The value of human life part I

Perhaps it is fitting that today, Friday April 6, 2012 to all, and Good Friday to some, that the thought of human life and its value would cross my mind on a day that is closely associated with death, the death of Christ on the Cross. I think this is a perfect opportunity to reflect on human life, as we trace back in reverse the cycle, from death to birth.

How is the story of humanity connected to the story of life? How are we all inter-connected to each other? Why do we contemplate about the value of human life? Does human life have value?

“1. In both East and West, we may trace a journey which has led humanity down the centuries to meet and engage truth more and more deeply. It is a journey which has unfolded—as it must—within the horizon of personal self-consciousness: the more human beings know reality and the world, the more they know themselves in their uniqueness, with the question of the meaning of things and of their very existence becoming ever more pressing. This is why all that is the object of our knowledge becomes a part of our life. The admonition Know yourself was carved on the temple portal at Delphi, as testimony to a basic truth to be adopted as a minimal norm by those who seek to set themselves apart from the rest of creation as “human beings”, that is as those who “know themselves”.” (Pope John Paul II, Fides et ratio, 1998).

The above passage is from the late Pope John Paul II’s introduction in his Encyclical Fides et ratio (Faith and Reason). All forms of life have a beginning and an end, birth and death, but it is what happens between these two events that define the uniqueness of each form of life.  For human beings, perhaps our uniqueness is defined by our quest to “know ourselves”. But during our journey of discovering ourselves, do we become more in tune with our fellow human beings, or do we become more enclosed and fail to recognize our common humanity? The fact that some of us are trying to defend and promote justice and human rights across the globe, clearly demonstrates that there are some places in this world where human life has little value.

Many who have been searching for true human values have come to recognize that to be able to live fully as human beings, in its highest form, in its most dignified state, there are certain fundamental basic rights and freedoms that one should have full access to. These include but are not limited to the freedom to practise openly one’s religion, to assemble openly with others for a common cause, and to have a difference of opinion from a ruling party. Many who have come to this conclusion have seen themselves end up in places of darkness. But in these dark places, they have become beacons of hope, they have become the embers of a fire that refuses to die out.

If we are guaranteed death, and suffering and despair, then we are also assured of birth, and renewal and hope.

Where ever there is despair, we shall find new hope. Where ever there is death, we shall find new life. And where ever there is an end, we shall find a new beginning. Hope gives value to human life.

– Anh Nhật

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