Human rights come from being made in God’s likeness — natural law

Foundations of Human Rights (for Vanenburg Society Meeting 2020)

Every person has a hidden longing to be happy. To achieve this longing, one of the necessary conditions is other people, it is a society that functions according to certain principles, balancing the interests and behavior of individuals. What is happiness for one is misfortune for another – such a view is common, but it leads to a relative attitude. However, there are all-encompassing, absolute values, and they need to be sought, acknowledged. For example, peace, justice – this is something fundamental. Laws, incl. the Constitution is designed to create a society in which one can live in harmony with other people and achieve true happiness. The Constitution is the bearer of the common will and values of the particular society. The Constitution tries to say in a very short, focused way what is most important for the normal functioning of society. Constitutional rights are the basis for the creation of any right in a country. In the context of the Constitution, it is necessary to look at human rights, which are an integral part of it.

Human rights are fundamental rights that are inherent and self-sufficient for each individual since birth. The state began to form about 7-8 thousand years ago, society was formed at least a million years ago, but the concept of human rights appeared only a little over 200 years ago. As a category of the field of law, human rights first of all characterize the relationship between human and state power, power in general. The main function of human rights in this respect is to protect the area of individual freedoms from the intrusion of state power and its totalitarian spread. Human rights are a fundamental restriction of state power that must be respected in relation to all people.

…Christianity says: study nature, go into the principles according to which man, society is formed, try to recognize and respect them. Interestingly, this challenge has been accepted and, as a result, human rights, constitutions, etc. have developed in European civilization. And we know that the inspiration for human rights comes from the fact that man was created in the image and likeness of God.

The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man, because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin (CCC 1954).


On Wednesday, August 26, at the St. Jacob’s Cathedral in Riga, the Archbishop of Riga, Metropolitan Zbignevs Stankevics, led the Holy Mass, during which he thanked God for his decade of ministry, as well as shared his thoughts on what he had done during that time. The Archbishop was greeted by President Egils Levits, Speaker of the Saeima Ināra Mūrniece, ministers, representatives of art and culture, of science and education and many other friends. The event was attended by Latvian bishops and clergy.
Below is an unofficial working full text of the archbishop’s address.

Dear ladies and gentlemen, dear brothers and sisters in Christ!


An element that inevitably comes with leadership is influence and power. Power has a dual nature: guided by the flow of righteousness, love, truth and justice, it serves as a fertile ground for change. However, when flowing without direction and without awareness, when it becomes the goal in itself, power can also be devastating. Power is a tool in our hands. Are we leaders always aware of its power?

Every leader in society has a role to play, a function, and a responsibility to God for how that function is performed.

The role of spiritual leaders has always been to strengthen people’s faith, both in God and in themselves, in their own abilities. We serve to awaken and strengthen people’s desire to live a full and internally fulfilled life. This is not possible without inner freedom and peace. Their fruits are also harmony in relations with all people of good will, thus expanding the presence of the Good, the True and the Beauty (in capital letters) in the world.

Many of you present are leaders in other areas of public life. The duty of every leader is to serve – to serve society and to do so with awareness of their influence. A wonderful gift of my decade of service would be the awareness that both I and everyone who is present here, begin to realize themselves as leaders and to be aware of the leader within themselves. To be aware of the gift, the talent that God has given us, to understand our mission, which is entrusted to each of us and for which we have been sent into the world. Only an awareness of our true mission, our calling, can make our leadership meaningful. I invite all of us to be aware of the power over the people and society entrusted to us, it goes hand in hand with our leadership and mission. It is important to use the power given to us responsibly.

A leader promotes the growth of other people; a manager only promotes things. But in order for things to move forward, we must first think about people, their growth, because not technology or finances, but persons are the most important long-term aspect of a company. I want to mention three world-class successful business examples where business executives in their approach as a priority was a deliberate choice of moral leadership – the chairman of the leading tire manufacturer Michelin – Francois Michelin, the head of a major mainstream paper product manufacturing company in the world Kimberly-Clark – Darwin Smith; and Herb Kelleher – the head of the world’s largest low cost airline – Southwest Airlines.

Many entrepreneurs do not believe that virtuous leadership promotes profit. Or rather, do not want to believe. They say, “business is business,” to justify the cruelty to their employees. A real business person is honest with himself. He knows that virtuous leadership is not an obstacle to business, but, on the contrary, serves it. Leadership is realized through character. Temperament is given by nature, but we strengthen our character by inculcating healthy virtues. Virtue is a dynamic force, as evidenced by the origin of the word “virtus” – in Latin “virtus” means “force”. Each of the virtues, if practiced regularly, gradually increases a person’s capacity for action. Virtue creates a space where leadership is realized by winning the trust of those around us. The basis of leadership is the so-called 4 cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, courage and moderation, while generosity and humility are the essence of leadership.

True leaders never manipulate. Nor do they guide others by exercising the “potestas” or power that is resulting from their position. They guide through “auctoritas” – an authority that derives from their character. There is also one good news in the end: leadership does not exclude anyone, it is available to everyone.

Secondly, in the future of my ministry, I would like to focus on more purposeful promotion of the spiritual awakening of Latvian society through the transmission of divine revelation or the Good News, using modern media and expanding the existing ecumenical cooperation between denominations. It will often require the church to get out of the usual comfort zone. However, we are ready to do so – it would be a sin not to do so, public communication has a role to play in every aspect of the Church’s mission. As Pope Paul VI said, the Church would “feel guilty before the Lord if they did not use these powerful means.” Therefore, even now we are trying to redefine and develop the Catholic Information Center in order to improve the Church’s internal and external communication processes.

Third, in making this communication, it is important to direct public thought to an awareness of true values — not just ritual, church-specific activities, but a real awareness of what is valuable — for both ourselves and God. For example, love, relationships, family, society, intimacy, togetherness, unity, inner fulfillment and many other aspects of life. In recent years, it has become clear that society is looking for a way – or perhaps a way back – to spiritual values. The path to meaning and awareness of existence. The way to God. This is done through the search for and experience of various spiritual practices. We want to respond to this trend by showing that the Church, the Christian faith, and the spiritual practices offered by the Church are also one way of reaching such a much-coveted and longed-for inner fulfillment.

Each of these processes — leadership, the exercise of power, and the addressing of society are possible only with humility before God, wisdom, and great inner strength. These are exactly the three things my mother wished me for when I took office ten years ago. And today, in closing, I want to wish you the same thing: humility, wisdom and strength.

Thank you all again for your presence.

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