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Our Human Security Approach to Health and Wholeness (Church & Society)

Jacqueline Celin
February 7, 2023

Last week, I was able to view a portion of the United Nations Ninth Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-Based Organizations in International Affairs.

While watching, I noticed a term that I had not heard before, “human security.” The term, “security,” is what I have often heard discussed as something national or regional. But, to hear it used to describe security individually was new.

So, I learned more about it and found that, “human security,” has been used for quite a while. The United Nations first began to use it in 1994 within their human development report. This report defines human security as having four characteristics. It is universal, people-centered, interdependent, and it incorporates early prevention. Human Security also has seven interconnected elements; economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community, and political. (United Nations)

Considering the individual needs of each human worldwide is a different way of thinking about and discussing social concerns, compared with only being concerned about matters of national security. Two components of this stood out the most for me:

First, by taking this people-centered approach, we place human dignity at the core of what we do. Human dignity, then, becomes front and center in our decision-making processes. It takes us away from a numbers-only approach and instead focuses on the stories of the individual persons affected, reminding us that every single person in the world deserves basic human rights.

Second, it is holistic. It understands that hunger and poverty are never caused by one issue alone; it is related to the whole person and the whole system. While health is listed as one of the seven interconnected elements of human security, as people of faith, we know that health does not just relate to our physical-self. It also relates to our spiritual and emotional well-being, as well as to how we relate with all of God’s creation in the world.

Henning Wrogeman emphasizes these dynamic and relational characteristics of a holistic health approach when he discusses the 1990 World Council of Church’s Christian Medical Commission’s statement which says, “health is a dynamic state of well-being of the individual and society; of physical, mental, spiritual, economic, political and social well-being; of being in harmony with each other, with the material environment, and with God.”*

As United Methodists, I have learned the ways that we also approach our justice work with this same person-centered, holistic understanding of health and wholeness: “health is social harmony as well as personal well-being, and necessarily presumes the elimination of violence. Thus the health that God wants for humanity both presumes and seeks the existence of justice as well as mercy, the absence of violence as well as the absence of disease, the presence of social harmony as well as the presence of physical harmony.” (2016 Book of Resolutions #3202)

May we remember always to practice our faith holistically so that all may have an abundance of human dignity.