February 13~19, 2012
Editorial: When superpowers deny human rights
Translated by Lydia Ma
The Jasmine Revolution or Arab Spring that began last year has inspired citizens in oppressive regimes to rise up and demand reform and the resignation of their autocratic leaders. In response to these demands, we’ve seen autocratic regimes unwilling to relinquish power use deceit, appeasement, and even violence to drown out their citizens’ voices calling for reform.
One example of a regime that responded to protests with violence is the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Using its economic and military superiority, the Assad government ordered the military to shoot non-violent protesters and arrest and torture anyone found to be critical of the regime.
President Assad has so far turned a deaf ear to all advice from the Arab League and has disregarded all pressure from the international community because he knows that he has two powerful allies in the UN Security Council backing him: China and Russia. Indeed, Russia and China recently used their veto powers to overrule a set of sanctions painstakingly crafted by the Arab League in consultation with various scholars and experts.
Many European and American diplomats have pointed out bluntly that using the veto power available to permanent nations in the Security Council to support an autocratic regime is shameful. However, the Chinese government countered this claim by saying that sanctions won’t solve current problems in the Middle East. In its defense, the Russian government warned that overthrowing Assad’s regime might create a militant Islamic government and a bigger problem.
Though Beijing and Moscow’s explanations make sense, their use of an iron fist when governing their own people, coupled by their track record of disregarding human rights and their longstanding support of Assad’s regime prompts us to wonder if the real motive behind their vetoes is simply their disregard and negation of the value of human rights.
Psalm 82 says, “God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the “gods”:
“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?” The Security Council is akin to an assembly of the most powerful countries in the world and the leaders of these countries are akin to gods who hold the fates and lives of countless humans, as well as the creation and destruction of countries, in their hands.
The veto power given to permanent members of the Security Council is a mechanism given for the purpose of balancing the power of these countries and is, therefore, not a bad thing. However, if such a balancing mechanism is instead used to let the wicked get away with murder or help the wicked oppress the poor, do we expect God to stand by idly and do nothing?
The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan’s polity is typified by the rule of assemblies where a lot of ministries and strategies are decided after extensive consultations. From local church sessions to general assemblies, many people are entrusted to manage and decide important issues and ministries.
The PCT has a long-standing tradition and concern for human rights in Taiwan and Taiwan’s national sovereignty and we have used our polity to make that even clearer through extensive consultations before deciding evangelistic strategies. However, our assemblies are still human inventions that depend on fallible human beings to act according to their God-given convictions and views about God’s kingdom. Once our representatives are no longer guided by their consciences, all that is left is a balance of power mechanism. Therefore, it is imperative that PCT decision-makers examine their hearts and their motives often.
As we reprimand the rulers of this world for using their veto powers to trample on human rights, let us do so with fear and trembling, lest we repeat their mistake in our lives with the powers and responsibilities entrusted upon us by others. Through Asaph’s words in Psalm 82, God reminds us by saying, ”I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’ But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler.” (verse 6-7). As God’s children who are set apart from other mortals, let us defend the oppressed and be messengers of righteousness.