Age-Old Roots of Human Rights Bill
Rui de Bivar Oliveira, Bloemfontein – I recently discovered Bartolome de las Casas and felt that readers of The Southern Cross might like to be acquainted with what he stands for.
He was born in Seville in 1484 and died in 1566.
Because he was shocked at the way the Indians were treated by the colonists in South America, he eventually wrote to the king of Spain.
De las Casas’ argument is intriguingly similar to that of the modern declaration of human rights.
This extract is part of his letter to the king.“All the races of the world are men, and of all men and of each individual there is but one definition, and this is that they are rational. All have understanding and will and free choice, as all are made in the image and likeness of God… Thus the entire human race is one.”
Now look at an extract from the universal declaration of human rights. “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. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration, without distinction.”
As we can see, there is little difference between Bartolome de las Casas’ vision, written over four centuries ago, and the contemporary bill of human rights.