Christmas Message by the Asian Human Rights Commission
December 23, 2017
Thinking purely in
symbolic terms, Christmas celebrates a fascinating event. Jesus was
born in a cattle shed. This was where sheep slept. From a power
point of view, it was so completely different from the way other
religious or political leaders are presented to the world. Links to
royalty or nobility, or at least some affluence, and education, were
considered qualities of leaders. But here, none of those symbols of
power was present.
From the point of view of
value systems, this symbolic birth presents very different
appreciation of values than what we see in many other models. A
human being is born the midst of cattle. Human beings are part of
nature, and that is more important than any symbols of status and
This is a message that has
been largely lost. Perhaps, at the heart of the moral crisis in the
world is this problem of being unable to consider that human beings
are a part of nature. As St Francis wanted, genuine relationships
should be established with ‘Brother Sheep and Sister Bees’.
This symbolism is even
more important for the new world, which began with the first testing
of the atom bomb in New Mexico in 1941, a test which was nicknamed,
quite inappropriately, Trinity. The success of the explosion that
happened on that day posed a moral crisis which baffled the most
talented scientists, and changed their own views on their
achievements. Robert Oppenheimer and, later, his counterparts in
other countries, like the Russian Andrei Sakharov and others like
them, all lived to regret what they initially thought was the
highest achievement of their lives. The plea to end this experiment
was their final message.
The dilemmas posed on that
day by Trinity remain not only unresolved, but appear to be
unresolvable. The creative capacity of human beings resulted in a
situation where they became their own annihilators.
In terms of political
civilization, this “achievement” of Trinity also posed the greatest
threat to liberal democracy itself. The value of the political was
diminished, creating a higher place for those who manage security
apparatuses. This is now reflected everywhere, including those
places that were considered the most developed democracies in the
Now, on the one hand,
security agencies, including intelligence agencies, have truly
become the final arbiters of human destinies. On the other hand,
this has become an unacceptable situation for everyone, including
the persons in these agencies. Yet there is no way out to be seen.
Human intelligence is trapped within this great contradiction.
In creating the atom bomb,
the argument in the United States was that this was essential in
order to save western civilization. However, the achievement of the
dream has posed not only a threat to western civilization, but to
human civilization as a whole. Yet, to those who are most powerful
in the world, the crisis of human civilization as a whole has not
been taken as seriously as it should be.
The Christmas symbolism
must be treated a powerful reminder of humanity’s link to the
totality of the world. That realization should transcend all
considerations of wealth and power. This is no longer a sentimental
aspiration. The practical survival of the world depends on the
capacity to bring back the natural link between human beings and the
rest of creation. This has become the challenge of ‘to be or not to
be’ for everyone.