Why every person deserves their Human Dignity

What do we mean by ‘human dignity’? At heart, it’s a belief that every human being is incredibly valuable and should be treated as such, no matter who they are or where they’re from.

As Christians, this belief comes from our conviction that human beings are created by God ‘in his image and likeness’ (Genesis 1:27) – there’s something in our nature that reflects God, giving every person an inherent dignity. And we also believe that God loves and values every human being equally, regardless of their history – enough to come and die for them. ‘God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8). Every life is precious to him.

But we know that many people in our world have their human dignity disrespected, trampled on and taken away. They are exploited, abused or neglected by others. This isn’t the way God wants things to be. Latin Link’s Sharon Jones was struck by this reality on her recent trip to the mountain village of Puncus, near Ayacucho, Peru.

Puncus, Peru

When dignity is denied

“On my first day in Puncus, I met Adriano, an animated boy with a huge smile,” says Sharon. “When I asked his age I was shocked to hear him say eight – he looked more like six. Poor nutrition here means that most people are smaller than average. They don’t get their fair share of food.

“Lots of people in this village aren’t living with dignity due to the poverty that inequality has forced
upon them. Young children are left to roam around alone as their parents work long hours in the fields.

“It was shocking to discover many elderly people living in very basic and vulnerable conditions. All of those we visited were facing difficult physical challenges – deafness, joint problems, high blood
pressure – often alone and without access to the medical care they really needed. Sadly, one elderly lady had been raped.

“Travelling out of Lima and into rural Peru, you instantly see people’s human dignity being violated. It’s clear that some groups of people don’t have their rights protected. There’s a very unequal distribution of wealth, they don’t have the same access to education that other people enjoy, and they aren’t treated fairly by the justice system.”

Latin Link’s response

The restoration of human dignity is one of Latin Link’s core goals. Believing that all humans are created with dignity ‘in the image of God’ has a huge influence on the way we approach our mission work, and inspires us to challenge discrimination and oppression.

We have set up a Human Dignity Team, making sure that the recognition and restoration of
human dignity is part of every Latin Link ministry.

Many of you joined in our Week of Prayer in 2021, where we collectively prayed into many
situations that threaten people’s dignity in Latin America – from disability discrimination to
migration and poverty.

Speak up

God calls the Church to take action for marginalised communities like Puncus. We have a mandate to ‘Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves’; to ‘defend the rights
of the poor and needy.’ (Proverbs 31:8-9)

Sharon visited Puncus with a Christian organisation called Misión de Amor Perú (Mission of
Love Peru). Motivated by this call to defend human rights and dignity, they take practical
action to support communities and churches in need. Communities that were already
disadvantaged have struggled the most in the pandemic. Due to Covid-19, food prices around
Puncus shot up and it became harder for villagers to access other resources they needed.

But Misión de Amor Perú didn’t forget about this remote village. Sharon explains: “Working with the village church, we sat down with people to identify their areas of need. We were then able to give practical assistance like food parcels, clothes, books, new beds and even kitchen equipment where needed. Latin Link donations helped support this response, so thank you!”

Human dignity is not just about having a fair share of material things; it’s also having your
emotional and spiritual needs taken seriously.

“As well as meeting practical needs we visited the loneliest people, organised a kids’ show, ran a session on marriage, and spent time teaching parents about the prevention of child abuse,” says Sharon. “We led Bible studies, preached and encouraged the church, especially those whose faith was faltering. I loved the sense of community as we all shared food together.”

The work of Misión de Amor Perú is just one example of God’s people helping to restore human
dignity in places where it has been damaged. This Autumn 2021 edition of Latinfile is full of more examples, and we hope you will join us in the mission to defend the dignity of each and every human life.