ZURICH, Dec. 6, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- December 10, 2018 marks 70 years since the United Nations proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which lays foundations for international human rights law. Article 18 of the UDHR, on religious freedom, is one of the founding principles of Christian Solidarity International (CSI). On the occasion of the anniversary, CSI commits to redoubling its efforts to defend the inalienable rights of the individual as expressed in the Declaration, in particular the right to freedom of belief.
The UDHR's 30 articles set out the rights of all human beings to life, personal liberty and equality before the law. Article 18 spells out the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. It explicitly mentions the freedom to change one's religion or belief – a freedom withheld in many countries today. In some parts of the world changing or renouncing one's faith can invoke the death sentence, as the highly publicized case of Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi demonstrates.
"Upholding the UDHR is today more important than ever as disregard for basic human rights becomes more widespread and threats to the international legal order abound in a world in which 'might makes right'," said CEO of Christian Solidarity International Dr John Eibner.
UDHR's moral force
Charles Malik, a Lebanese Christian scholar and statesman, was the principal author of the Declaration. According to his son, historian Habib Malik, the UDHR had the moral force to inspire campaigners against human rights violations arising from communism and apartheid and still inspires human rights activists today.
"A purely moral declaration, which is what the Universal Declaration is, has proven to be much more effective than the legally binding documents that states subscribed to," he told CSI in an interview, referring to the international human rights covenants from 1966.
"Universal rights have survived and thanks to the Universal Declaration they have been articulated," he said.
"Arguably the single-most important international document of the 20th century," in the words of Habib Malik, the UDHR had its genesis in the brief period of détente immediately following the Second World War. A fully international endeavour, the Declaration drew on the input of representatives of the world's leading religions and political systems.
Seventy years on, there is still a place for a concept of universal rights, the historian believes. "I think what we have from 1948 is an excellent benchmark to be revisited indefinitely," said Habib Malik.
Christian Solidarity International (CSI) is a Christian human rights organization promoting religious liberty and human dignity. Its objective is worldwide respect for the God-given right of every human being to choose his or her faith and to practice it, as stipulated in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."
Habib C. Malik is an Associate Professor of History and Cultural Studies at LAU Byblos, Lebanon. He has lectured and written widely on topics including human rights, the plight of native Middle Eastern Christian communities, Lebanon, democracy in the Arab world and inter-religious dialogue.
To access the full interview with Habib Malik and a separate interview on the situation of the Christian minority in the Middle East: https://middle-east-minorities.com/new-series/
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SOURCE Christian Solidarity International (CSI)