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)

The king's edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies. (Esther 8:11)


Scripture: Overview


Section 2 Scripture

In the New Testament, St Paul and the early Christians built on their Jewish heritage, gaining deeper insights into human dignity as they reflected on the meaning of the incarnation.

Look at the scripture passages on the next three slides and ponder the questions.

The Old Testament implies that a sense of right and wrong is part

of our created nature.

It also reveals something of humanity’s progress towards a greater awareness of human rights.

Old Testament society (and, to a great degree, modern society) was founded on the Ten Commandments which, though statements of duties, inevitably imply rights.


Scripture: Genesis


Section 2 Scripture

God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them,

"Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.

Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

Then God said,"I give you every seed-bearing plant

on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”

(Genesis 1: 27-29)

What rights does

God give to

human beings?

What duties does

God give to

human beings?


Scripture: Exodus


Section 2 Scripture

“You shall have no other gods before me

You shall not make for yourself an idol…

You shall not bow down to them or worship them…

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God…

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy…

Honour your father and your mother…

You shall not murder

You shall not commit adultery

You shall not steal

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour

You shall not covet your neighbour's house, or wife, or manservant or maidservant, ox or donkey,

or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”

(Ex. 20: 3-17)

What do the Ten Commandments say or imply about human rights?


Scripture: I Corinthians


Section 2 Scripture

“We were all baptised by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink…

God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.”

(I Corinthians 12: 12-26)

  • Look up the complete passage.
  • What does this passage imply should be the relationship between:
  • an individual and society
  • the State and groups within the State
  • one nation and another?

The Bible recognises the essential dignity of human beings as well as their capacity for evil.

Old Testament people accepted the need for rules and treasured God’s Law, though they often broke it.

The early Church saw love as key to relationships, each member of the body having concern for the other.



Section 2 Scripture

Optional activity

Task: Create a leaflet entitled “The Bible and Human Rights”.

Aim: To convince people of the connection between scripture and human rights.

Tips: Use passages from scripture, illustrate them and try to connect them with the modern world. Use your own illustrations or clippings from newspapers and magazines.



Section 2 Scripture

Jesus said: "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

(Matthew 5:43-44)

Lord Jesus, you challenge us to love as you loved,

to transform our communities and our world

into places of justice and peace.

Inspire us by your Holy Spirit

so that we do not look at our weakness

but trust in your word

that with God all things are possible.


How far is this teaching reflected in my school or college, in my family, in my life?

Is the Gospel more demanding than the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

How am I challenged by Jesus’ words?

Imagine the impact of a Church fully living Jesus’ words.


Peace on Earth


Section 3 Peace on Earth

In 1963 Pope John XXIII wrote an encyclical, a public letter, called “Pacem in terris” (Peace on earth).

It contains the Church’s most clear and detailed statement in support of human rights.

The encyclical’s purpose was to promote peace and freedom, condemning war and the arms race.

Pacem in terris talks about five main areas of life in 1963





Section 3 Peace on Earth

Scientific & technological

“Nor is any nation nowadays content to submit to foreign domination”

“Recent progress in science and technology has had a profound influence on our way of life”




“We notice a progressive improvement in the social and economic conditions of working men”

“The superiority complex of certain classes is rapidly becoming a thing of the past”

“Civil institutions are often little affected by Christian motives and a Christian spirit”

What are the main issues and developments happening in today’s world in each of these areas?


Today’s world


Section 3 Peace on Earth

In each box put an issue or development that portrays today’s world.

In the speech bubbles write a related human rights issue.


