B C Lategan



According to the 1985 HSRC Report on Intergroup Relations, 78% of all South Africans call themselves Christians. The Christian faith is therefore the biggest common denominator in the country, and could have potential in bring people together.

The question is: can the Christian faith bridge the present divisions in a polarised society?

There seems to be broad agreement concerning basic values such as justice, love, truth, freedom, peace and hope. The critical issue is which actions are compatible with those values and which are not. It therefore becomes important to formulate these actions in the form of basic human rights.

In certain church circles the discussion of human rights has been neglected for too long on the mistaken assumption that human rights are a humanistic concept. The biblical understanding of man has an important contribution to make in this respect. Three basic aspects concerning his creation should be taken into account: man as creature, as created in the image of God, and as the crown of creation (Ps 8).

The author defines basic human rights as man’s responsibility before God, and the right as against other people, to develop and utilise the life and opportunities afforded him fully. This includes the right to be treated in a dignified manner, respect for the integrity of his person, and the right to such living space and maintenance so as to be able to lead a life of human dignity.

From this follow a number of other rights which may be classified under three headings, namely, the right to freedom, the right to equality, and the right to association and participation in processes of the community.

When one considers the present South African reality in the light of these rights, it is obvious that there are serious shortcomings. These rights are not only a criterion for the present, but a landmark for the future. They are indispensable to any future dispensation in South Africa, whatever its form. That is why it is so important that an open debate on these rights be conducted by all South Africans who have the interests of the country at heart.


Common value system; South Africa; Basic values; Human rights; Man as creature

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7833/18-0-1939


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