Baptist World Alliance Observes Human Rights Day

The Baptist World Alliance, which claims more than 37 million members, is celebrating Human Rights Day this weekend by encouraging its churches to emphasize human rights in their worship services.

Though the official U.N.-designated International Human Rights Day was Dec. 10, the BWA decided to observe the day during the weekend so churches could incorporate the theme into their liturgies.

BWA says human rights has been "at the heart" of the Baptist fellowship in its 104-year history, pointing to its opposition to racism, concern about wars, and defense of religious freedom. Moreover, the organization has a history of supporting the rights of the disabled, women's and children's rights, and the right of the sick to receive adequate medical care.

Each year, the BWA also gives out the Human Rights Award to recognize an individual who has made a significant contribution to the cause of human rights. The global Baptist fellowship has observed Human Rights Day for more than 20 years.

International Human Rights Days was formally established at a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on Dec. 4, 1950. It is observed each year on Dec. 10 to honor the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In addition to the BWA, other religious groups have also organized events in observance of Human Rights Day.

On Wednesday, faith leaders from across the country joined an immigrant family facing deportation for a telephonic press conference to announce the "Shine the Light for Immigration Reform," a series of interfaith days of action.

The Days of Action feature prayer vigils made up of members of diverse faith communities in 13 cities to highlight the plight of immigrant families suffering from the fear of separation. Religious participants are calling upon Congress to take up the issue of comprehensive immigration reform in early 2010.

The first "Shine the Light" Days of Action took place in Ventura County, Calif., on Thursday, International Human Rights Day. The highlight event will occur in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 17, the eve of International Migrants Day, when faith leaders will gather for a vigil at a church near the White House. The Days of Action campaign will end in Boston, Mass., on Dec. 19.

This year marks the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.