Pope John XXIII


Section 3 Peace on Earth

  • This is what Pope John XXIII saw as the relationship between Godand human rights:
  • Human beings were created in God’s image, filled with God’s wisdom and goodness
  • Human rights are based on a moral order which God made a natural part of human reason and consciousness
  • Human rights will be respected when we live in the orderly way that God intended

“The moral order in human society finds its source in the true, personal and transcendent God. God is the first truth, the sovereign good, and the deepest source from which human society, if it is properly composed, creative and worthy of man’s dignity, draws its life.” Pope John XXIII, Pacem in terris, 38


Pope John XXIII


Section 3 Peace on Earth

  • Yet, for the Church, it is the incarnation – the coming of Jesus to earth as a human being – that gives us an even greater duty to treat each other with dignity and respect:

“When we consider our personal dignity from the standpoint of divine revelation, of course our estimate of it is increased beyond measure. We have been ransomed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Grace has made us children and friends of God, and heirs to eternal glory.”

Pope John XXIII, Pacem in terris, 10


Peace on Earth


Section 3 Peace on Earth

Print out sections 11-27 of the encyclical Pacem in terris:

Underline any human rights that you can find in the text.

Cut out each underlined word or phrase and sort them into five categories: Cultural rights, political rights, economic rights, spiritual rights, social rights.

Compare these with the rights in the Declaration (slide 6). How similar are they? Why do you think this is?

Would you like to add any rights to Pope John’s list?

How would you summarise his teaching on human rights?


Catholic Social Teaching


Section 4 Church teaching

What is ‘Catholic Social Teaching’?

“…a collection of teachings developed by the Catholic Church on poverty and wealth, economics, social organisation and the role of the state.”

Popes and bishops have spoken out on labour rights, sharing wealth, peace-making and many other social issues.

“A consistent theme of Catholic social teaching is the option... or preference… for the poor. Today, this preference has to be expressed in worldwide dimensions, embracing the immense numbers of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without medical care, and those without hope.”

Pope John Paul II, On Social Concern


Other Catholic Social Teaching


Section 4 Church teaching

Rerum novarum, Leo XIII, 1891

Gaudium et spes, Vatican Council, 1965

Populorum progressio, Paul VI, 1967

Justicia in mundo, World synod of Catholic bishops, 1971

Sollicitudo rei socialis, John Paul II, 1987

Christifideles laici,John Paul II, 1988

Caritas in veritate, Benedict XVI, 2009

Choose one of the above documents.

Find three quotations in your chosen document that reveal something about the Church’s attitude to human rights.




Section 4 Church teaching

Each paragraph should include:

• An overview of the issue or development

• A summary of any human rights challenged by it

• The way in which you are calling Catholics to respond

• A quotation from scripture that illustrates your point

Look back at your work on slide 19; it shows the areas that Pope John XXIII might have addressed if he had been writing Pacem in terris today.

Write your own encyclical on human rights, including one paragraph on each of the five aspects of today’s world that you identified on slide 19.


Human rights and CAFOD


Section 5 Case studies

The right to life and to a decent standard of living

In over 50 countries, CAFOD partners work alongside people in poor communities. Often this means helping people to learn

alternative farming methods or set up new businesses.

In consequence, thousands of people can now feed their families

and achieve a decent standard of living.

You may be less aware that our work also addresses other human rights.

  • Let’s look at three examples:
  • • The right to freedom of opinion and expression in Colombia
  • • The right to security in Palestine
  • The right to education and to take part in government in Cambodia

Case Study One: Colombia


Section 5 Case studies

The right to freedom of opinion and expression

The situation: Colombia is ravaged by conflict between the state and guerrilla groups, with citizens suffering from gross human rights violations.

More than four million people have fled their homes to escape the violence, with paramilitaries often taking over their land.

Lack of government investment has damaged education, healthcare and the infrastructure.

There are severe limitations on dissent or opposition; between 1991 and 2006, 98 journalists were murdered. Only 20 of those cases were investigated by the Crown Prosecution.


Case Study One: Colombia


Section 5 Case studies

A CAFOD Partner:

CAFOD partner, CINEP, supports a project called Reporteros de Colombia that helps journalists to report about the conflict in Colombia.

