The Origin and the Future of Human Rights

Reason for our hope - Reflections on Pope Benedict XVI's Speech to the UN

Presented by Crossroads Cultural Center

Anyone who witnessed Pope Benedict’s visit to the UN in March of this year must have been profoundly moved by this historic event. Inside the General Assembly, the Pope received a standing ovation, and the warm words of Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, expressed the thankful hearts of all present: “I am profoundly grateful,” he said, “to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for bestowing some of his faith on us – and for placing his trust in us.”

The Roman Catholic Pontiff had, indeed, come to confirm them in their mission to uphold human rights everywhere, a mission entrusted to the statesmen and women of that body by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first international bill of rights, whose 60th anniversary the world celebrates this year.

This summer at the Meeting for Friendship among Peoples in Rimini, Mary Ann Glendon, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and author of A World Made New, which narrates the historic drafting of the UN’s foundational document, made these remarks: “In 1948, many scoffed at the idea that mere words could make a difference. By 1989, the world was marveling that a few simple words of truth--a few courageous people willing to ‘call good and evil by name’--could change the course of history. That year, one of those people, Vaclav Havel, wrote, ‘I really do inhabit a world where words are capable of shaking the entire system of government, where words can be mightier than ten military divisions.’ But the artist in Havel was already worried about the ambiguous power of words … Sometimes, he mused, the same words that once were ‘rays of light’ could become ‘lethal arrows.’ And, sometimes, our most noble human enterprises can take a wrong turn. Who would have thought in those heady days that the human rights project would become so powerful that it risked being turned against itself, and against the human person?”

Has the human rights project turned against itself over the past 60 years? Is it still possible, in this world of shifting or negotiable values, to call good and evil by name and have it mean anything? Crossroads, together with the John Paul II Cultural Center, begins its series entitled, “Reasons for Our Hope: Reflections on Pope Benedict’s Visit to America .” This evening we have assembled a very distinguished panel to discuss “The Origin and Future of Human Rights” which will focus on the Papal Address to the United Nations.

We have asked our guests to help us understand the current state of the human rights debate and whether the words of the Pope added any newness to what seems an already crowded arena. We wish to explore whether Benedict’s address opened up any new roads and what kind of resonance it found in the international community. To moderate the discussion. we have with us William Demars, Chairman of the Department of Government at Wofford College and author of Faith in the UN: Pope Benedict's Proposal, a paper that was circulated to all UN heads of mission in New York following the Pope’s visit.

About this Event

Date: Friday, October 17, 2008
Time: 5:30pm
Location: George Washington University - Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E Street NW, Room 113 ▪ Washington, D.C. Metro: Blue and Orange Lines, Foggy Bottom/GWU

About the Speakers

Arch.Celestino Migliore
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN

Paolo Carozza
Chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Associate Professor of Law at Notre Dame University

Michael Horowitz
Director of Hudson Institute's Project for Civil Justice Reform and Project for International Religious Liberty

William E. DeMars
Chairman of the Department of Government at Wofford College


Download the Invitation here


Read Arch.Migliore speech


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