In this article Lausanne Global A Editor David Taylor (DT) interviews Os Guinness (IOG) about the charter, its genesis and his hopes for its impact and how Christian leaders will use it.
DT: What was the impetus and origin of the Charter?
IOG: Many years ago, I was privileged to help draft the Williamsburg Charter, which was a celebration and reaffirmation of the Religious Liberty Clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That, however, was limited to America. The Global Charter came out of more recent discussions at the EastWest Institute in New York as to what might benefit the whole world in the global era.
DT: What are the main points of the Charter?
IOG: It would be impossible to summarize the twenty-nine articles in the Charter. But essentially they are a reaffirmation and expansion of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in light of all the current controversies over religion and public life. For example, in light of certain misguided Muslim attempts to pass blasphemy laws, the Charter stresses that freedom of conscience is a protection for believers. It does not protect beliefs.
DT: What are the problems the Charter seeks to address?
IOG: Article 18 is generally recognized to be the most contested and embattled of the rights enumerated in the UDHR. With the global resurgence of religion and the countering pressure of an aggressive secularism among the educated elites, religion, religious freedom, and especially the place of religion in public life have all become contentious and controversial in many countries — including the United States where religious freedom was once pioneered and developed systematically. Violations of religious freedom are mounting, as recent Pew Reports show.
There is a paradox underlying religious freedom today. On the one hand, research shows that there are indisputable social, political and economic benefits for societies that recognize and respect the place of religious freedom for all. On the other hand, three quarters of the world’s peoples are in countries where there are high restrictions on religious freedom (as the Pew reports show).
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