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Beyond the Dickensian Paradoxes of Human Rights: Reconceptualizing Proselytism, Rediscovering Evangelism

Prodromou, Elizabeth
June 4, 2015

Source: (2007) In Emmanuel Clapsis, ed., Violence and Christian Spirituality An Ecumenical Conversation. Geneva, Switzerland: World Council of Churches. Pp. 222-235.

“This is a response to John Witte’s assessment of the current state of religious human rights as a Dickensian moment, given that the world in the past two decades has “seen some of the best of human rights protections inscribed on the books, but some of the worst of human rights violations inflicted on the ground.” I explore three points. First, I analyse how globalization and democratization are producing a historically distinctive type of religious pluralism, whose significance lies in the state responses that weaken, and in some cases, directly limit, religious freedom. Second, I consider Witte’s proposition that improvements in the current religious human rights regime require that “religion must have a greater role in the cultivation of human rights, and that human rights must have a larger place in the calculations of religious bodies.” Specifically, I posit the need for religions to avoid the traps of Westphalianism, or state-centrism, when offering conceptual and operational input into religious freedom architectures. Third, I move to situate Orthodox Christianity within the context of what Witte calls the “new” ‘human rights hermeneutic’ [that] is slowly beginning to emerge among modern religions, by drawing on Orthodox Christian interpretations of evangelism as a possible alternative to proselytism.” (Abstract)


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