Is There a God of Human Rights? The Complex Relationship between Human Rights and Religion : a South African Case

Is There a God of Human Rights? The Complex Relationship between Human Rights and Religion : a South African Case

Is There a God of Human Rights? The Complex Relationship between Human Rights and Religion : a South African Case

Is There a God of Human Rights? The Complex Relationship between Human Rights and Religion : a South African Case

Synopsis

This volume deals with historical, systematic and empirical questions with regard to the complex relationship between human rights and religion. It focuses on the place and function of human rights in democracies in modern society. Moreover it elaborates on the problems which are implied in the complex relationship between human rights and religion from the beginning. Lastly it investigates the positive, negative and ambivalent empirical effects of religious attitudes on human rights attitudes among some youth in South Africa.

Excerpt

While the interim constitution, which contained a bill of rights, was being negotiated at Kempton Park in South Africa in 1993, on the eve of the crucial year of 1994 when South Africa's first democratic government under president Nelson Mandela took power, we conceived of a plan to research the relation between human rights and religion. Our motive was that what was happening in South Africa could be seen as a kind of experiment for global society: the dismantling of a racially qualified constitutional order during three hundred years of colonialism, segregation and apartheid and the establishment of a democratic constitutional order in a country characterised by a multi-ethnic, multicultural and multilingual population structure where the Western and African civilisations meet. More specifically the study was motivated by the revolutionary effect of the interim constitution, which replaced the principle of parliamentary sovereignty with the principle of constitutionalism based on a bill of rights on the one hand, and on the other by the powerful influence of religion that continues to permeate South African society. We decided to undertake an extensive historical and systematic study of the relation between human rights and religion generally, and of that relationship in South Africa in particular, by conducting an empirical case study of two large groups of grade 11 students at multicultural, Anglican and Catholic private schools and predominantly monocultural Afrikaans medium public schools.

The tasks and activities of such a multifaceted, historical, systematic and empirical research project were beyond the capacity of three authors, all of whom had a host of other tasks to perform in the areas of university teaching, research and administration. Hence we are grateful to many people who were there to advise us and offer practical assistance.

For the organisation of the fieldwork and data collection we thank Kobus Gerber, Anthony Nderitu, Bikitsha Njumbuxa and members of the Department of Practical Theology at the University of South Africa.

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