Human rights are about more than individual rights

2 September 2018

Human rights are about more than individual rights

Next Tuesday, together with Christian Union MEP Peter van Dalen, I'll be presenting the annual report we put together on behalf of the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance. In this report the emphasis will be on the collective aspects of this freedom. Too often human rights are seen as individual rights in the style of 'I have to do this, so it must be allowed.' But all of your human rights are protected, your privacy as well as your rights as part of a community. Take for example your freedom to organise in a trade union, or the many social rights which a properly functioning welfare system demands. You don't hear much about this from politicians on the right, but these same politicians are demolishing communities in rapid tempo. It is precisely that – working together for a better world - that for me is the core of human rights.

Raise the topic of freedom of religion and belief, and your thoughts will turn quickly as things are now to tension and violence. Too often religious divisions are used to divide the 90%. We in the SP don't fall for this, of course. As long as the 90% make each other the target, the 10% super-rich can stay out of range. That's why the SP puts socio-economic contradictions in centre stage, and don't allow ourselves to be distracted.

Freedom of religion and belief can nevertheless help in this, not only because socialism itself can be a belief in need of protection, but also because the right to associate freely on the basis of shared beliefs can help the 90% to win the struggle. All world religions, humanism and socialism have in common the view that you can bring about justice via organisation, that in this you put the 90% to the fore, and that you build together. Let then the freedom of religion and belief protect this right to organise on the basis of one's philosophy. For each other and with each other. That's why we must not allow human rights to be restricted by right-wing individualists.

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