Source: (2004) Akron, PA: Mennonite Central Committee. Downloaded 19 December 2005.
Mennonites are uneasy about human rights. We have not ignored them entirely, and
sometimes use the language of rights when convenient. But human rights language tends to
be a â€œsecond languageâ€, after the preferred language of compassion, care and community.
Yet human rights have become an integral part of the international legal system, and have been
one of the most significant, non-violent, â€œpoliticalâ€ contributions to public peace, justice and
order in the past 50 years. They play an important role in moderating conflicts. Human rights
institutions have ensured that there is a systematic international response to torture, unlawful
detention, violence against women, and refugees. And at a national level, legal instruments like
the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or the American Bill of Rights, provide the basis
for a rule of law which has largely ensured public peace, justice and order.
But human rights present a significant challenge to peace theology, which has been the primary
tool for developing Mennonite responses to conflict and victimization, especially through the
preferred options of forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation. In my view, Mennonites need to
move beyond ambivalence and develop a human rights discourse to enhance the viability of
peace theology – and restorative justice – as a more universally helpful response to conflict. A
Mennonite human rights paradigm could have a significant impact on behalf of those in need.
My perspectives on human rights arise from my training in law, some time engaged in the
practice of criminal law and refugee law, and the past 13 years working with the Mennonite
Central Committee (MCC), which included a three year secondment to the Quaker United
Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland.(excerpt)
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