Orthodox Christianity and Human Rights in Europe

A Dialogue Between Theological Paradigms and Socio-Legal Pragmatics

by ELISABETH-ALEXANDRA DIAMANTOPOULOU (Volume editor) Louis-Léon Christians (Volume editor)
©2018 Edited Collection 388 Pages


This collective book aims at examining in what terms, and to what extent, the "reception" of the Human Rights doctrine takes place in Eastern Orthodox countries, as well as in the Orthodox diaspora. A series of questions are raised regarding the resources and theological structures that are mobilized in the overall Human Rights’ debate and controversy, the theological "interpretation" of Human Rights within the Eastern Orthodox spiritual tradition, and the similarities and/or divergences of this "interpretation", compared to the other Christian confessions. Special attention is given to the various Orthodox actors on the international arena, aside the national Orthodox churches, which participate in the Ecumenical dialogue, as well as the dialogue with the European and international institutions.
Religious freedom, as a fundamental Human right, guaranteed by the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), constitutes a key-issue that contributes to broadening the reflections on the overall Human Rights-related problematic between East and West, by shading light on the more complex issue pertaining to the conceptualization and implementation of Human Rights in countries belonging to the Eastern Orthodox tradition.
The present volume studies the diversity that characterizes the Orthodox theological traditions and interpretations regarding Human Rights, not only in terms of an "external", or a "strategical" approach of socio-political and ecclesial nature, but also through a reflexive analysis of theological discourses.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Note on Contributors
  • Introduction (Elisabeth A. Diamantopoulou / Louis-Léon Christians)
  • Part 1. Orthodox and Other Christian Approaches on Human Rights
  • Theological Foundation of Human Rights. Incompatibility between Orthodox and Protestant Tradition? (Stefan Tobler)
  • Human Rights and the Catholic Tradition of Social Ethics (Walter Lesch)
  • Part 2. Orthodoxy from within Human Rights and Comparative European Law
  • Orthodox Christianity and Freedom of Religion in European Court of Human Rights Case Law (Elisabeth A. Diamantopoulou)
  • Pluralism and Religious Freedom. Insights from Orthodox Europe (Effie Fokas)
  • Part 3. Orthodoxy and Human rights within Pragmatical Orthodox Contexts
  • How Can One Both Apply Sharia Law in Greece and Deny Building a Mosque in Athens? (Dimitris Christopoulos)
  • The Pussy Riot Case and the Peculiarities of Russian Post-Secularism (Dmitry Uzlaner)
  • Diversity of Greek Orthodox Discourses on Human Rights (Theodoros Koutroubas)
  • Human Rights and Orthodoxy. An Inquiry into the Canonical and Social perspectives (Nikos Ch. Maghioros / Christos N. Tsironis)
  • Part 4. Orthodox Theological and Ecclesiological Reappraisal of Human Rights
  • Orthodox Personalism. In Favor of or Against Human Rights? (Vasilios N. Makrides)
  • Individual versus Collective Rights : the Theological Foundation of Human Rights. An Eastern Orthodox View (Pantelis Kalaitzidis)
  • Ecclesiology and Human Rights (Grigorios D. Papathomas)
  • Human Rights and the Orthodox Church. The Dignity of Human Beings Created in the Imago Dei (Tamara Grdzelidze)
  • On the Moral Content of “Human Rights” and of “Theosis”. A Reassessment (Alfons Brüning)
  • Conclusions. Orthodoxy and Human Rights (Jean-Paul Willaime)
  • Bibliography
  • Series index

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Note on Contributors

Alfons Brüning studied Slavic Philology, East European and European History at the University of Münster and the University of Freiburg, Germany (1988-1995). He conducted his PhD studies at the Osteuropa Institut – Freie Universität Berlin (1996-2005) and he was also part-time Assistant at the Publishing house Herder (Freiburg), involved in a book project on the History of Christianity. In 2005, he received his PhD from the Freie Universität Berlin with a thesis on Unio non est unitas – Polen-Litauens Weg im konfessionellen Zeitalter (1569-1648). He was Assistant Professor at the Ecumenical Institute of the University of Münster (2005-2007). Since March 2007, he is Assistant Professor and staff member of the Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, Radboud University (Netherlands). His has a particular research interest in the history of Church and culture of the European Christian East since the Early Modern period, particularly Russia, and the borderland region between Eastern and Western Christianity, the territory of present Lithuania, Belarussia, and especially Ukraine. His research fields include: Confessionalization and the European East, Social discipline in Russian Orthodoxy between 1650 and 1790, Orthodoxy and national consciousness in 19th century Ukraine, Russian Orthodoxy in the Communist and post-Communist era, continuity and change, Orthodoxy and the Human Rights discourse.

