Does God Believe in Human Rights? Essays on Religion and Human Rights

Thursday, June 30th, 2011, 02:16 WIB
Does God Believe in Human Rights? 		   Essays on Religion and Human Rights

Does God Believe in Human Rights? Essays on Religion and Human Rights


Name of Book  :  Does God Believe in Human Rights?

                               Essays on Religion and Human Rights

Edited by          :  Nazila Ghanea, Alan Stephens, and Raphael Walden

Publisher         :  Martinus Nijhoff Publishers and vsp, 2007

Pages                :  296 pages


Does God Believe in Human Rigths? is a compilation of essays on Religion and Human Rights. The writing of this book has been inspired by many questions such as: Do human rights have a sound theological basis? Or where can religions find sources of legitimacy for  human rights? When religious precepts contradict human rights standards - for example in relation to freedom of expression or in relation to punishments - which should trump the other, and why? And so on. Sometimes it seems religions give the impression that God is indifferent to human rights, but this needs to change if we are to find a firm foundation for rights.

Thus, the 14 essays in this volume presents religious perspectives namely Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Baha'i) and addresses freedom of religion, diversity, discrimination, free speech, the impact of the secular, and theoretical and institutional frameworks. Furthermore, the papers in this book focus on the connection and debate between religion and human rights and consider whether there exists an "irreconcilable conflict" between religious principles, teachings, and laws and human rights systems that have developed since 1945.

The essays in this collection are divided into two main sections. The first section is about Religious Perspectives, while the second section discusses Models, Tensions and Frameworks. In addition, the essays in this volume are  revised versions of the papers that were delivered at a conference organized by the Clemens Nathan Research Centre, the University of London Institute of Commonwealth Studies and Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

To get a more comprehensive description of this volume, the following is a brief summary of some essays in this volume. Chapter 1, 'The Complimentarity between Secular and Religious Perspectives of Human Rights' written by Richard Harries. In this chapter, Harries challenges the notion that human rights is a purely secular concept even in its origin. He does this through a historical assessment. He argues, from a Christian perspective, that rights are grounded in the dignity of human beings - all of whom enjoy free will.

Harries, further suggests that above all what religion has to contribute is the capacity to open people’s eyes and make them see other people, whoever they are, as fellow human beings. It is because of that fundamental moral grounding that we can look for a continuing development human rights, entrenched and embodied in legal terms.

'Religious Truths and Human Coexistence' becomes the title of the second essay. In  this chapter Roger Ruston argues that the tensions between the secular regime of human rights and the conduct of particular religious traditions puts both states and religious bodies to the test and requires reflection and response. According to him, the early modern discourse on natural rights bounded by the needs of human beings as creatures of God living in communities and it does not cover the entire areas of benefits and freedoms that today prompt many persons to claim their rights.

Ruston, drawing on the Catholic tradition, also puts forward the hypothesis that human rights can only be fully understood as originating from a theological perspective of human beings as creatures of God. This is the position of natural justice, that of our common humanity, of being created in the image of God and being part of a global common good. This position also holds that we have obligations or duties towards those outside our own religious tradition because of our common humanity.

Michael Ipgrave in the third chapter 'Religion in a Democratic Society: Safeguarding Freedom, Acknowledging Identity, Valuing Partnership' discusses three issues which related to the existence of religious communities within the framework of plural, democratic and secular society. The first issue is about the safeguarding of religious freedom in public life. The second issue discusses recognition of religious identity as a constitutive strand of self-understanding and hence of citizenship. Thirdly and finally, Ipgrave discusses forms of partnership between religious communities and public authorities.

In chapter 4, Javaid Rehman wrote about 'Conflicting Values or Misplaced Interpretations? Examining the Inevitability of a Clash between "Religions" and "Human Rights"'. Despite the widely held position that a clash between religion and human rights is inevitable, Rehman argues that religious values and human rights are not necessarily mutually incompatible. Their overlapping paths do not always lead to a conflict. In addition, Rehman also argues the Sharia that fully supports modern human rights law are necessary and need to be reinterpreted.

Finally as a conclusion, I think that the moral messages that the authors of essay in this volume want to deliver is that it is important that people analyze the relationship between human rights and religion constantly. It is also necessary to keep reminding ourselves of our obligation to be aware of the diversity of the views represented in this book. The moral values created by many faiths have been among the foundations upon which societies have based their attitudes. These values have not only been successfully creating a feeling of identity, but have also laid down very clear moral codes on which their followers and others, have based on their lives.

Summary by Cut Mita