The Right to be Human

Taken from Father Joseph Wresinski’s remarks to allies and friends of ATD Fourth World, 9 November 1980.

(Original: French, Revue Quart Monde, 203 (2007/3). )

“When we speak of human rights, we often forget that fighting for human rights means fighting for the right to be human.

What does it mean to be human?

To be human is to be a person who is recognised as such, and recognised as being able to accomplish the significant acts of life. What are these great acts of existence? To think, to believe, to love, and to meditate. We are truly human only to the extent that we are able to do these things.

What is a human being?

Human beings are able to shape their own ideas – not necessarily alone of course. They are attuned to the world, and can construct their own ideas about God, about the significance of beauty, truth, and goodness, about humanity itself, and about the meaning of life and death and the afterlife. People who are truly able to fashion their own ideas on these great themes of human existence – they are human.

Essentially, a human being can be summed up by these philosophical maxims:

I have ideas; I think, therefore I am human.

I love, therefore I am human.

I meditate, therefore I am human.

I pray, therefore I am human.

I believe, therefore I am human.


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