Join the New Tactics community for an online conversation on Supporting Faith Leaders and Faith-Based Organizations as Human Rights Defenders from October 23-27.
The converging and diverging principles of secular human rights goals and religious values have been debated extensively. On the one hand, there are historical and contemporary instances in which oppressors have used religious doctrines to endorse discrimination and violence against marginalized groups. Around the world, people continue to suffer daily from these acts of hate. Yet, many faith leaders from a range of religions denounce religiously motivated violence and actively work to combat human right abuses around the world. Some of history’s most impactful activists—El Salvador’s Oscar Romero, India’s Mahatma Gandhi, Iran’s Shirin Ebadi, the United States’ Martin Luther King, and Burma/Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi—drew upon their personal faith to promote civil rights and peace.
Today, many faith leaders and faith-based organizations have become leaders in human rights activism and humanitarianism, both locally and internationally. In Northern Uganda, the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative has united faith leaders to advocate for peace and strengthen the peacebuilding process in the wake of the region’s devastating civil war. Rabbis for Human Rights supports human rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories by performing acts of solidarity with Palestinians suffering from the Occupation, organizing interfaith dialogues, and educating their fellow community members on the interconnectedness of Judaism and human rights. Musawah is global human rights movement working to advance women’s rights in Muslim contexts, using Islamic teachings and universal human rights doctrinal frameworks to guarantee equality in the lived realities of men and women. Each of these organizations has incorporated their faith into action-based human rights movements that demonstrate their accountability in practicing what they preach: dignity, justice, and fairness for all humanity.
Faith leaders and organizations can contribute to strengthening human rights around the globe by countering voices of oppressors, mediating conflicts to end or avoid violence, denouncing discrimination, organizing humanitarian assistance, and so much more. Just as faith communities may thrive in environments where each member’s dignity and rights are recognized, the international human rights movement may learn from engaging communities with deeply rooted ethical and spiritual foundations. In March of 2017, the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights launched “Faith for Rights,” an initiative to strengthen the interconnectedness of the world’s religions and human rights. In the subsequent Beirut Declaration, participating faith-based and civil society actors recognized their mutual commitment to “upholding the dignity and the equal worth of all human beings.” Across the world, faith leaders and faith-based organizations can be valuable allies in achieving universal human rights for all.
In this conversation, we seek to discuss the role of faith in promoting human rights across the globe and strategies for strengthening partnerships between secular and religious human rights defenders.