Louis-Léon Christians PhD, doctor in Civil Law (Paris XI), doctor in Canon Law (Institut Catholique de Paris), is Professor and head of a Chair for Law and Religion at the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL), where he is also president of a Research Institute for Religious Studies (RSCS) and Director of the Law and Religion part of the Master in Religious Studies. He was a member of the EU-FP7-Project RELIGARE (2010-2013). In Belgium, he was Head of a Federal Commission for Law and Religions Reform in Belgium (2008-2011) and a member of the Belgian Federal Observatory on Cults (CIAOSN) (1999-2012). Since 1999, he has also been an expert in religious affairs ← 11 | 12 → for the Council of Europe, United Nations UNHCHR and European Union. His research interests, publications, and teaching cover the fields of Religious Freedom, Churches and States Relationships in Europe and International Law and comparative religious laws.

Dimitris Christopoulos is an Associate Professor at the Department of Political science and History at Panteion University of Athens, Greece. He is also President of the International Federation for Human Rights, after having served for four mandates as President of the Hellenic League for Human rights. His writings and publications reflect par excellence his civil society engagement on issues related to citizenship, migration, minorities and freedom of expression.

Elisabeth A. Diamantopoulou PhD, doctor in Sociology of Religions/Religious Studies (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes-Sorbonne, Paris), is Research Associate at the Chair for Law and Religion/Research Institute for Religious Studies (RSCS), Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL), Belgium. As a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Research Fellow (2012-2014) at the Chair for Law and Religion (UCL), she worked on the topic of Human Rights and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Her PhD thesis deals with the Representations of Body and Sexuality in the Greek Orthodox Christianity and in Roman Catholicism: A Comparative Study. She holds a Master’s in Comparative Law (Université Paris II – Panthéon Assas) and a Bachelor in Public Law (Université Lille II, France). She has presented papers at numerous international conferences (Europe, USA, Canada, Israel) and is a professional member of ICLARS, ISSR, ASR, Law and Religion Scholars Network (Cardiff University), and the Hellenic League for Human Rights. In the period of September 2016 until February 2017, she was Visiting Research Scholar at the Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, Radboud University, Nijmegen (Netherlands).

Effie Fokas is a Research Fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), where she recently completed a Marie Curie Fellowship studying ‘Pluralism and Religious Freedom in Orthodox Countries in Europe’ (PLUREL). Also at ELIAMEP she is Principal Investigator in a European Research Council-funded project related to religious freedoms jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (GRASSROOTSMOBILISE). At the London School of Economics, she was founding Director of the LSE Forum on Religion ← 12 | 13 → (2008-2012), A. C. Laskaridis Fellow at the Hellenic Observatory (2007-8), and co-taught on the MSc in Theories of Nationalism in the Government Department (2005-7). Her background is in political science (BA, Furman University, USA; MSc European Politics, LSE) and she holds a PhD in political sociology from the London School of Economics. Her research interests include religion and politics in the European and specifically European Union setting; the relationship between religion, national identity and nationalism; and the sociology of religion in a European perspective, with a special focus on Islam and on Christian Orthodoxy.

Tamara Grdzelidze D.Phil. (University of Oxford), PhD (Tbilisi State University), Doctor honoris causa (University of Bern), is (since September 2014) Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Georgia to the Holy See and (since December 2014) to the Sovereign Order of Malta. Previously she worked as an Orthodox theologian at the World Council of Churches, 2001 – 2013 (Geneva, Switzerland) at the Secretariat on Faith and Order Commission for the Promotion of Christian Unity. In Georgia, she conducted research on Georgian Hagiography at Shota Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature and she taught Georgian language and literature at school. She has published widely on Georgian hagiography, Georgian Church history, Orthodoxy and the contemporary world, ecclesiology, hermeneutics, inter-confessional dialogue and on current topics related to the Holy See.

