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Bob Cornwall: Religion and Human Rights

by Dr. Robert D. Cornwall, pastor and author, from his blog, Ponderings on a Faith Journey. Author of Faith in the Public SquareUltimate Allegiance: The Subversive Nature of the Lord’s PrayerUnfettered Spirit: Spiritual Gifts for the New Great AwakeningMarriage in Interesting Times: A Pariticipatory Study Guide,and more!
On the evening of March 21st, I had the privilege of being one of three speakers at a Niagara Foundation sponsored Abrahamic Dinner. This event was held at Rochester College, and brought together members of the Islamic, Jewish, and Christian communities — to promote dialog and understanding. Each of us, a Rabbi, an Imam, a Christian pastor, was asked to speak to the ways in which our faith traditions understand human rights, and whether this overlaps with or differs from secular understandings. We were asked to speak from the perspective of our own faith tradition, which is difficult when Christianity’s 2 billion adherents are divided into thousands of denominations and sects. Nonetheless, I did my best! As for my partners, the Rabbi went first, and I didn’t find much if anything to disagree with. In fact, he set me up nicely! As for the Imam, I learned a lot about the flexibility of Islamic law, which allows for support of human rights (more so perhaps than secular American law).
Since this is an important conversation, I decided to share some of what I said. Below you will find my answer to the first question, which dealt with my traditions codes of human rights and relationship to secular codes. Before I share below, I want to add that I agree completely with the Rabbi’s statement that the Jewish tradition, and the Christian tradition following it, speaks not of rights but obligations. That said, I invite you to consider my response:
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