This book focuses on the Biafran humanitarian crisis of 1967–1970 which generated a surge of human rights anxieties and attracted the attention of world humanitarian organizations. For the first time in recent history, different church groups and humanitarian activists around the world came together for the sole purpose of alleviating human suffering and saving lives regardless of theological differences, race, ethnic affiliation, nationality, and geographical distance. Despite their role in shaping the course and outcome of the conflict, most scholars of the Nigeria-Biafra War treat the humanitarian aspect of the war as a footnote, making it appear less important among other issues of interest in the conflict. Notable exceptions, however, include Joseph Thomson’s American Policy and African Famine, which focuses on American policy on the humanitarian aid, and Reverend Tony Byrne’s Airlift to Biafra.
This study underlines that the international humanitarian aid largely contributed to the internationalization of the war. The efforts of the churches from thirty-three countries which remain virtually unexplored was not just the first of its kind in the developing world but also the largest civilian airlift in history. While the paucity of scholarship on the humanitarian aspect of the Biafra war could be attributed to the newness of this field of enquiry, the increase in conflicts in different parts of the world has just opened humanitarian aid studies as a new frontier in academic study. This book is a masterful example of scholarship in this newly emergent field.
In June, Routledge released “Religion and Equality: Law in Conflict,” edited by W. Cole Durham, Jr. (Brigham Young University) and Donlu Thayer (Brigham Young University). The publisher’s description follows:
This volume presents an analysis of controversial events and issues shaping a rapidly changing international legal, political, and social landscape. Leading scholars and experts in law, religious studies and international relations, thoughtfully consider issues and tensions arising in contemporary debates over religion and equality in many parts of the world. The book is in two parts. The first section focuses on the anti-discrimination dimension of religious freedom norms, examining the developing law on equality and human rights and how it operates at international and national levels. The second section provides a series of case studies exploring the contemporary issue of same-sex marriage and how it affects religious groups and believers. This collection will be of interest to academics and scholars of law, religious studies, political science, and sociology, as well as policymakers and legal practitioners.
Thanks to Rusty Reno and First Things Magazine for hosting a dinner seminar last night on my new paper, Of Human Dignities. (That’s a picture of me and Rusty at the event, listening in rapt attention to one of the many insightful interventions). I greatly enjoyed the discussion and am grateful to all the participants for their careful readings of the paper. For those who would like to download a copy of the paper, which appears in the current edition of the Notre Dame Law Review, please click here.
For those who are interested, a draft version of my article, “Of Human Dignities,” is now available on SSRN. The article will appear in a forthcoming symposium issue of the Notre Dame Law Review. Here’s the abstract:
This paper, written for a symposium on the 50th anniversary of Dignitatis Humanae, the Catholic Church’s declaration on religious freedom, explores the conception of human dignity in international human rights law. I argue that, notwithstanding a surface consensus, no generally accepted conception of human dignity exists in contemporary human rights law. Radically different understandings compete against one another and prevent agreement on crucial issues. For example, the Catholic Church and other religious bodies favor objective understandings that tie dignity to external factors beyond personal choice. By contrast, many secular human rights advocates favor subjective definitions that ground dignity in individual will. These conceptions clash, most notably in contemporary debates on traditional values resolutions and same-sex marriage. Similarly, individualist conceptions of dignity, familiar to most of us in the West, compete with corporate conceptions that emphasize the dignity of traditional religions — a clash that plays out in the context of the proselytism and the right to convert. Rather than try to forge agreement on a universal definition of dignity, I argue, we lawyers should commit to a more modest approach, one that accepts the reality of disagreement and finds a humane way to accommodate it.
You can download the paper (more than once!) here.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has released its annual report, finding that that religious freedom is under “serious and sustained assault” across the globe. The report, which covers the period from February 1, 2015-February 29, 2016, highlights religious freedom violations in more than 30 countries, including China, Sudan, North Korea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria. It cites abuses by both state and non-state entities.
