All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Liberty is a prerogative of every single human being and it is considered one of the most cherished fruits of human life. Man in all ages and times remained fond of his liberty and freedom but, very amazingly, man is not ready to give this right to his fellow beings.

When we ponder over the contemporary situation of today’s world we find that two very important and crucial slogans are influencing the entire world. Their intensity and connotations may differ from one part to another but their influence is seen on every part of this planet. These two slogans have attracted the attention of all the world media and they are liberty and emancipation.

With the passage of time and civilisation, no doubt, man has gained greater awareness and consciousness in the importance and value of liberty and freedom. Man has become more sensitive and knowledgeable about the price and cost of his freedom and he knows how important his liberty is.

It is an undeniable reality of this age that there is a pressing need felt everywhere in the world for emancipation but from what? Is it from the yoke of foreign rule, dictatorship, fascism, theocratic or other regimes with totalitarian philosophies, oppressive democracies and corrupt bureaucracies, the economic stranglehold of the poor countries by the rich, ignorance, superstition or fetishism?

The recent days are great witness of this reality, where we have seen huge tsunamis of people in the streets holding placards with these slogans. But the question is: Why is all this happening?

When human beings are deprived of their basic human rights, when human dignity is not honoured, when people are not allowed to express themselves, when citizens of a country have no authority to have their own opinion, when human liberty and freedom of speech is dishonoured and when people are forced to obey and to bend their heads, when people’s voices are ignored, when people’s sufferings are not eliminated, when people face physical, mental and emotional oppression and when, instead of the rule of law, “might is right” prevails, the result is that these circumstances and challenges could create huge storms and bring great revolutions.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights assures freedom and liberty to every human being. Articles 18 to 20 of this declaration state: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.”

I believe freedom and liberty are basic human rights and there is no exception for anyone. So, these rights should be honoured and respected. Liberty and freedom of speech and expression are vital to make the voice of people heard as well as to restore human dignity. This time requires us to show solidarity with people and to condemn every sort of violence and bloodshed of innocent men, women and children while they are struggling for their human liberty and freedom.

And we all must remember that swords can win territories but not hearts and force can bend heads but not minds. And to win hearts it is important to respect human dignity and liberty.

It is my fervent prayer that all mankind enjoys its freedom and liberty; may we all find everlasting peace and may good prevail on this planet.

The author is president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta.

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