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Religious Perspectives on Human Rights

Tuesday, 5 May 2020
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In 2019, the Centre for Religion and Social Policy at the University of Divinity (now the Religion and Social Policy Network) hosted a Religious Perspectives on Human Rights roundtable. Here we are publishing the papers from that conversation. These papers will also appear in Zadok's Spring 2020 issue.

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The call to ‘radical solidarity’: Emmanuel Levinas and John Paul II on religion and human rights

Friday, 1 May 2020
 | Nigel Zimmermann

In Western democracies religious freedom can no longer be taken for granted and individuals are experiencing new threats and pressures both politically and culturally. Human rights, refined and legislated for in increasingly intense ways over the last century, is often viewed in absolute terms, whereas the rights of religious believers are viewed as contingent, or seen as lesser rights. Another way of putting it is to suggest that documents concerning human rights are hard and intransigent texts whereas religious commitments (doctrine, teaching, tenets of faith and so forth) are viewed as malleable and ultimately subjective. The dialogue between Karol Wojtyla (Pope St John Paul II) and Emmanuel Levinas highlights the ethical difficulties that arise in such a situation, and how this might place both religion and human rights into a difficult and tense relationship. Wojtyla and Levinas outline some pathways out of this situation, centring upon the incarnate experience of the human person not just as the object of human rights discourse, but as the subject through which such discourse finds its logic.

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Human Rights and Guilt By Association: Said Nursi’s renewal approach

Friday, 1 May 2020
 | Salih Yucel

Violating human rights, committing crimes, and mass killing due to guilt by association is as old as human beings. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is one of the most important steps regarding human rights, however, there is no article that explicitly bans committing crime and killing due to guilt by association. Although guilt by association is considered unlawful in modern day legal systems, it exists in all cultures, among adherents of religions and nations including Muslim countries. Despite the strong objection occurring within the Qur’an, violating human rights due to guilt by association, it has been common, in both the past and present, across the Muslim world. In this paper, I will analyse the word haqq, in its sense of meaning ‘right’ in the sacred texts of Islam, focusing on its relation to guilt by association. Secondly, I will examine how the Qur’anic verse ‘No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another’ (6:164) bans guilt by association in the exegetical works. This is shown to take on particular significance within Said Nursi’s (1877-1960) renewal approach. Finally, this study proposes that guilt by association must be added to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and banned by the UN.

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Religions and Human Rights: a Reformed and Anglican Christian approach

Friday, 1 May 2020
 | Gordon Preece

This paper or work in progress is a critique of many in my own Protestant Christian tradition who have forgotten the role of the Abrahamic traditions, including Christianity in the development of human rights, swallowing the historical subterfuge that it is only a post-Enlightenment development. This, in large part, led to the defeat by Sydney Anglicans and Catholics of the Rudd Government’s attempt a decade ago to develop an Australian Human Rights Charter under the guidance of Fr. Frank Brennan. This forgets the role of the Bible, Catholic tradition, canon law, Reformed and Evangelical approaches to Human Rights over the centuries, and particularly in the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 in response to the Holocaust. The paper explores the relationship between universal, creation-based supports for human rights and particular Abrahamic traditions and covenants with help from Jewish scholars Martin Buber, Rabbi Sacks, Michael Walzer in order to establish both a thin and thick basis for Human Rights. With the help of Reformed philosopher and theologian Nicholas Wolterstorff and others I argue for an intrinsic basis for human rights in humanity's being made in God's image. This carries intrinsic dignity and worth that cannot be erased or used as a mere means to an end.

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‘Created In the image of God’: A Jewish Approach to Human Rights

Friday, 1 May 2020
 | Fred Morgan

In Jewish thought the Biblical idea that humanity is created in God’s image is the starting point for the notion of human rights. This notion is challenged, though, by the reality of religious pluralism and the diversity of interpretations of the human condition and its relationship to human rights. This diversity implies that the notion of human rights, while universal, is not absolute; context matters. As an example I recount the remarks of a Buddhist monk in Myanmar about the Rohingya people. The porosity of religious and social boundaries in the contemporary world presents us with challenges that established religious traditions are simply avoiding. One of these challenges involves what Jonathan Sacks calls “the dignity of difference.” As a result, the idea of human rights is itself in danger of being absolutized and used for political ends, rather than as a springboard to pursuing justice. I use the history of Jewish experience to illustrate some of my arguments. Finally, I suggest that an obligation to encounter the other, as we do when we volunteer to work with refugees or offer hospitality to the stranger, may act as a corrective to the current politicisation of human rights thinking.

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A Custodial Ethic: an Aboriginal way of wholeness and reciprocity

Friday, 1 May 2020
 | Glenn Loughrey

Aboriginal people have suffered human rights abuses since the colonialists arrived here in leaky boats. These abuses are well documented by such as the HR Commission and I will not reiterate them here. Within the Aboriginal way of seeing this is not an added extra, something we should aspire to. It is the essence of being Aboriginal. It is the basic framework of Aboriginal existence understood as being indigenous of the universe. Nor is it restricted only to humans. As we are indigenous of the whole, attached to all our cousins (human and non-human, animate and inanimate), we think in terms of reciprocity and responsibility in order to maintain balance and wholeness. In this short paper I will explore Aboriginal ways of seeing that binds us together as one and why the Western concept of human rights is, it could be argued with Aboriginality.