Pantelis Kalaitzidis studied Theology in Thessaloniki, Ancient and Medieval Philosophy in Paris, Sorbonne, where he obtained his M.A. His doctoral thesis deals with the issue of Greekness and Anti-Westernism in the Greek “Theology of the 1960s.” He has published three books, and over 70 articles in Greek, French, English, German, Romanian, Serbian, Russian, Belarusian, and Arabic, mainly in the areas of the eschatological dimension of Christianity, the dialogue between Orthodox Christianity and modernity, theology and modern literature, religion and multiculturalism, religious nationalism and fundamentalism, issues of renewal and reformation in Eastern Orthodoxy, and post-modern hermeneutics of Patristics. He is editor of many collected volumes (mainly issued from the Volos Academy’s conferences) and also editor of the English-speaking theological series Doxa & Praxis: Exploring Orthodox Theology (WCC Publications). He has been Visiting Scholar and Visiting ← 13 | 14 → Research Fellow at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Boston, the Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton University and the KU Leuven University, Belgium. Since 14 years, he has been Director of Volos Academy for Theological Studies. He teaches Systematic Theology at the Hellenic Open University (Thessaloniki), and at St. Sergius Institute of Orthodox Theology in Paris (as Visiting Professor).

Theodoros Koutroubas holds a PhD in Political Science and International Relations from the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL, Belgium). He published his PhD thesis on Political and Diplomatic Action of the Holy See in the Middle East during the Papacy of John-Paul II (2006, Presses Universitaires de Louvain). He studied Philosophy and Languages in Athens and Bordeaux, and Political Science and International Relations in Athens and Louvain. He is currently Professor at the Catholic University of Louvain, invited Professor at the Catholic University of Lille (ESPOL), and he also collaborates with several European NGOs as Policy counsellor. In 2016-2017 he will hold a position of Invited Professor at the Université de Montréal (UdM). He has published with institutions such as the European University Institute (Florence), the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS, Brussels), the Belgian Royal Institute of International Relations (IRRI, Brussels), Revue Générale, on issues relating to the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue, Inter-culturalism and ethno-religious conflicts in Europe, non-Muslim communities in the Middle East, Church/State relations in modern democracies. He has also co-authored with Prof. Marc Lits a book on Political Communication and Lobbying (De Boeck, 2012, in French).

Walter Lesch was born in 1958 in Duisburg-Rheinhausen (Germany). He studied Catholic Theology, Philosophy, French and Spanish Language and Literature in Münster, Fribourg (Switzerland), Jerusalem and Tübingen and obtained his PhD in 1989 at the University of Tübingen. From 1988 until 1999 assistant, lecturer and finally researcher of the Swiss National Foundation for Scientific Research, based the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), first at the Faculty of Theology, then at the Interdisciplinary Institute of Ethics and Human Rights. Several appointments as visiting professor at European universities. Since 1999 he is a professor of ethics at the Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium), with a joint appointment in theology and philosophy. Main areas of teaching and research: Fundamental ← 14 | 15 → moral philosophy, social and political ethics, ethics and aesthetics, intercultural and interreligious topics.

Nikos Maghioros is Assistant Professor of Canon and Ecclesiastical Law at the Faculty of Theology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. He studied Theology (Aristotle University) and Canon Law at the Pontifical Lateran University (Rome). He teaches Orthodox Canon and Ecclesiastical Law, sources of Canon Law, inter-Christian Canon Law, Church and State relations in Greece and in European Union, Religion and Human Rights. He is working for the ecumenical movement and the communication between the religions. He organized and participated to various meetings, congresses relative to the interchristian dialogue and on the relations between Religion and State. He coordinates Erasmus projects and he is member of the Commission on European Projects of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. He is member of the Consociatio Internationalis Studio Iuris Canonici Promovendo and of the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies. He speaks Greek, English, Italian and French.

