On the one hand it is necessary and important to promote the cause of human rights. On the other hand, it is a sad commentary on humanity that we have to do so. Why is this so? Simply put, human rights get violated because some groups of humans, particularly those in positions of power over other human beings, are caught up in the three poisons: greed, hatred, and ignorance.
Actions motivated by greed, hatred (or any sort of aversion), and ignorance of the nature of reality leads to much of human (and animal at the hand of human) suffering.
Any “ism” will generate strife due to a differentiation between the in-group and the out-group. Buddhists are not without violence in their history. However, it is impossible to be a “follower of the Buddha” that is, someone who embraces the dharma and simultaneously violate human rights.
The dharma assumes that we are all interconnected and experience shows us this if we are paying close enough attention. I recognize that my actions will have effects on myself and others. It’s really not more complicated than that. If we know actions have consequences, then it behooves us to be mindful of our actions.
If I do something that harms you, I’m not only harming you; I’m harming myself, as well. The Buddha emphasized the importance of the three poisons and their alternatives: generosity, friendliness, and wisdom.
If we all embraced mindfulness and the wisdom of the dharma, Human Rights Day would no longer be necessary. Every day would be Human Rights Day. So let’s start today by not adding any violence to the world and respecting all living things.