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New book aims to bridge religion and human rights gap
By CSLR | Emory Law | May 23, 2016 2:05:00 PM


A new book edited by CSLR Director John Witte, Jr. and CSLR Senior Fellow M. Christian Green explores how the intersecting roles of religion and human rights can build a more effective human rights culture in the world.

Despite reams of human rights documents generated by committees of the United Nations since World War II and the spreading of fragile new democracies since the 1970s, human rights abuses in the name of religion run rampant, say the editors, with more than one-third of the world’s 198 countries and territories reporting “high” or “very high” levels of religious oppression.

“Human rights norms need a human rights culture to be effective.… [They] have little salience in societies that lack constitutional processes that will give them meaning and measure,” write Witte and Green in the introduction to Religion and Human Rights: An Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2011). The book is a product of CSLR’s project on “Law, Religion and Human Rights in International Perspective,” funded by The Henry Luce Foundation.

The volume includes 22 chapters from ranking experts who provide an authoritative yet accessible treatment of the issues. Part one explores human rights and the religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Indigenous Religions. Part two looks at religion and modern human rights issues, including the freedoms of conscience, choice, expression, religion or belief; the rights of women and children; and economic, social, cultural, environmental, peace rights.

Contributors include Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na`im (Emory University), R. Scott Appleby (University of Notre Dame), Joseph C. W. Chan (University of Hong Kong), W. Cole Durham, Jr. (Brigham Young University), Carolyn Evans (University of Melbourne), Nazila Ghanea (University of Oxford), T. Jeremy Gunn (Al Akhawayn University), Willis Jenkins (Yale University), Sallie B. King (James Madison University), Natan Lerner (Interdisciplinary Center, Herzlyia), David Little (Harvard University), Werner Menski (University of London), Ronald Niezen (McGill University), David Novak (University of Toronto), Michael J. Perry (Emory University), Ingvill Thorson Plesner (University of Oslo), Steven D. Smith (University of San Diego), Madhavi Sunder (University of California at Davis), Paul M. Taylor (Barrister-at Law), Johan D. van der Vyver (Emory University), Barbara Bennett Woodhouse (Emory University), and Nicholas P. Wolterstorff (Yale University). Martin E. Marty (University of Chicago) offers the foreword.

“It is undeniable that religion has been, and still is, a formidable force for both political good and political evil…. The proper response is to castigate the vices and to cultivate the virtues of religion, to confirm those religious teachings and practices that are most conducive to human rights, democracy, and rule of law,” conclude the editors.

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