Vasilios N. Makrides studied theology at the University of Athens (1979-1983) and religious studies, history of religions and sociology of religion at Harvard University (1984-1986), as well as at the University of Tübingen (1986-1991). He has taught at the University of Thessaly, Greece (1995-1998), and since 1999 is Professor of Religious Studies (specializing in Orthodox Christianity) at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Erfurt (Germany). His main research interests are the comparative religious and cultural history and sociology of Orthodox Christianity; the religious and cultural relations between Eastern and Western Europe; and Orthodox Christianity and modernity. His most recent book publications are Kulturna istorija pravoslavlja i modernost. Odabrani radovi, Belgrade: Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, 2014, and Christentum und Menschenrechte in Europa. Perspektiven und Debatten in Ost und West, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2016 (co-edited with Jennifer Wasmuth and Stefan Kube).

Grigorios Papathomas was born on 09/09/1960 in Namata Kozanis, Northern Greece-Macedonia. He is Professor of Canon Law at the Faculty of Theology of the State University of Athens and at the “Saint Sergius” Orthodox Institute of Theology in Paris, as well as at the “European ← 15 | 16 → Inter-University Programme of Doctoral education in Comparative Ecclesiastical and Canon Law Socrates-Gratianus” in Paris. He holds a Post-doctoral Diploma in Law for Directing Research (Habilitation à diriger les Recherches) at “Jean Monnet” Faculty of Law of the University of Paris XI (1997). He has published monographs and articles (19 books / 95 articles) in Theology, Canon Law and History of Religions. He is the President of the European Forum of Orthodox Schools of Theology (EFOST) of the European Union and a member of the following University Research centres: Law and Religious Societies (D.S.R.), Jean Monnet Faculty of Law – University Paris XI; Institute of Research for the Study of Religions (I.R.E.R.), Faculty of Letters – University Paris IV-Sorbonne. As a priest, he exercises his Ecclesial diaconia at the Orthodox Church of Greece. Since 2005, he is Visiting Professor of Systematic, Patristic and Canonical Theology at the “Saint Platon” Orthodox Theological Seminary of Tallinn (Estonia).

Stefan Tobler (born in 1959 in St. Gallen, Switzerland) is full Professor of Systematic Theology at the Department for History, Patrimony and Protestant Theology, Lucian Blaga University Sibiu (Romania), founder and co-director of the Institute for Ecumenical Research Sibiu at that same university, co-editor of the Review of Ecumenical Studies Sibiu. He studied Protestant theology in Zurich (1979-1984), and holds a Doctorate from Free University Amsterdam (1994) on Trinitarian dimension of the Church. He also holds a Habilitation at the University of Tübingen (2001) on the Soteriological dimension in the spirituality of Chiara Lubich. Since 2003 he is Professor in Sibiu. His Research interests include: ecumenical dialogue (especially between Protestant and Orthodox traditions), ecclesiology, spirituality, and poverty research.

Christos Tsironis followed graduate studies in Theology (Department of Theology, 1995) and Philosophy (dep. Philosophy and education, 2005) in the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. His postgraduate (M.A., 1999) and doctoral studies (PHD, 2002) were focused on social theory and sociology. His doctorate was focused on the ambivalence and the challenges of Late Modernity. Part of his postgraduate studies was implemented in University of Freiburg and Katholische FachHochschule Freiburg in Germany. For more than one decade he participated in various Seminars and Long Term Training courses specializing in the issues of Intercultural Communication and Human Rights, Cultural and ← 16 | 17 → Religious Diversity, Social Problems etc. He worked as social researcher in national and international research Programs and was elected lecturer in 2008, at the school of Theology (Contemporary Social Theory) in the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Since 2008 he lectures Epistemology of Diversity and Theories of Social Interaction in pluralistic social environment in the Master Course “Integration and Diversity” (Aristotle University-Aegean University) and Main Issues of Contemporary Social Theory (Department of Theology). He has published articles in the areas of social theory, sociology of religion, theology, intercultural dialogue, education and epistemology of humanistic and social sciences. He recently published Man and Society: A contribution on the Dialogue between Theology and Social Theory, Thessaloniki: Vanias, 2013 (Gr p. 330).

