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Human Rights in Christian Perspective

Allyson Mckinney Timm.jpg

The idea of inherent, universal human rights, protected under international law, has come to represent the best hope of many for freedom from the suffering of injustice. Faith in human rights has given hope to historic struggles against colonial oppression and racist apartheid. The language and philosophy of human rights continue to empower movements to confront violent misogyny and xenophobia and to recognize the full humanity of ethnic and religious minorities. 

Christian thought and leadership played distinctive and significant roles in the genesis and development of the idea of human rights, as well as the modern global movement to uphold these rights and freedoms. Human rights trace their origins to Christian natural law theology as well as liberal political theory, albeit with Christian origins that pre-date the Enlightenment by centuries. Although Christian theology has been invoked on both sides of pivotal struggles for justice—including struggles to overcome slavery, apartheid, and racial segregation—the Christian luminaries unanimously celebrated today are  those who were moved by their faith to uphold the human rights of the oppressed.

Questions remain, however, about the relationship between Christianity and human rights today and in the future. Certain 20th Century Protestant theologians have debated whether the concept of “rights” is an appropriate idea for Christians to embrace. Various Christian traditions have reached diverse conclusions to questions of women’s human rights. Christian and post-colonial critiques challenge the human rights movement from their differing perspectives. Rising religious nationalism is a global force that resists realization of human rights. 

Amidst this complex landscape, what can be said about the special relationship between Christian faith and human rights? Exploring this subject from theological, spiritual, historical, and legal perspectives, we will think together about what this relationship has been, what it is today, and what hopes we might have for this relationship tomorrow and beyond. Cosponsored by Black Rock Congregational Church

Seminar Schedule:

Tues., March 5th  
9:00 am Worship led by Allyson McKinney Timm
9:30 am The Idea of Human Rights: Christian Theological & Liberal Political Foundations
11:30 am Lunch Break
2:00 pm Christian Philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Theory of Justice as Respect for Inherent Human Rights
4:00 pm Seminar concludes for the day
Wed., March 6th  
9:00 am International Human Rights Law: The International Bill of Rights
11:30 am Lunch Break
2:00 pm Human Rights Luminaries: Christian Leaders Whose Faith Inspired Their Struggles for Justice and Equality
4:00 pm Seminar concludes for the day
Thurs., March 7th  
9:00 am Worship led by Joe Delahunt
9:30 am Contemporary Case Study: Christian Responses to the Plight of Migrants & Refugees
11:30 am Lunch Break
2:00 pm Contemporary Case Study: Diverse Christian Approaches to Women’s Human Rights
4:00 pm Seminar concludes for the day
Fri., March 8th  
9:00 am Christian & Post-Colonial Critiques of International Human Rights
11:30 am Seminar concludes

Resource Person:

Allyson McKinney Timm is the founder and executive director of
Justice Revival, a nonprofit ministry dedicated to serving as a Christian voice for
human rights in the United States. She has worked in the field of human rights for
over a decade, largely focused on gender based human rights violations. For three
and a half years she lived and worked in Sub-Saharan Africa. Allyson is an elder in
the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).