Thursday 20 March 2008

Russian Orthodox leader condemns human rights trends

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kallingrad, a Russian orthodox leader, has condemned “dangerous trends” in human rights and has called for worldwide inter-religious dialogue on human rights – a concept brought into Europe by Christianity.

In a major address to the 7th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva this week, Metropolitan Krill has condemned the monopoly on human rights of a limited number of representatives of the human species.

“…These human rights are just defending the right to choose but nothing is said about humans’ responsibilities and as a result the freedom of the individual from evil is left undefended…”, he said.

Metropolitan Krill announced that the Russian Orthodox Church was calling for worldwide inter-Christian and inter-faith dialogue in human rights and the representation of religious views on human rights at the highest councils of the United Nations.

Here are some extracts from his speech:

“The attraction [of human rights] is based on a very simple and easily accessible idea – namely, that we should be concerned about the happiness of each individual. This idea in European culture is something that was brought by Christianity which has always proclaimed access to salvation for every person irrespective of that person’s national or social origins and the unique nature and value of each individual in the Divine conception of the world has always been stressed. Christians cannot simply remain on the sidelines when it comes to the fate of this important factor even when it’s expressed in secular language…

“...Now, many Orthodox Christians, when it comes to the development and implementation of human rights today, note that there are trends which are arising now which are dangerous when it comes to the defence of these high ideals. The development of institutes of human rights is something that has become the monopoly of a limited number of representatives of the human species. International organizations frequently, when they deal with matters of human rights, draw their conclusions on the basis of the opinions of a limited group of experts or civil servants or audible, though well-organized, minorities.

“Many States are also under the influence of these forces and they are losing the ability to translate the authentic values sought by their peoples. Something which is typical is that the most widespread and most widely used concept of human rights – that is, human dignity – is something which is not broadly or clearly understood…This concept provides the key to how we understand the individual, the person that is, and therefore human rights...

“...For Orthodox Christians something which is obvious is that human dignity cannot be conceived of without a religious and spiritual and moral dimension. At the same time in order to ensure the acceptability of the concept of human rights for people of different views, very often the distance between human rights and religion is stressed. As a result religious views have become a private matter and are not seen as a source of modern law, including human rights, and this is happening despite the fact that according to widespread information some 80% of the inhabitants of the planet are religious. What is in fact happening is that there are requirements that religious views should be subject to legal norms which are based on non-religious ideas and this leads to a dominance of an agnostic or even a materialistic approach to life which causes anxiety amongst believers…

“...In addition, the woman’s right to abortion neglects the right of the embryo. And no reference is made to ethics when scientific experiments are carried out on human embryos. And it’s even more astonishing to hear that human rights should now include the right to euthanasia because human rights are based on the most fundamental right of all, that is the right to life and yet soon it might turn out that human rights are favouring death rather than life...

“...On the other hand there are serious questions when it comes to the enjoyment of human rights. One of the problems in this area is the interpretation of the idea of freedom…These human rights are just defending the right to choose but nothing is said about humans’ responsibilities and as a result the freedom of the individual from evil is left undefended.

“Before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe last year His Holiness Alexis II. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia said:

'Morality is freedom in action, that is, freedom which has already been enjoyed
as a result of a responsible choice and which restricts itself in the interests
of the good and benefit of the individual and also society'
"I’d like to recall that UN standards on which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, is based, suggests the restriction of the freedom to choose in order to satisfy the fair requirements of morality. Unfortunately the European Union’s Charter of Rights does not include such a restrictive parameter...

"…In our view human rights should not contradict moral norms…

"...A non-conflictual way out of the situation which has come about could be found in conducting an intensive dialogue. The Russian Orthodox Church is involved in a process today of developing a comprehensive approach to human rights. It is planned that the document being developed in this regard…will be adopted by the Council of bishops. On the basis of an inter-Christian and inter-religion dialogue we know that other Christian confessions and world religions have approaches to human rights and it would be appropriate to take into account these views within the context of the Human Rights Council and, all together, within the context of the United Nations..."