MAY 6, 1949
NEW YORK, Thursday—I have a most pathetic letter from a girl in Athens, Greece. She writes that when her father died in Constantinople she and her mother and sister were left penniless, and they moved to Greece where she found a job to help support the three of them. Soon after, at 20, she "thinks" she was attacked by polio. Her legs became useless. She still continued working at home, however, with her hands and earning money for the family. But lately her hands and arms have become affected and they have had to go on relief given by the churches. She is brokenhearted at being a burden to her family.
Her mother is old, and it looks as though the girl not only could not get proper care but that the family was living on a most meager basis.
What valiant fights some people make in this world and how hopeless the situation must be in countries where the resources of both government and private charity are so much curtailed!
And while I am on the subject of letters, I have one which is signed just "An American Citizen." It comes from Chicago, and it says:
"Dear Mrs. Roosevelt: Would you please investigate the repeated reports and complaints that non-Catholics of Catholic Spain are being subjected to religious persecution and that Protestants have been forbidden to build any more Protestant churches in Spain.
"If this is the condition in Spain, why then does said country receive help from the Marshall Plan? The people of the very faiths that are being oppressed and limited in Spain are made to help support and finance this Marshall Plan. To many and many of us that doesn't seem reasonable and a far cry from democracy.
"If you are not able to investigate because of your duties in the U.N., will you, through your knowledge and influence, direct this to the proper authority? Thanking you most kindly."
I would like to say, to begin with, that Spain does not receive Marshall Plan aid. But even if it did, we would have no control over the decisions of the government of Spain. Our government would not expect other nations to interfere with its domestic policies and we have no right to interfere with theirs. We do believe in freedom of religion and in allowing everyone to worship as they see fit, and in our own country we would allow any people that did not interfere with decency and order to worship as they saw fit in their own church.
The reason that the United Nations has voted for a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which freedom of conscience and religion is one of the articles, is just because we hope that more and more people will come to believe that this freedom is a right that should not be taken from anyone.
The Declaration is not a legally binding document, and its acceptance must come through the willingness of governments and peoples to accept and live up to it. Spain is not a member of the United Nations, so she did not accept the Declaration. Her attitude toward religious freedom, which may be deplored by some, is her own business.