Friday, March 04, 2005

Two Lights for Human Rights

Last Friday, Peter Benenson, the founder of Amnesty International, died. Today, Jonathon Power eulogizes him in the International Herald Tribune. With a simple idea, writing letters, Benenson and friends helped free political prisoners worldwide. His efforts continue post mortem. Check out Amnesty International's website to see what you can do to help.

Continuing with the theme of human rights, The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik reviews Ian Davidson's Voltaire in Exile. Late in life, Voltaire became an avid campaigner for human rights against the fanaticism of both Christians and Muslims alike.

As Gopnik muses,

It is still bracing, at a time when the extreme deference we pay to faith has made any attack on religious beliefs unacceptable, to hear Voltaire on Jesuits and Muslims alike—to hear him howl with indignation at the madness and malignance of religion—and to be reminded that that free-thinking, which inspired Twain and Mencken, has almost vanished from our world.

Yes, bracing (and refreshing) indeed.

Voltaire's mission, continued by Brenenson, unfortunately continues today to be taken up by the next great wave of left-liberals and secular humanists. Let's not flinch from the responsibility.