The Reign of Injustice

WE ARE hearing and reading a great deal these days about human rights. And no wonder; for the world about us is nigh to being overwhelmed by injustice, oppression, and cruelty of every description.

The most exalted, and doubtless the earliest recorded, proclamation of human rights is that spoken so long ago by the Lord through Moses to the children of Israel following their escape from bondage in Egypt, where for so long they had been cruelly treated.

“And God spake all these words, saying, … Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.”—Exod. 20:1,12-17

Notable among the statements of human rights stands the Declaration of Independence, announcing the separation of the colonies from Great Britain. Though framed by imperfect man, it fosters noble ideals for the betterment and happiness of the people for whom it was drawn.

“Self-Evident Truths”

In part it reads: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. … That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Also outstanding among documents designed to promote just and decent actions between men is the Constitution of the United States. Among the first words of the Preamble we find stated the real purpose of the document, which is “to … promote the general Welfare.” To assure that this high-principled purpose should be advanced, the Constitution provided for the adoption from time to time, as need should arise, of amendments which would clarify and safeguard old rights or secure new ones for the people.

Among amendments already adopted are those guaranteeing freedom of worship, of speech, of the press, of assembly, and of petition to the government for redress of grievances. Others provide that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, and they assure the right of trial by jury.

Of course, many expected the United Nations Organization, which came into being on October 24, 1945, to be a foremost and powerful champion of worldwide human rights. Indeed, among its early laudable actions was the adoption by the General Assembly in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, setting forth the basic principles that should guide men in their relations with one another.

“Unfinished Tasks”

How little impact this noble effort has had on relations between peoples may be judged by a brief statement incorporated in a review of U.N. accomplishments which was published in 1975 by The New York Times. Under the heading “Unfinished Tasks” the statement reads, in part: “Despite the incorporation of basic human rights norms in the U.N. Charter thirty years ago, and their further detailed elaboration in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, violations of human rights appear as widespread today, if not more so, as at any time in the past. Indeed, the past decade has been marked by especially gross and egregious violations of fundamental rights, including torture, mass expulsions and genocide.

“Whether further progress is made will depend, to a considerable extent, upon the United States. Initially a leading advocate of the Charter norms, the U.S. abdicated in the early fifties its preeminent role, even to the extent of avoiding the ratification of human rights treaties. It is high time to reverse this attitude and, in keeping with a tradition that stretches back to the origins of the Republic, to reassert our vital interest in the promotion and protection of human rights without regard to friend or foe.”

It is precisely along these lines that President Carter recently initiated a program to promote human rights world-wide. In his inaugural address to the nation on January 20, 1977, the President first put this new initiative in focus when he said: “The world itself is now dominated by a new spirit. Peoples more numerous and more politically aware are craving and now demanding their place in the sun—not just for the benefit of their own physical condition, but for basic human rights. The passion for freedom is on the rise. Tapping this new spirit, there can be no nobler nor more ambitious task for America to undertake … than to help shape a just and peaceful world that is truly humane.” He followed this up in a later speech at the United Nations itself, where he urged that body to step up its efforts to improve human rights around the world.

With such noble guidelines as these, one might have supposed that all mankind would long since have learned to exercise love and generosity and kindness toward all their fellow inhabitants of this one Planet Earth—in short, to love their neighbors as themselves. (Matt. 22:39; Rom. 13:9) But how different from this are the facts, as daily brought to our notice by the news media from all parts of this suffering world!

South Africa

The nation of South Africa is made up of some 17,000,000 blacks and about 3,000,000 whites. We are told that the security laws of that country permit the Minister of Justice to hold any citizen for any length of time he wishes without trial or accusation or evidence, and without any legal recourse for the one detained. We are also told that since 1963 forty-one South Africans are known to have died in police custody without having faced trial. Of these, the government says twenty-three committed suicide, most by hanging. Former inmates of South African jails have alleged that interrogation by torture is conducted by the authorities.

But in that great continent, not only is oppression exercised by white rulers toward blacks; perhaps some of the worst atrocities are carried out by despotic black rulers against people of their own race. Having been under the heel of foreign rulers for centuries, one would have supposed that the newly liberated nations of Africa would be in the very forefront of all peoples in exercising love and benevolence and justice toward their fellows. Not so! Reports regularly flowing from that sadly unsettled continent reveal atrocities, tortures, and murders being inflicted upon the people by opposing national elements in their ruthless striving to become the dominant rulers of these new nations.

