Seyed Mohammad Sadati Nejad, Expert at the Center for Political and International Studies
In this article, I touch briefly upon the relationship between human rights and religions. Within the human rights mechanism, we have 2 resolutions with regard to religion. One resolution is tabled annually in the March Session of the Human Rights Council and in the third committee and the General Assembly by OIC regarding combatting intolerance based on religion and belief. The second resolution is tabled in the same meetings, each year by EU on freedom of religion and belief. These resolutions are the result of kind of a compromise between OIC and EU and are adopted without the vote and by consensus.
Though both topics are important, but they are mostly focused on how to use religion and belief to combat hatred, violence, discrimination, stigmatization, negative stereotyping based on religion and relief. They also highlight the fact that freedom of religion and belief is part of human rights and an interfaith, inter-religious and inter cultural dialogue promote human rights.
However, the main focus of this article is religion and its relevance to human rights. Some believe that they are contradictory and some believe that they are complementary. Madam Bachelet, the ex-High Commissioner for Human Rights in her speech during the Global Summit on Religion, Peace and Security in 2019 said the human rights agenda is rooted in cultures across the world. Human rights and faiths can be mutually supportive. Human rights are closely connected to religion.
But this view is not necessarily shared by all human rights and religious experts. As nowadays, discussion with Artificial Intelligence is absorbing many attractions, I asked artificial intelligence about the topic under discussion. Though, the artificial intelligence at the beginning was reluctant, knowing the difficulties of this issues, it finally confirmed that religions and human rights can be supportive to each other. This is the pre-assumption of the author of this article as well.
The following article speculates different aspects of the subject which might sounds interesting for the scholars. It might show a way forward on the discussion on religions and human rights, the opportunities, the difficulties and the complexities and also the gaps that yet exists, in particular within the human rights mechanism.
The AI, believed that religion and human rights can sometimes come into conflict with one another, particularly when religious beliefs are used to justify actions that violate basic human rights. At the same time, it believed that religion can also play an important role in promoting and protecting human rights. Many religious teachings, such as justice, fairness and kindness encourage respect for human rights.
What mentioned by AI was in line with what one can assumed as a scholar in this field. Though I should say that its response was not complete and it did not say anything about this fact that sometimes human rights are also used to justify actions that violate religious beliefs and practices and insult them. Cultural diversity and freedom of religion and belief is also part of human rights and no one can abuse human rights to insult religions.
AI believes that while religion is not necessarily the root of human rights. While many religions share principles and values that align with human rights, there are also cases where religious beliefs and practices have been used to justify actions that violate human rights. But we should be careful not to mix these two issues. Abusing religions or human rights to incite violence is different from their genuine teachings.
I believe that human rights have derived from religious teachings. Studying the history of human rights confirms this fact. IT could be future elaborated in another article.
AI believes that religion can promote human rights by providing a moral and ethical framework that emphasizes the inherent value and dignity of every human being. Many religions have teachings that encourage respect for human rights, such as the right to life, the right to freedom of thought and expression, the right to equality, and the right to justice and fairness. Religious communities and leaders can also play an important role in promoting human rights by speaking out against rights violations, advocating for the protection of vulnerable groups, and promoting dialogue and understanding across different cultures and religions.
However, it is important to see that whether human rights can also promote religions or not. AI believes human rights do not promote religion as such, but they do protect the right to freedom of religion or belief. The protection of human rights can sometimes come into conflict with religious beliefs or practices, particularly when religious teachings or traditions are abused to justify actions that violate human rights.
It should be noticed that AI only highlighted the issue from the aspect of freedom of religion. But I believe that the way that religion can promote human rights is much wider. There are many common values and principles in religion and human rights. Their challenges are also reciprocal. Human rights principles are also sometimes abused to justify actions, such as burning Quran, that in fact violate human rights.
With regard to religious constitutions, AI considers that religious constitution can potentially contradict human rights if it includes provisions that violate or restrict basic human rights and freedoms. However, it is important to recognize that not all religious constitutions necessarily contradict human rights. Many religious traditions share principles and values that align with human rights, and these principles can be reflected in a constitutional framework.
AI confirmed that religion can be a powerful force for promoting human rights. But we still lack a debate on the nature of religions and human rights and their relationship within the human rights mechanism lacks. As mentioned by AI the relationship between religion and human rights is complex and multifaceted, and there are diverse perspectives and opinions on the subject. The Human Rights Council is the best forum for this debate.
The AI after long discussion, finally confirmed that the focus of the Human Rights Council’s work is on promoting and protecting the right to freedom of religion or belief and combating intolerance, discrimination, and violence based on religion or belief. AI also confirmed that having a debate on the broader relationship between religion and human rights, and the potential positive and negative impacts that religion and human rights could have on each other, will be beneficial.
Such a debate could help to foster greater understanding and cooperation between religious and human rights communities, and to identify ways in which religious beliefs and practices can be harnessed to promote human rights principles such as equality, dignity, and freedom and human rights principles can support religion genuine teachings such as justice, peace and kindness.
However, as confirmed by AI, such a debate could be complex and potentially controversial, given the diverse and deeply held beliefs and values that are involved. It would therefore need to be approached with sensitivity and respect for all viewpoints, and with a commitment to promote dialogue and understanding rather than seeking to impose one particular perspective or agenda.
This debate could be also valuable for the efforts to promote tolerance and combat violence based on religion and human rights. Such a debate could help identify common ground and potential areas for cooperation between religious and human rights communities, and could contribute bring a better common understanding.
My two years research in this filed, resulted in a joint statement on the role of religion in promotion of human rights which was delivered under genera debate of item 3 of the agenda of the 52nd Human Rights Council which asked for a meaningful dialogue to further take advantage of the role that religion and religious leaders can play in respect for human rights.
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