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

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

This morning, Dr. Paul Fiddes provided a theological and biblical basis for human rights. He began by demonstrating that human rights are not merely a construct of Western individualism but rather they are reciprocal events embedded within social relations. In discussing the theological grounding for these rights, Fiddes argued that they are inherent because of the worth that is bestowed to all by God’s love, because they are a representation of the image of God, and because they emanate out of God’s desire for humankind’s well-being. Fiddes ended by pointing out that there is much common ground between the Christian and Muslim belief of human rights in that they both hold that human rights are grounded in the sovereignty and image of God. -N.C.

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

Not knowing the history of Lebanon, it was interesting to hear the panel of human rights activists working in Lebanon call for a secular, democratic state to replace the sectarian model that has been dominating Lebanese society. The emphasis on this sectarian model allows the leaders of Lebanon to not advocate for any real change in the country, but follow their sectarian lines. As a result, the whole of Lebanon suffers because the leaders of the country are not looking out for the good of the country as a whole, but only for the good of those within one’s own sectarian lines. According to the activists, this status quo has allowed for human rights violations to occur and, thus, it is time for this move towards a secular, democratic state so everyone’s rights can be protected. It seems a disservice to boil down such a complex topic to one paragraph, but it seems that being aware of this issue is an essential component to understanding Lebanon. This realization, then, should force those in Lebanon to try and gain a comprehensive understanding of this topic and engage in a countrywide dialogue about the issues that arise while analyzing this subject. – J.A.

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

Guest speaker Fadi Abi Allam exhorted us to recognize the inevitability and even necessity of conflict. However, violence must always be rejected as a viable option. Conflict is oftentimes necessary, especially when an individual or groups rights are being denied. We may need conflict to eventually see those rights brought about. But, in our conflict, violence must always be avoided. When people reject the non-violent option, the call for justice is often the cause. By conceptually separating conflict from violence, however, we are able to call for justice while simultaneously reject violence. We can allow for conflict and deny violence. -J.

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

Sheikh Muhammad Abu Zaid claimed Muslim concern for human rights predated the Cairo declaration of 1981, and even the UN resolution of 1948, acknowledgement of said rights originated with Adam. Human rights were more than a Western umbrella developed as philosophical invention. Zaid asserted the Muslim viewpoint is based on divine inspiration; the axiom of rights as necessity. Dr Paul Fiddes averred a Christian ideal higher than rights was love. That love trumps rights and pursuit of rights is foundational to the desire of God. Fiddes emphasized rights are about living in relation to others affirming the double love command. -S.L.

One thought on “Middle East Conference 2013: “Your Rights & My Responsibilities” – Day 1 – Audience Reflections

  1. What evidence does Fiddes give that Muslim beliefs on human rights have anything to do with the “image of God”? That doesn’t make sense to me because every Muslim I’ve ever spoken with about this topic (except those who have rejected Islamic teaching on this) rejects the idea of man being created in the image of God.
    I think we need to be careful not to let a desire to “find common ground” prevent us from maintaining a clear view of the 2 different belief systems.

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