Death sentences for “political crimes” have been freely imposed in Tunisia, Algeria, Benin, Zaire, and other African nations. From other African nations come reports of torture and mistreatment of helpless prisoners. Many die in detention. In Morocco, many long-term political prisoners have “disappeared” and are believed to be dead. Exiles from Equatorial Guinea claim that 50,000 natives have been killed in that nation, without trial, by the forces of President Macias. According to The New York Times (February 27, 1977), President Amin of Uganda, “Emporer” Bokassa of the Central African Empire, and President Macias of Equatorial Guinea are “privately regarded by other Africans as despotic and arbitrary rulers, and embarrassments to the continent.”

An American missionary has said that “horrible things have gone on in Uganda in the past six years,” according to Newsweek (March 14, 1977). Black tribesmen have been killed by the hundreds, and, according to refugees, conditions in Ugandan prisons are unspeakable.

The Impotent United Nations Organization

United Nations Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim called for an investigation of conditions in Uganda but did not receive an immediate reply. Indeed, at a “meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Third World delegates [incredibly] helped to defeat a British measure calling for an outside investigation. … Amin’s purge had revolted most of the world, but it appears that the purge would go on until the dictator’s thirst for blood was quenched,” says Newsweek.

Latin America

But let us not think that Africa is alone in this dismal business. Amnesty International says that the same deplorable deterioration in human rights is occurring today in Latin America, particularly in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. It is estimated that in these four countries alone there are some 30,000 political prisoners. Cuba holds about 4,000 wretched captives, while in Guatemala it is believed some 15,000 people have been killed by political terror squads in just the past six years.

In Argentina, efforts by the rightist government to put down an active guerrilla insurgency led to 1,500 political killings last year, and the deaths continue at a rate of 100 a month. In Chile the national security police are charged with the disappearance of 500 persons and are regarded with terror by the people. And just last month a United Nations panel charged that the Chilean regime continues to torture detained persons as a “regular practice.” The report also said that the number of political critics who simply “disappear” was apparently increasing.

And in India, Vietnam, Korea

Under Indira Ghandi’s dictatorial government it has been charged that 40,000 of the opposition were jailed. Since her defeat in the recent elections in India, it is not known what disposition has been made of these unfortunate people.

In the aftermath of the deplorable war in Vietnam, the Communist authorities rule that country with an iron hand. Thousands, including women and children, are held in camps undergoing “re-education” in “right principles.” The story is the same in Laos.

And one wonders if there is any difference between the tyranny exercised in South Korea from that which prevails in North Korea. Critics of either regime are summarily arrested and jailed. In South Korea, anyone who damages “the national security, national interest or prestige” by criticizing the government can be imprisoned for up to seven years.

Middle East

There is also deep concern because of violations of human rights in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Libya. Egypt has recently passed stern laws giving the government the right to imprison people for striking. Amnesty International thinks there is reason to believe that torture has been common in Iran, where it is thought there are several thousand political prisoners. In Iraq executions are not uncommon, and torture there, too, is prevalent.

Eastern Europe

But probably the most publicity of all is given to conditions in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. In the Soviet Union alone it is estimated that there are some 10,000 political prisoners, many of whom are inhumanely imprisoned in insane asylums. One Russian worker said, “I have been living for 30 years … in the Soviet Union—not living, but existing. … I live in poverty and need. My pay is barely enough to cover food. In addition, in the Soviet Union there is no justice, no freedom. … Everywhere a man feels himself a slave.”

Russian writer Solzhenitsyn was expelled from his homeland because of his book “The Gulag Archipelago,” in which he described the apprehension, questioning, and transporting of prisoners to the archipelago. This is a vast complex of slave-labor camps, whose “landscape is littered with broken spirits and dead souls,” according to Newsweek (November 3, 1975). Some 15 million inmates have been held at one time in these labor camps.

A review in Newsweek states that Solzhenitsyn’s second book deals with the day-to-day existence in the camps, which “is numbing.” Prisoners were overcrowded, “surrounded by filth and disease, fed barely enough nettle leaves and thin gruel to stay alive (some supplemented their diets by eating dead horses and lubricating grease).” Solzhenitsyn estimates that from the time of the revolution to 1959 a total of 66 million prisoners have died while working on various projects for the state.