If a story is highly sensitive the name of the journalist is not published; the Reporteros name is given instead.

“We put ourselves in the frontline so journalists are not at risk.”

Rocío Castañeda Cisneros, coordinator of Reporteros


Case Study One: Colombia


Section 5 Case studies

A personal story:

In 1998, Mary Luz Avendaño was kidnapped by FARC guerrillas for a week while reporting on the presidential elections. But she is threatened by all sides of the conflict, including paramilitaries:

“In 2007, I was covering a story about a paramilitary leader who was testifying at a public hearing in Medellin when the paramilitaries were giving up their weapons. We noticed that they were monitoring what we were doing, taking photos and filming us.

I complained about this behaviour but then they threatened me and said that ‘we don’t have to kill you to hurt you. We know where you live, and with whom, and what they do’.”


Case Study One: Colombia


Section 5 Case studies

Mary Luz was offered no protection or support by her employers.

Many reporters have been forced intoexile, kidnapped or silenced due to threats and intimidation they received from guerrilla groups, drug traffickers and paramilitary groups.

Mary Luz is now a member of Reporteros de Colombia.

“We feel less scared now with the network behind us. As more journalists join, we get stronger and people are less scared. Any move to stop freedom of the press will come out in a Reporteros alert.”

Mary Luz Avendaño


Case Study Two: Palestine


Section 5 Case studies

The right to security

The situation: Since the West Bank and Gaza Strip were occupied by Israel following the Six-day War in 1967, Palestinians have seen their standard of living fall; now more than three-quarters of the population in Gaza lives below the UN poverty line.

In most of the West Bank, Palestinians cannot build homes or roads, or move freely from place to place because the Israeli authorities will not give them permission. This damages the economy and local services and breaks up families.

Our partners provide legal services to those whose homes are threatened and help people stand up for their rights.


Case Study Two: Palestine


Section 5 Case studies

A CAFOD Partner:

Shari Brown lives in Birmingham. She volunteered to go to Hebron in the West Bank as an ecumenical accompanier with CAFOD partner, EAPPI.

“The focus of our work is to accompany Palestinian children to school… We also visit families who live very close to Israeli settlements and might be targeted.

I’ve had stones thrown at me… Some settler youth (Israelis who currently occupy the territory) threw stones when I went to see a family. A soldier pushed them on.

We can’t prove our presence stops settler attacks… We have to be guided by what locals say, and they are saying we want ecumenical accompaniers to be here.”


Case Study Two: Palestine


Section 5 Case studies

A personal story:

Hashem Alazzah’s family lives in a one-storey house overlooked by a Jewish settlement.

“The first day the settlers threw stones at us… we said: ‘We accept you as neighbours – do you accept us?’ They said: ‘No; you must go to Jordan or Egypt.’

They used to throw stones, garbage and empty bottles. They threw the washing machine when I was in the garden and I moved out of the way just in time. When I escaped they threw a rock.”


Case Study Two: Palestine


Section 5 Case studies

“The settlers used to attack the children on the way to and from school…They are afraid sometimes to harass us in front of internationals... They’re afraid of the articles and the negative publicity...

I can’t get a job anywhere because of where I live. On Jewish holidays they close the checkpoints; so I can’t get there… The poverty here [in Gaza] is 80 per cent. No-one works…

The presence of the international ecumenical accompaniers has reduced the escalation of the settlers… Nowadays things are changing because of these people.”


Case Study Three: Cambodia


Section 5 Case studies

The right to education,to take part in government

The situation:Almost one in three Cambodians live on less than 27p a day. Many have been forced off their land by the government and private companies, leaving them no way to grow food or make a living.

The legacy of the brutal Khmer Regime in the 1970s – during which 1.7 million people died – is still evident today, as services such as healthcare, education and housing continue to struggle.

HIV and AIDS is another challenge, withan estimated 75,000 people known to be HIV positive.


