Middle East Conference 2013: “Your Rights & My Responsibilities” – Day 1

This morning, IMES’ Middle East Conference (MEC) 2013, “Your Rights & My Responsibilities: Biblical and Islamic Perspectives on Human Rights” kicks off and promises to be a very illuminating, if at times very challenging conference. For a brief overview of the conference, conference themes and program of events, please follow the links below:

Please return to this page often for regular updates and reflections, or if you wish to comment and discuss MEC 2013 topics and themes.

Welcome!

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1) Opening Session: Speaker Introduction and Conversation. [10:00-11:30am]. 

The international speakers for MEC2013 are currently on stage introducing themselves, including their history, background, motivations and personal journey towards the study of and/or advocacy for human rights and human rights related issues.

International Speakers at MEC 2013 are as follow:

  • Paul Fiddes (UK)
  • Ehab el-Kharrat (Egypt)
  • Ziya Meral (Turkey)
  • Danut Manastireanu (Romania)
  • Tim Costello (Australia)
  • MEC 2013 also features many local Lebanese speakers, both Muslim and Christian, who will be introduced shortly.

Questions now being discussed include:

  • Please tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, where you work (and in what capacity), and some of your interests.
  • How did you become interested in the area of human rights, and in which particular areas of human rights have you focused on?
  • Could you highlight some of the work you have been involved in that relate to the themes we will be addressing during MEC2013?
  • Who has inspired you and who has challenged you within the field you have been involved in?
  • Who would you encourage people to engage with [writers, organisations, movements etc.]?
  • What are some of the main themes you will be addressing within your sessions?
  • What are you looking forward to most this week? What are you hoping to learn?

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Mec s2

2) Theological & Biblical Foundations for Human Rights Based Approaches [12:00 – 1:30pm]

Presenter: Paul Fiddes

Session Purpose: To trace the historical development of the human rights paradigm, focusing on philosophical, theological and Biblical influences that have led to a contemporary understanding of human rights within ‘Western’ and/or ‘Christian’ thought.

Questions Being Addressed:

  • What have been the key philosophical and theological ideas that have formed the basis of contemporary understandings of human rights?
  • Which Biblical texts are commonly used to provide a framework through which Christians have understood human rights?
  • What are some of the Biblical, theological and philosophical challenges to a ‘Western’ understanding of individual human rights?

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3) Seminars from Human Rights Activists in Lebanon [3:00 – 5:00pm]

Session Purpose: To hear from NGO workers currently engaged in human rights activism, gaining first hand insight as to what they do, why they do it, and how concerned persons might themselves get involved.

Presentations:

  • Nadine Moawad, from the Take Back Parliament Inititiative
  • Yousef Wehbah, presenting in regard to protection from armed violence in the refugee camps
  • Jouman Merhi, presenting in regard to women’s rights in Lebanon

Questions Being Addressed: 

  • What does human rights advocacy look like “on the ground” in the Lebanese context?
  • What challenges have presenters encountered (and perhaps overcome) in regard to their advocacy?
  • How can participants themselves become involved in human rights advocacy?

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4) Human Rights in Global Perspective: Applying UN Charters on Human Rights in the 21st Century [5:00 – 6:30pm]

Session Purpose: To explore the contemporary implications of the human rights framework within international legislation and how such legislation is implemented within present-day contexts, introducing participants to the various dimensions of human rights as relating to specific issues and people groups.

Presentation: Fadi Abi Allam

Questions Being Addressed:

  • How do specific nation states relate to international human rights legislation within the context of the UN framework?
  • What examples of good practice have there been in regard to the implementation of human rights principles by particular nation states?
  • What are some of the major challenges facing human rights bodies, within and beyond the UN framework, as they seek to encourage the implementation of various HR protocols?

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5) Individual Rights vs. Social Responsibility: Muslim & Christian Perspectives [8:00 – 9:30pm]

Session Purpose: To gain insight as to how Muslim communities seek to protect minorities and those at the margins of society, exploring the key Islamic foundations for such beliefs and practices and how such views may/may not be similar to ‘Christian’ and/or ‘Western’ understandings of human rights.

MEC2013 s5

Discussants:

  • Muhammad Abu Zeid
  • Paul Fiddes

 Questions Being Addressed:

  • For what reason/s are individual human rights not typically considered a priority within Islamic/MENA communities?
  • What happens when a society fails to live up to its social responsibility – is there a role for advocacy on behalf of the individual?
  • How do cultural norms and practices potentially influence and/or conflict with religious ideals, both Muslim and Christian?

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