All the foregoing is, indeed, a sad commentary on man’s inhumanity to man. Living here in America, with all its shortcomings, it hardly seems possible that these reports are describing conditions existing in large portions of this one Planet Earth which we all share in common.

Coming Closer to Home!

As indeed it was bound to do, the new American push for universal human rights has brought some finger-pointing. President Amin of Uganda has said that the U.S. has “committed its own crimes against humanity from Hiroshima to Indochina.” Closer to home, random news items remind us daily of ghettos in American cities overflowing with human wreckage, jails overcrowded with people awaiting trial, an epidemic of child abuse (more that 200,000 American boys and girls, most below the age of 5, died last year as the result of intentional abuse by adults), injustices to the native American Indian. Even in our own nation we find too much injustice, too much poverty, too much hunger. And Americans are even now trying to forget the dismal nightmare of Vietnam.

Long ago philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) described the condition of general lawlessness in the world as a non-society in which there would be “continual fear and danger of violent death,” and in which the life of men and nations may become “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” He believed it would remain in this awful condition unless and until a common arbiter, a “visible power,” is established to “keep all in awe” and obedient to the “laws of nature, as justice, equity, modesty, mercy, and, in sum, doing to others as we would be done to.”

How glorious it would have been for all the world, and how wonderful, if love and mercy and righteous deeds toward one’s fellows could have been brought about by nobly conceived and nobly written documents! But time and sad experience have clearly shown that neither ideally conceived statements nor the laws established by man to enforce their ends have operated to eliminate injustice from the world. Truly, these are deplorable, heart-sickening days in the history of fallen mankind.

“Now We Call the Proud Happy”

But injustice in greater or lesser degree has existed in the world down through the ages. Solomon wrote: “I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! on the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them.”—Eccles. 4:1, RSV

The Prophet Malachi wrote, “Now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.” (Mal. 3:15) The psalmist, too, saw the injustice that was wrought by the wicked. “O Lord, thou God of vengeance, … shine forth! Rise up, O judge of the earth; render to the proud their deserts! O Lord, how long shall the wicked … exult? … They crush thy people, O Lord, and afflict thy heritage. They slay the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless; and they say, The Lord does not see.”—Ps. 94:1-7, RSV

Solomon tells us that God is neither unaware nor unfeeling concerning the injustice and evil that prevails in the world. He wrote, “If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice, … marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.”—Eccles. 5:8

He further tells us (Psalm 72) that evildoers and evil institutions will be judged when Christ’s kingdom is reigning, the poor and the meek saved, and the oppressors destroyed. “Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son. He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment. The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteouness. He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor [every vestige of evil institutions and systems]. … In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. … Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him. For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper.”—Ps. 72:1-12

New Heavens and a New Earth

These longed-for conditions will prevail worldwide when Christ’s all-powerful kingdom is established in the earth. Peter tells us that after this present evil world has been destroyed, then “we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (II Pet. 3:13) During the coming thousand-year reign of Christ and his faithful followers for the purpose of restoring the willing and obedient of the resurrected billions of mankind who are now sleeping in their graves, injustice will not be tolerated. For in that thousand-year day “it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet [the reigning Christ], shall be destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3:23) The great God of the universe has designed that his kingdom of righteousness under Christ shall be given all power to enforce justice between people.

The reign of Christ and his church, along with the risen and perfected Ancient Worthies (who will exercise the authority of the kingdom in the earth), will at long last constitute that “common arbiter,” that “visible power” which Thomas Hobbes so long ago declared would be needed to bring justice and peace to the world. At the end of that reign all men will truly love their neighbors as themselves. And that reign will do even more than Thomas Hobbes hoped, for it will bring everlasting, perfect life to all the willing and obedient of mankind.—John 5:25; Rev. 22:17

The picture that is drawn for us by the Prophet Isaiah of the love and peace and justice that shall prevail when the work of Christ’s kingdom is accomplished is, perhaps, one of the loveliest promises by Jehovah God to suffering mankind that we can find in his glorious Word. How we rejoice to read it:

“They shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them. … The wolf and the lam b shat l feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: … They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.”—Isa. 65:21-25

May thy righteous kingdom soon come, Lord!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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