All human beings are born free and equal in dignity. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. A true understanding of freedom as freedom for excellence opens the window through which pours the sunlight of the human spirit and the true manifestation of human dignity. This understanding enables us to live well and in harmony in a multicultural and multi-religious society.
People of different religions, cultures live side by side in almost every part of the world. We can love what we are, without hating what we are not. We can thrive in our own tradition, even as we learn from others, and come to respect their teachings. However, this will not be possible without freedom of religion, expression, and assembly. In instances where citizens have not participated in choosing their government or changing it regularly conflict has ensued, with innocent civilians paying the price by having their lives cut short and countries destroyed.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights assures freedom and liberty to every human being. It is provided for in the Declaration that:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.”
It further states that
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.”
All these are fundamental aspects of freedom dependent on the correct understanding of freedom as not just restraint but a means to human excellence. I believe freedom is a basic human right and there is no exception for anyone. In order to progress we need to understand that swords can win territories but not hearts, hence it is important to live the right idea of freedom that respect human dignity.
Published: March 17, 2021
Written by Sharon Kitur, a WYA Africa intern from Nairobi, Kenya