Friday, October 27, 2006

Grounded in the Local Soil

I was working with people from an organization in Indonesia recently. The coordinator of my visit showed me the logo they have created. It is a colourful picture of a rice plant growing out of the field. He said, “We have it on all our literature to remind our people to serve where they are planted and the importance of doing things that are authentically Indonesian.”

When we hear words such as ‘justice’ and ‘human rights’ it is easy to think of these activities in a vacuum. But they mean nothing unless they are grounded in the soil where we live.

Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights made this statement recently in a similar vein:

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world," she repeated [Eleanor] Roosevelt's words, as if reciting a most beloved piece of scripture. "Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works.... Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."

Source: Lisa Suhay, ‘Human Rights Begin at Home’, 23 October 2006, CS Monitor.

Image: Rice plant (not the actual logo but close!)