Orthodox vision of human rights?

Last week the quadrennial Council of all Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church from throughout the world promulgated a statement, The Basic Principles of the Russian Church Teaching on Human Dignity, Freedom and Rights, discussed here by Interfax’ religion service.  It’s been a topic of discussion and continuing work since the release of the year 2000 Council’s The Basis* of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as of course ongoing human rights criticism of Russia, Serbia, and some other Orthodox and neighboring countries, the spread of the U.S./NATO/EU eastward into the former Warsaw Pact and the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Western-backed ‘color revolutions’ in Georgia, Ukraine, and threatening in Belarus and Mongolia, as well as notable contradictions in Western human rights and election practices itself.  It doesn’t seem available on the Web in English yet, but Interfax emphasizes its confrontation with what some Russians, using a term echoing the “militant atheism” reference to Communism, are now calling “militant secularism”:

According to the authors of the Orthodox vision of human rights released Thursday, “blasphemy shall not be justified by the rights of artist, writer or journalist.” Under the pretence of human rights protection, civilizations “should not impose their lifestyle patterns on other civilization{s}” and the human rights protection “should not {be used cynically to} serve interests of certain countries.”

The right to education provides for gaining knowledge with a view to cultural traditions and visions of a family and a person. Most world {cultures} are based on religion, therefore, any comprehensive education and upbringing should include the basics of religion which created the culture where such person lives,” the Basics read.

The document also states that private life, vision and people’s will should not be subject to “total control”. “Manipulation of people’s conscience and choice by government agencies, political powers, economic and information elites is dangerous for the society. It is also unacceptable to collect, concentrate and use information on any aspects of person’s life without his/her consent,” the Basics’ authors believe.  {Corrections, emphases, and clarifications Tiernan’s.}

Of course, most Russians living today well remember the abuses alluded to in the last paragraph!  I can’t endorse it without seeing it in detail, but I commend its reading, at least, to all of us who seek to deal rightly with Eastern Europe, the Orthodox World, and ultimately the whole Two-Thirds World.

(*–Sometimes translated as Bases, the plural of Basis.)

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