International Day of Human Rights 10 December

International Day of Human Rights 10 December

Joint Public Issues Team - December 02, 2008




Background information and resources

to help churches mark Human Rights Day

on one of the Sundays near

10 December 2008


On 10 December 1948, prompted by the atrocities of World War II, the General Assembly of the United Nations formally adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Fifty eight nations signed the Declaration enshrining a common vision for thirty fundamental human rights considered necessary to ensure the dignity and freedom of every person on the planet. The signatories anticipated the dawn of a new era of understanding, justice, and fresh hope for peace across the globe. The Declaration is both a benchmark and a goal for international negotiators and others concerned with alleviating the suffering of people across the world, and the date it was signed is designated as the United Nations Human Rights Day.

The Declaration has been hailed as one of the most influential documents in history, enabling the transformation of millions of lives. It was quickly adopted by a significant number of countries and over time it has become foundational for the work of hundreds of non-governmental organisations and aid agencies.

Christians across the world will be celebrating this sixtieth anniversary because they recognise in the Declaration a clear commitment to gospel values. Jesus was outspoken in both word and action, bringing the hope of peace, justice and healing to those oppressed, marginalised and forgotten. He prayed for God’s Kingdom to come ‘on earth, as in heaven’. 

So let us rejoice in this historic achievement, praying for those who still suffer the effects of humanity’s extraordinary capacity for inhumanity. Let us use this occasion to renew our own Christian commitment to work for justice and peace.

·         Use the prayers provided during worship on one of the Sundays near Human Rights Day on 10 December.  

·         Reflect with the church on the significance of this anniversary.

·         Follow the links for more information and resources.


God of Freedom, you create us in your likeness, bearing your image, designed to live in freedom one with another - and we praise you. Today we celebrate the prophetic vision, a miracle of collaboration that led fifty-eight nations to affirm together the dignity and worth of all people in a Declaration of Human Rights. We rejoice that their list of thirty inalienable rights has had such a profound affect on millions of lives around the world.

God of Freedom, we commit ourselves again, in troubled times, to build on the foundation of this remarkable achievement.

God of Peace, in Christ you sent your promise of peace to the world: that peace which the world cannot give. Still today there are places where human rights continue to be ignored, and your children are abused and forgotten. We pray especially for Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Georgia, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, and the Indian State of Orissa. Through our prayers, we reach out across the barriers that divide your world, across all the barriers of culture, race and religion.

God of Peace, inspire us to be mediators of peace. We pray that all people of faith will discover together our shared humanity, and will respond together to the God of Love, ‘the One who is Good, and who is at the heart of the Universe’[1]

God of Justice, your Holy Spirit crosses the boundaries that sustain division and inequality. Still today too many people of all ages are denied their basic human rights. We grieve for thousands blighted by hunger and disease because of unfair economic burdens. We grieve for millions ousted from their homelands because of war and violence. We grieve for every person unjustly imprisoned. We grieve the loss of precious childhoods and of creative, worthwhile futures. 

God of justice, help us to listen to the cries of those who suffer today, as Jesus listened to the cries of those around him. On this sixtieth Anniversary, we renew our commitment to work for peace and justice, waiting for the day when all people will live in freedom, equal in dignity and rights.

We bring our prayers in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen


Compassionate God,

You made each one of us in your own image. Help us to see you in one another.

In the hungry faces of a family fleeing war and violence, denied the right to safety, security and a decent meal.

Help us to see you.

In the stooped figure of a refugee, bearing the scars of torture and the pain of imprisonment , denied the right to freely believe,

Help us to see you.

In the broken and diseased body of a young woman, denied the right to proper health care,

Help us to see you.

In the child growing up in city slums, caught up in gang culture, denied the right to a proper education,

Help us to see you.

In the unemployed labourer whose race and religion make work hard to find, denied the right to live free from discrimination,

Help us to see you.

Compassionate God,

Help us to see you in all those who are denied their basic rights, and so commit ourselves to transform our world in your name. Amen.

God of all, we thank you for the vision that inspired the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The vision of a world where no one goes hungry and everyone has enough, where all find justice and none faces discrimination, where people live together in dignity, peace and freedom. May we continue to strive to turn such dreams into reality, that your kingdom may come on earth as in heaven. Amen.




The text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be found at:

The Presbyterian Church in the USA has produced worship material to help congregations mark Human Rights Day. These can be found at:

The British Library is holding a free exhibition from 31 October 2008 until 1 March 2009 entitled ‘Taking Liberties: the Struggle for Britain’s Freedoms and Rights.’ For full details go to:

A reflection paper entitled ‘Christian Faith and Human Rights: Being Human in Today’s World’ has been published by the Baptist Union of Great Britain. To access a copy, go to:

Contact us:

Joint Public Issues Team

United Reformed

Church House

86 Tavistock Place

London WC1H 9RT

Tel 020 7916 8632

[1]Bishop Desmond Tutu, speaking on the BBC