70-year Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights with Arendt, Barth and Pope John XXIII

Human rights protect personal freedom. But where are the limits of this freedom? On Human Rights Day on December 10, the three national churches and the free churches are listening to three critical-minded personalities who had their very own view of human rights.
Hannah Arendt and John XXIII.: Wikipedia; Karl Barth: Karl Barth-Archiv, Basel

70 years ago, the UN General Assembly signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN Charter of Human Rights). These rights apply to all people, regardless of origin, gender or nationality. These days, we often take them for granted, and yet, human rights are threatened again and again.

On the occasion of the anniversary, the three national churches of Switzerland and the free churches have recorded a fictitious conversation between Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt, Reformed theologian Karl Barth and Pope John XXIII. From the afterlife – and yet anything but otherworldly – the three contemporaries strike up a conversation and find astonishing similarities in their thinking. Their conversation, drenched in pipe smoke and the spirit of hopeful exploration, is not so much characterized by heavenly retrospection as by cutting-edge criticism.

If people only seek to secure their own human rights, there can be no peaceful coexistence, but only “brawling,” as Karl Barth remarks. Hannah Arendt agrees: human rights cannot be wielded as a personal shield, as this creates distance rather than opportunities for encounters. And for Pope John XXIII, human rights are a way of acknowledging personal dignity for all human beings, and thus, justice becomes another word for peace.

Human Rights Day will be complemented by an ACAT petition on the problem of prison inmates’ children in Switzerland. The parishes are encouraged to support ACAT in its efforts against torture and the death penalty with collections.

The conversation (in German)
Dossier and ACAT petition (in German)