Case Study Three: Cambodia


Section 5 Case studies

A CAFOD Partner:

Banteay Srei is a Cambodian organisation and a CAFOD partner. It works with women and their communities in rural areas to improve their ability to generate an income and provide food for their families.

When the women have gained a level of security and confidence, a program targeting women’s rights is introduced.

Through this strategy, both the individual and community needs of the poorest women are addressed.

“Most women in poor communities here still think their only role is to look after their house and children. They do not understand that they have rights to get involved in society.”

Op Mom, manager of Banteay Srei office in Seam Reap


Case Study Three: Cambodia


Section 5 Case studies

A personal story:

Ean Poise, mother of four, lives in Samrong village.

“I left school when I was ten, so I didn’t learn much. When Banteay Srei first came they said things like ‘percent’ and I didn’t understand…

Before Banteay Srei came, the only way we could earn money was from farming or basket making. We only harvested rice once a year, so sometimes we would run out of food.

Banteay Srei asked us what needs the community had. We identified women’s leadership training as our priority...

We were taught about our rights and how to lead meetings. From there we created different community groups which were managed by women.”


Case Study Three: Cambodia


Section 5 Case studies

“Banteay Srei helped us with loans to start up businesses and helped us to

save the money we made. Now my family makes money from farming, raising pigs, producing rice wine and polishing rice…

I became a leader of the credit saving group… After several training sessions, I overcame my nerves and since then I have never looked back.

In this village it is unheard of for women to be in authority. But at an election in 2006, I was voted village chief by my community... I am in control of many of the decisions that are made in this village. I organise the plans for development, such as schools and roads... I also have to solve problems like domestic violence through careful negotiation.”


Prayer of Pope John XXIII


Section 5 Case studies

We implore the giver of all peace,

that God may…

banish from our hearts

whatever might endanger peace,

transform us into witnesses of truth, justice and love,

enlighten rulers to care for their citizens

and defend the great gift of peace,

enkindle the wills of all,

so that they may overcome the barriers that divide, cherish and seek to understand others

and pardon those who have done them wrong.

By God’s action, may all peoples of the earth become one family, and may peace blossom forth and reign always among us.

We ask this through Christ the Prince of Peace. Amen.

(Prayer adapted from Pacem in terris, 171)




Section 6 Take action

  • The Catholic Church in England and Wales asks CAFOD, as its official development agency, to enable Catholics here to put their faith into practice by helping their global family.
  • Why not prepare an assembly or lesson for your peers about human rights addressed by CAFOD partners?
  • Visit our website and see what you can find out about:
  • The right to freedom in Sri Lanka
  • Equal rights for the disabled in Bangladesh
  • Labour rights for computer workers in Mexico
  • The right to equal protection in law in the Philippines
  • The right to a home and to own property in Brazil
  • Equal rights for the poorest in Zambia



Section 6 Take action

  • Alternatively…
  • Study one of the more recent encyclicals in more detail.
  • Write an essay showing:
    • How this encyclical addresses human rights
    • How it builds on earlier Catholic Social Teaching
    • How its teaching is similar to or different from the UDHR
    • Examples of how Catholics are trying to live out the teachingin the encyclical

Take action globally!


Section 6 Take action

In many parts of the world, human rights is a matter of life and death. This year, the Hungry for change campaign offers you a chance to help those whose right to an adequate standard of living is not being upheld.Take action today and send a message to David Cameron,

asking for justice in the global food system.


Take action locally!


Section 6 Take action

Is your school or college a place where rights are respected?

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was written in 1989. It is about your rights, and the rights of all children under 18.

Compare the CRC to the UDHR.

Find out about becoming

a Rights Respecting School



Picture credits

Picture credits

Caroline Irby

Sarah Davison

Annie Bungeroth

Simon Rawles

Ataklti Mulu

Reporteros de Colombia

Laura Storr

The Vatican

Barbara Davies

Richard Wainwright

Claire Goudsmit