I first heard about this story on Twitter when it broke last week! I was blown away. So we discussed this story and human rights at Senior High Bible study this morning.
What happens if you bring a cell phone to school in Lexington, SC? Well, according to ours and Pilgrim's senior highs, it depends on the teacher / administrator. Some will take the cell phone, some will tell you to put it away.
Of course, things in Saudi Arabia are a lot different from the US. There is no democracy and the people are ruled by a king. Today, people who do wrong in Saudi Arabia are still sentenced to stoning, amputation, crucifixion, and even public beheadings; and in this case, public flogging. And 90 lashes, well, that could certainly kill a 13 year old.
So I challenged the students to think about this incident as it relates to human rights. Human rights are basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled. The students named some of those rights: right to life, happiness, speech.
Then I challenged them to think about some issues (other than public flogging of a 13year old) that may arise around human rights. Some issues could be racism, mistreatment of women, sexuality issues.
It is my opinion that Jesus was sort of the "founder" of human rights. The fundamental theory and basis for "human rights" is that we should treat other people as we ourselves wish to be treated. In fact, I think, Jesus made Human Rights central to his entire message!
Just read Matthew 22:34-39. We know the passage, well. Jesus is asked: "Which commandment is the greatest of all?" Jesus answered from the Old Testament: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. But Jesus added a second command, that we must love our neighbor as ourself. Then he explained that every other law of God was based on these two laws.
So does the public flogging of a 13 year old loving your neighbor? Not really.
When we read Matthew 18:21, we hear Peter ask Jesus, “Should I forgive my brother up to seven times?” Jesus says, “I do not say to you forgive your brother seven times seven but forgive him seventy times seven.” Then Jesus told a story about a king who forgave his servant an enormous debt. But that same servant turned around and put his servants in prison for not paying a small debt they owed him.
I think Jesus was sending this message that it is a basic Human Right that we be treated fairly and equitably by other human beings. So does this flogging of a 13 year old promote this? Definitely not.
Jesus came and was a radical change. A change that still matters and is applicable today. In the Old Testament we hear all the laws of how to live, and be pure, and right, etc. But Jesus simply says with rights come responsibilities and the love is so important. I challenged the students to think further about this and take a look at an example of rights coming with responsibility by reading the Beatitudes this week.
When the judge who presented this punishment to the 13 year old Saudi girl was interviewed about this case, he reported that the king can still pardon this 13 year old. At least for now, there is hope.