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Message from the President
Meeting in Brussels (Belgium) in June 2012 on the occasion of the FIACAT International Council, ACAT representatives reflected on their commitment as Christians to secure respect for human dignity everywhere and always.
The dignity inherent to all human beings is proclaimed in the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and gave rise to the most famous article in the UDHR, Article 1: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” In 1948, as part of the legacy of Kantian thought, human dignity was considered as both a moral and a legal reference – even if it had only the value of a declaration, placing no obligation on the signatory states – “against tyranny and oppression” and as an objective to be achieved. It was thus established as a fundamental value of democratic societies, respect for which should be unconditional, since the human person alone is the source and embodiment of dignity. Recognition of human dignity is “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.
Since then, human dignity has been regularly contested and at the same time invoked as never before. It is threatened by scientific innovation (especially in the field of genetics), by the surge in economic and financial globalisation, by the “commoditisation” of people (modern slavery, waves of economic or political migration), by the sophistication of the means of constraint (no longer only physical but also psychological and moral).
Today, then, it is more important than ever before to protect, and to ensure effective respect for, the dignity of each human being since, as underlined by the philosopher Paul Ricoeur, dignity is a requirement older than any philosophical formula, a requirement on the basis of which something is due to a human being simply by virtue of the fact that he/she is human. This means defending freedom but also encouraging the assumption of responsibility for ensuring solidarity – even brotherhood – with others.
It is in this context that, with the support of FIACAT, their international Federation, ACAT members - Christians in the service of the common good - contribute to respect for human dignity by pursuing resolutely their campaign for the abolition of torture and the death penalty.
Sylvie Bukhari-de Pontual
President of FIACAT