What’s faith got to do with human rights? That’s one of the questions explored in a new publication, edited by Dr David Tombs of Trinity College Dublin at Belfast (the Irish School of Ecumenics), Rights and Righteousness: Perspectives on Religious Pluralism and Human Rights.
The publication was featured this morning on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence (see chapter 7 of the online recording, ‘Righteousness vs. Human Rights?’) The segment includes input from Tombs, Prof. Monica McWilliams of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, and Dr Norman Richardson, Lecturer in Religious Studies at Stranmillis College in Belfast.
The publication, which can be downloaded here, provides a variety of international and distinctly Northern Irish perspectives on religion, pluralist societies, and human rights debates. It is the product of a 2007 conference of the same name, where (among other matters) the concept of a ‘culture of rights’ was interrogated. As McWilliams notes in the introduction to the volume,
Considering what ‘a culture of rights’ means in a shared society may not yield agreement.
However, we believed it could help to:
- raise awareness of diversity, challenging stereotypes and increasing respect for
- difference in a society emerging from conflict
- raise awareness of rights and the diversity of views from which they emerged and in
- which they can still flourish
- explain why agreement may be difficult
- identify rules of engagement for when agreement is not possible, and
- identify common grounds for action for justice where agreement is possible
I expect the papers in this publication to generate healthy conversation around these areas.
Of particular interest to those who are intrigued by the title of the publication is Rev Dr Johnston McMaster’s Afterword on ‘Righteousness: A Word Profile,’ in which he seeks to draw attention away from the word’s more negative connotations (self-righteousness) and towards an understanding of righteousness as ‘right relations,’ which he roots in the Hebrew Scriptures (p. 104),
Righteousness could be translated as right relations. It is essentially a relational word rooted in the covenantal vision of a radically different community characterised by distributive and restorative justice, social solidarity, compassion and holistic well-being.
I think that this poses a special challenge to Christian communities in Northern Ireland: are they living out their faith in such a way that their relationships with those who are different – whether religiously, ethnically, or economically – are characterised by compassion, justice, and a search for greater understanding of one another?
The publication was launched last week at Trinity College Dublin at Belfast. Remarks from McWilliams, Tombs, and Prof. Linda Hogan of the Irish School of Ecumenics can be heard here.
Contributors to the publication include:
- Dr L Philip Barnes, Reader in Theological and Religious Education, King’s College London and Visiting Professor of Religious Studies at Union Theological College, Belfast
- Professor Kevin Boyle, School of Law, University of Essex
- Rebecca Dudley, former Education Worker, Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
- Professor Linda Hogan, Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin
- Professor Francesca Klug, Professorial Research Fellow, London School of Economics
- Father Feidhlimidh Magennis, Senior Lecturer, St Mary’s University College, Belfast
- Rev Dr Johnston McMaster, Lecturer and Programme Co-ordinator, Education for
- Reconciliation, Irish School for Ecumenics, Belfast
- Michael McNamara, Barrister at the Bar of Ireland
- Dr Fran Porter, freelance researcher and writer
- Norman Richardson, Lecturer in Religious Studies, Stranmillis University College, Belfast
- Karin Ryan, Director, Human Rights Program, The Carter Center, Atlanta, Georgia
- Dr Filip Spagnoli, Statistics Directorate, National Bank of Belgium
- Dr Jeroen Temperman, Erasmus University of Rotterdam; Editor-in-Chief, Religion & HumanRights
(Photo from the launch: Prof. Linda Hogan, Prof. Monica McWilliams, Dr David Tombs)