I’m happy to report that the proceedings of our 2014 Rome conference on international religious freedom, at which Pope Francis delivered the keynote address, are now in print. Edited by our colleague at LUMSA, Dean Monica Lugato, the proceedings, titled La Libertà Religiosa Secondo Il Diritto Internationale e Il Conflitto Globale dei Valori, are available here from the Italian publisher, Giappichelli, in paperback and ebook format. Papers are in English and Italian. Get it while it’s hot!
For those who are interested, next month I’ll be giving a faculty workshop at Università LUMSA (Libera Università Maria SS. Assunta) in Rome. The workshop, sponsored by the university’s law faculty, will take place on March 7. I’ll present my current draft, “Of Human Dignities,” a reflection on the incompatible understandings of dignity in contemporary human rights law, especially with respect to religious freedom . Details about the event are here. My talk will be in English. CLR Forum readers in Italy, please stop by and say hello!
In March, the Oxford University Press will release “Freedom of Religion or Belief: An International Law Commentary,” by Heiner Bielefeldt (United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief), Nazila Ghanea (University of Oxford), and Michael Wiener (Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and University of Oxford). The publisher’s description follows:
Violations of religious freedom and violence committed in the name of religion grab our attention on a daily basis. Freedom of Religion or Belief is a key human right, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, numerous conventions, declarations and soft law standards include specific provisions on freedom of religion or belief. The 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief has been interpreted since 1986 by the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. Special Rapporteurs (for example those on racism, freedom of expression, minority issues and cultural rights) and Treaty Bodies (for example the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee on the Rights of the Child) have also elaborated on freedom of religion or belief in the context of their respective mandates.
Freedom of Religion or Belief: An International Law Commentary is the first commentary to look comprehensively at the international provisions for the protection of freedom of religion or belief, considering how they are interpreted by various United Nations Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies. Structured around the thematic categories of the United Nations Special Rapporteur’s framework for communications, the commentary analyses the limitations on the wearing of religious symbols and vulnerable situations, including those of women, detainees, refugees, children, minorities and migrants, through a combination of scholarly expertise and practical experience.
Over the last 30 years, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have become increasingly present in international discourses and active in international decision-making. Among the estimated several million NGOs in existence today, an increasingly visible number of organizations are defining themselves in religious terms – referring to themselves as “religious”, “spiritual”, or “faith-based” NGOs. This book documents the initial encounters between the particularly international segment of those organizations and the UN while at the same time covering the Protestant and Catholic spectrum that dominated the early years of their activities in the UN-context.
This book focuses on the construction of the human rights discourse inside two religiously affiliated organizations: The Commissions of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) and Pax Romana (IMCS / ICMICA). These organizations have been formally accredited as NGOs by the UN, label themselves as religious, and look back upon a long and intense cooperation with the UN. Lehmann presents material from the archives of those two organizations that has so far rarely been used for academic analysis. In doing so, as well as documenting the encounters between those organizations and the UN, and looking at the Protestant and Catholic spectrum, the book provides new insights into the very construction of the notions of ‘the religious’ and the ‘secular’ inside those organizations.
This work will be of great interest to all students of religion and international relations, and will also be of interest to those studying related subjects such as global institutions, comparative politics and international politics.
Throughout history, religious minorities have experienced discrimination, persecution, expulsion, and genocide. Further, in the last decade, the world has witnessed an unprecedented increase in violent persecution of religious minorities, particularly in the Middle East, in Asia and in Africa. Yet the international community has been a bystander and has not been able or willing to develop a strategy to protect persecuted religious minorities and to stop their expulsion and genocide. After the Second World War with the creation of the United Nations, there were great hopes that all peoples could live in peace with one another as good neighbors, based on the fundamental human rights and the practice of tolerance as stated in the Preamble of the United Nations Charter. However, the United Nations never developed specific and effective strategies to protect the human rights of religious minorities and to stop their persecution, expulsion and genocide. Even so, we must recognize that the United Nations has been providing humanitarian assistance to refugees who fled for religious reasons. The 2014 Symposium at the United Nations in New York on the “Protection of Religious Minorities Worldwide” was directed at the international community in the hope that it will acknowledge the dire situation of so many religious minorities and will adopt practical strategies and measures for protection of, and strong humanitarian assistance for, the expelled religious refugees.