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Orthodox Christianity and Human Rights in Europe

A Dialogue Between Theological Paradigms and Socio-Legal Pragmatics



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.

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Individual versus Collective Rights : the Theological Foundation of Human Rights. An Eastern Orthodox View (Pantelis Kalaitzidis)


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Individual versus Collective Rights: the Theological Foundation of Human Rights

An Eastern Orthodox View1


Human rights marked a very significant political and broader cultural step toward a more human and fairer world. Well over half a century after the Universal Declaration, which “unites people and humanity around certain principles of universal recognition,” human rights are still at the center of the political discussion and the debate of ideas. Despite widespread disagreement over their content and universality, mainly by non-Western cultures and traditions, human rights can serve as a humanitarian core for our globalized culture. In his China lectures, Jürgen Habermas stated some years ago, that, “human rights are a creative response to the problems facing China, as had been the case with Europe.” Now that the global market brings us so close, “we need common rules,” and that is how “human rights […] are offered,” Habermas concluded.2

Nevertheless, as is well known, human rights are inextricably bound with modernity and the Enlightenment, that is, with a movement that ← 273 | 274 → sets the process of emancipation from religious rules and ecclesiastical authorities. Now, if Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, after centuries of struggles and hesitations, have finally come to terms with this new reality, and have decided to deal with modernity in a dialogical and dialectical way, Eastern Orthodoxy, for what are chiefly historical reasons, is still on the way there. In fact, the Orthodox world did not...

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