Why do Christians differ on the issue of human rights?

By Press Office
December 10, 2012

To coincide with Human Rights Day 2012 (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17578), it seems appropriate to highlight a past report from Ekklesia, authored by Savitri Hensman, examining 'Contrasting church attitudes on human rights for all'.

Many faith communities are officially committed to human rights for all. Yet in practice, some of their leaders may be strongly opposed.

Since 1948, Christians have played a significant role in extending personal and societal respect for human dignity. At the same time, church leaders have also questioned and denied rights-based precepts and practices in a number of instances.

In this paper, Savitri Hensman traces these discontinuities while pointing to the substantial traditional theological and spiritual resources that can be deployed in producing and developing shared commitments to freedom and justice.

The publication of this document was originally timed in relation to the meeting of Primates of the Anglican Communion in Egypt from 1-4 February 2009, the upcoming Church of England General Synod discussion on the Human Rights Act, the Convention on Modern Liberty in the UK, and comments on human rights from the Vatican, from Evangelicals and from the new Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad.

In a church contexts, arguments about sexuality have been significant because they highlight the extent to which protagonists are, or are not, willing to extend equal recognition and rights to those who are 'other', or with whose lifestyle they disagree.

Some of the links in this paper may no longer be operative (due to the closure of our online bookshop), but the literature referenced, as well as additional online papers from Ekklesia, are all still available.

In addition, Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow wrote a blog around this time, entitled 'More than just "rights",' (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/8823) which suggested a theological/biblical framework in which 'rights discourse' still has important suasion, even if, as Christians are bound to say, it is the language of gift rather than rights that goes furthest in establishing the dignity and worth of human beings in a God-given context.

* Read 'Contrasting church attitudes on human rights for all' in full here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/8492

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.