Dmitri Uzlaner PhD in Philosophy and Religious studies (M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University) is Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) and the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences (MSSES). He is Editor-in-chief of two academic peer-reviewed journals Gosudarstvo, religiia, tserkov’ v Rossii i za rubezhom (in Russian) and State, Religion and Church (in English). Since 2016 Dr. Uzlaner has been participating in a 5-year international research project on Post-secular conflicts (2016-2021) at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. He has published numerous articles on theoretical and empirical aspects of secularization and post-secularity regarding Russia and also global contexts. His current research interests are focused on psychoanalysis (Jacques Lacan) and the psychoanalytic approach of social and cultural issues.

Jean-Paul Willaime is Emeritus Research Director at l’Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Department of Religious Studies, Sorbonne, Paris. He is member of the Research Centre (EPHE-CNRS) Group Societies, Religions, Laïcities (GSRL) and past-Director of the European Institute of Religious Studies. From 2007 to 2011, he was President of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion. His fields of research in sociology of religion are: Protestantism, ecumenism, religions and school education, Europe and religions, Church-State relations, sociology of religions: history and theories. His main publications include Profession: pasteur (1986); Sociologie des Religions (5rd ed., 2012); Sociologies et religion: Approches classiques (with D. Hervieu-Léger, 2001); Europe et religions. Les enjeux ← 17 | 18 → du XXIe siècle (2004); Sociologie du Protestantisme (2005). As a member of the REDCo project, he has edited in 2007 Religion and Education in Europe (with R. Jackson, S. Miedema, W. Weisse) and with C. Béraud, Les jeunes, l’école et la religion, 2009. In 2014, he edited L’enseignement des faits religieux à l’école. Réponses européennes et québécoises, Paris, Riveneuve éditions and La diplomatie au défi des religions. Tensions, guerres, médiations, Paris, Odile Jacob (with Denis Lacorne and Justin Vaïsse). Last publication: “Towards a Recognition and Dialogue Secularism in Europe”, in Brigham Young University Law Review, Vol. 2015, No. 3, pp. 779-809.

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Since 1989, European studies about religions and democracy have progressively been focused on issues about Islam integration v. Islamic radicalism. It is especially true within the western secularized part of Europe. Such a (legitimate) interest, however, should not obscure other important questions about the relationship between religions, pluralism and Human rights in Europe, and need to be balanced today by new data and influences due to the European enlargement. Orthodox Christianity has become a significant religious actor along with other Christian confessions in Europe. Following the adherence of Greece – the first Eastern Orthodox country that joined the EU in 1981 –, other countries with an Orthodox majority, such as Romania, Bulgaria, and Cyprus, also joined the EU. There is also a significant Orthodox minority in several other EU countries, such as Finland, Poland, Slovakia, Estonia, and Hungary, as well as in the diaspora communities of several Western European countries.

If the process of “Europeanization” does not imply uniformity, in terms of cultural, religious and linguistic traditions, it does, on the contrary, imply common underlying principles and shared norms that are based on the articulation of shared precepts and values of being “European”, among which, in particular, the shared conception of, and adherence to individual Human Rights plays a crucial role.

In fact, the Western secular conception of Human Rights, as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950) – of which not only EU members, but all Council of Europe member states are signatory – constitutes a significant element of ← 19 | 20 → the Western cultural heritage and value system, as well as of the European and/or Western identity.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (May)
Bruxelles, Bern, Berlin, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2018. 383 p.

Biographical notes

ELISABETH-ALEXANDRA DIAMANTOPOULOU (Volume editor) Louis-Léon Christians (Volume editor)

Louis-Léon Christians Ph.D., doctor in Civil Law (Paris XI), doctor in Canon Law (Institut Catholique de Paris), is Professor and head of the Chair for Law and Religion at the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL). He is the President of the Research Institute for Religious Studies (RSCS) at the UCL, and Director of the Law and Religion module of the Master in Religious Studies. Elisabeth A. Diamantopoulou Ph.D., doctor in Sociology of Religions/Religious Studies (École Pratique des Hautes Études-Sorbonne, Paris), is Research Associate at the Chair for Law and Religion/Research Institute for Religious Studies, Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL), Belgium.


Title: Orthodox Christianity and Human Rights in Europe
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390 pages