Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” If you look up the definition of Human Rights it reads: “Human rights are moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behavior, and are regularly protected as natural and legal rights in municipal and international law. They are commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights “to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being”, and which are “inherent in all human beings” regardless of their nation, location, language, religion, ethnic origin or any other status.” Therefore it is our moral and legal obligation to treat all people with dignity and respect.
Social Justice is based on the concepts of human rights and equality, and can be defined as “the way in which human rights are manifested in the everyday lives of people at every level of society”. While this term and practice is quite old, it gained momentum in the early to mid-1800s with religious groups. The concept has morphed over time, however, modern practice still embodies: the protection of human dignity, actions to promote equal opportunities for everyone and holding the State accountable for the distribution of vital means.
For five years the Beyond Borders Team has operated to promote these concepts and has argued that these dignities extend beyond the life of an individual. That humans should be treated with dignity in life and dignity in death. We will continue to hold strong to these values, even at a time when those who work to protect Human Rights and fight for Social Justice are characterized as weak, annoying, offensive and unpatriotic, among many other derogatory words.
I am very proud of all the students who have volunteered to participate in this humanitarian mission over the last five years. They are some of the strongest and most compassionate people I know. They embody the words of Lady Liberty, treat others the way they would want to be treated and are part of the generation that will make this world a better place. They are facing their own fears and volunteering to put themselves in the middle of a harsh environment that has claimed the lives of so many others. And while I know these missions are not about them, I do know what they experience in the Texas Borderlands changes them in ways they never imagined. To me that is progress. Change requires compassion, empathy and a drive to do what is right for all people regardless of their biology, cultural beliefs or economic circumstances.