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Islamic perspectives on human rights: a brief socio-historical overview

Friday, 1 May 2020
 | Dzavid Haveric

By exploring a Muslim view of human rights in an historical context, this paper enhances mutual understanding between diverse faith communities. In Islam, justice is a moral virtue and an attribute of human character, as it is in the Western tradition. However, the problem of human rights in the modern age became among the most challenging in Islam. The juristic articulations of Islam bear the influence of history and time, which may not be integral to its essence and must, therefore, remain open to evolution and improvement. Islamic tradition has created concepts which can be applied in a systematic engagement to develop contemporary commitments to human rights. The paper gives an emphasis on wasaṭiyyah, which is a commitment to justice and a balanced approach to all aspects of human life leading to the integration of all good in the world. It reveals this concept as one of the greatest losses of the Muslim world whose value needs to be re-affirmed. By doing so, it highlights the plurality of Muslim views on the UDHR and some Islamic human rights declarations, but also the ongoing cosmopolitanism implicit as a recurring theme in Islamic culture from earliest times.

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Human Rights, Buddhism and the Crisis of Australia's Detention Centres

Friday, 1 May 2020
 | Di Cousens

While Buddhism has no doctrine of rights as such, it has many principles and values that underpin ideas of rights. In this paper, Dr Cousens explores ideas such as treating others with equanimity and the generosity of giving freedom from fear and applies these ideas to the situation of refugees held by the Australian government in offshore detention at the present time.

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Concepts of Human Rights and Equality: the Hindu perspective

Friday, 1 May 2020
 | Jayant Bhalchandra Bapat

Concepts such as Human Rights and equality are highly complex and are dependent on a number of variables. These include historical development of the society in question, cultural and behavioural norms dictated by the society, and religious thought of the time. Hinduism presents a particularly complex case. My paper today will briefly examine the background of Indian culture, existing norms, various reform movements that have challenged the orthodoxy and the efforts by various government agencies and social reformers to reduce inequality, particularly after India obtained independence in 1947.

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Introduction: Religious perspectives on human rights

Friday, 1 May 2020
 | Edward Santow

In 2019, the Centre for Religion and Social Policy at the University of Divinity (now the Religion and Social Policy Network) hosted a Religious Perspectives on Human Rights roundtable. Here we are publishing the papers from that conversation. These papers will also appear in Zadok's Spring issue.

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Walking Backwards Down the Stairs Trying to Get Higher: Evangelical Christians and Election 2016

Monday, 5 June 2017 | 83.8 KB

While white evangelical turnout is a storyline in the 2016 Presidential election, it did not provide Trump the margin he needed to win. This credit goes to the voting bloc of white, blue-collar, largely Catholic voters, argues Dale S. Kuehne.download pdf

Lonely Like America: Reflections on Donald Trump's First 100 Days

Saturday, 29 April 2017 | 139.5 KB

After 100 days, we have greater clarity about how Trump will govern and the mood of the country he is governing. In Donald Trump we see a man who is lonely like America, writes Dale S. Kuehne.download pdf

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Proposed changes to Section 18C

Tuesday, 11 April 2017 | 51.0 KB

The government’s recently proposed changes to Section 18C are a welcome development, writes Scott Buchanan. But this is just one of several debates around principles and philosophy from which the Coalition has tried to run, or on which it has remained frustratingly silent. And, by grounding so much of its resistance in spurious arguments, it has undermined its own political and philosophical outlook.download pdf

Paying Attention to God: Liturgy in Consumer Culture

Monday, 4 April 2016 | 118.0 KB

Richard Glover argues that consumerism is a form of spirituality in which we make meaning, create identities, and participate in communities through acts of consumption. Consumerism has its own liturgical forms which shape our beliefs, actions and loves. How, then, might the spiritual disciplines of prayer and hearing God’s Word as shaped by Christian liturgies be a spiritual alternative to consumerism? download pdf

Same Sex Relationships and the Law

Sunday, 13 May 2012 | 105.2 KB

This paper was prepared by Dr Brian Edgar, formerly EA’s Director of Public Theology, in the light of the Christian responsibility to uphold both a Biblical view of marriage and a Biblical view of justice for all. It theologically evaluates the appropriateness of re-defining marriage or allowing civil unions (both deemed inappropriate) and of relationship registers which do not mimic marriage (reckoned to be one possibility out of several).download pdf

‘In the World’ But ‘Not Of the World’: Holiness, Citizenship and the Theme of 'Exile'

Monday, 7 May 2012 | 82.2 KB

Ian Packer reflects on the tension that Christians experience between the call to discipleship and the norms and pressures of the day-to-day world in which that discipleship must be lived out; with a focus on what we think politics is all about.download pdf

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2020 Summit - A Reflection

Monday, 7 May 2012 | 68.2 KB

Deborah Storie reflects upon her experience of the 2020 Summit and the extent to which change is needed in the face of our fraught histories and the complex challenges to social, ecological and individual well-being.download pdf

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The Gospel as Public Truth

Monday, 7 May 2012 | 26.7 KB

Brian Edgar on the value, and the dangers of ‘public theology’download pdf

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The Status of Marital Status

Monday, 7 May 2012 | 79.7 KB

This paper, by Dr David Phillips, National President of the Festival of Light Australia also strongly defends the unique status of marriage. But it also takes a different point of view on certain matters. It critiques Dr Edgar’s paper and argues, amongst other things, that relationship registers establish an inappropriate, quasi-marital status for same-sex relationships.download pdf

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A Multicultural Vision for the Church

Monday, 7 May 2012 | 31.7 KB

download pdf

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