Religion and human rights

What are the potential points of collaboration?

In many circles, the words “religion” and “human rights” are seen as opposing concepts. For many activists working on women’s rights, LGBT concerns, and more, organized faith communities and their leaders are invariably a big part of the the problem, and only rarely, if ever, part of the solution.This view, however, vastly underestimates existing and potential points of collaboration. In this openGlobalRights theme, we explore the possibilities across regions, faith traditions, and issues.


Promoting freedom of religion or belief – key lessons

December 18, 2019
By: Marie Juul Petersen  & Katherine Marshall
Español | العربية

Freedom of religion or belief is rightly gaining more attention, but steps to promote this right need ...

To protect human rights abroad, preach to Trump voters

August 29, 2019
By: Howard Lavine & James Ron

Religious leaders can help convince the most ethnocentric and authoritarian American voters to oppose ...

Malaysia’s punishment of lesbian couple highlights OIC rejection of LGBTQ rights

October 3, 2018
By: Robert C. Blitt

Malaysia’s recent caning of a homosexual couple reflects a larger problem with the Organization of Islamic ...

UN’s approach inside Myanmar abandons human rights principles

July 12, 2018
By: Liam Mahony

Although UN human rights bodies have criticized the persecution of the Rohingya, UN agencies inside ...

Using foreign aid for state repression in Thailand

March 6, 2018
By: Salvador Santino F. Regilme, Jr.

During transnational security crises, aid recipient governments use foreign aid to increase domestic ...

Religious rights advocacy won’t save the Rohingya—but what will?

December 7, 2017
By: Elizabeth Shakman Hurd

To insist on the Rohingya status as a victimized religious minority while ignoring other factors cements ...

Human rights and the state: embracing and abandoning religion(s)

June 22, 2016
By: Peter Jacob

The debate about whether a state should be religious or secular doesn’t always affect how a society ...

Islamic ideals of peace and justice: are we overlooking something?

June 14, 2016
By: Hakan Altinay

Associating progressive social policies with Islam may unsettle some, yet the parallels are there and ...

Mexicans expect far more from the Pope than we will ever get

April 13, 2016
By: Ariadna Estévez

The Pope’s first official visit to Mexico was all talk and no action, but it was exactly what many Mexicans ...

Partners in prayer: women's rights and religion in Morocco

July 7, 2015
By: Meriem El Haitami & Shannon Golden & James Ron
Français | العربية

Pundits say that religion and human rights are opposing forces in Morocco, especially around women’s ...

Religion and rights in Bangladesh: maintaining a delicate balance

June 11, 2015
By: Mubin S. Khan

Bangladeshi activists work around religious elements, sometimes even collaborating with them. The rise ...

Religion inspires in ways that international law does not

March 5, 2015
By: Abadir M. Ibrahim

Using extreme examples to justify a purely secular human rights approach does a disservice to the many ...

Home, for Algeria’s Jews, is elsewhere

February 27, 2015
By: Farah Souames

Intolerance towards Algerian Jews has been driven by geopolitics and history, not religion.

In Egypt, human rights need religion

February 23, 2015
By: Jack Snyder

Religious progressives are vital for Egypt’s human rights; secular groups can’t do it alone.

Secularism can sometimes undermine women’s rights

February 20, 2015
By: Emma Tomalin

Rights activists tend to identify secularism with women’s rights, but if we don’t engage with religion, ...

UN strategy to combat religious intolerance - is it fit for purpose?

January 28, 2015
By: Marc Limon & Nazila Ghanea & Hilary Power
Español | العربية

As religious intolerance and discrimination increase, is the UN’s current strategic response – as set ...

Women’s rights in Tunisia: promising future or religio-political game?

January 16, 2015
By: Elsy Melkonian
Français | العربية

Women in Tunisia have long enjoyed rights that are very clear on paper. In practice, however, the government’s ...

Religious conversions in India – keeping human rights at the core

January 14, 2015
By: Siddharth Peter De Souza

Religion is not only about belief but also about its capacity for human well-being. Therefore, human ...

Tradition should defer to human rights, not the other way around

January 6, 2015
By: Leo Igwe

‘Traditional African ways’ is not a monolith. It has evolved over time and must evolve again to adapt ...

What does the “right to life” really mean for Catholics in Mexico?

December 22, 2014
By: Renee De La Torre

It’s time for leaders in the Mexican Catholic Church to speak up where they are most needed.

Religion and human rights - partnership with a dose of pragmatism

December 18, 2014
By: Adem Kassie Abebe

Religion and human rights need not be completely divorced, or work hand-in-hand all the time. A case-by-case ...

Religion as a political game: rising intolerance in Indonesia

December 1, 2014
By: Ahmad Sueady

Indonesia’s rising religious intolerance stems from a political pact struck between former president ...

To end manual scavenging in India, Hindu religious leaders must speak up

November 27, 2014
By: Seema Guha

In India, Hindu religious leaders are reluctant to campaign loudly against the collection of raw sewage ...

Indonesia’s growing religious intolerance

November 26, 2014
By: Phelim Kine

Although Indonesia has long been seen as a religiously moderate country, Sunni Muslim militants are ...

Filling the gap: why prayer camps in Ghana are sometimes the only option

November 17, 2014
By: Abamfo Ofori Atiemo

Human Rights Watch’s scathing critique of Ghana’s prayer camps misses the point. For many people struggling ...

Does “religious freedom” include the right to convert or scam others?

October 12, 2014
By: José Zalaquett

Does freedom of religion include the right to convert others, or pressure them into giving money?

The (in)human dimension of Ghana’s prayer camps

October 10, 2014
By: Shantha Rau Barriga

Ambamfo Ofori Atiemo says that prayer camps in Ghana deserve a closer look, as they are a supposedly ...

Should it matter how the mass is mobilized?

October 8, 2014
By: Kechi Nomu

On the streets of Nigeria, what seems like the “voice of the people” is often just unquestioning followers, ...

Preaching for human rights

October 7, 2014
By: Beatrice Lamwaka

Human rights advocates must take their message to street corners, like preachers, and teach the people ...

What do Muslim women want? Finding women’s rights in Islam

October 2, 2014
By: Xaviera Medina

The Koran proclaims equality between the sexes but also clearly indicates male superiority. In the fight ...

Myth and reality: the Catholic Church and human rights in Latin America

September 11, 2014
By: Ariadna Estévez

While the progressive Catholic Church is on the frontline of defending human rights in Latin American, ...

Pentecostal Christianity: retrogressive force or dynamic ally?

September 9, 2014
By: Richard L. Wood
Español | Français

Pentecostal Christianity is one of the fastest growing religious forces in the world. Although many ...

For human rights, religious interpretation matters most

August 27, 2014
By: Iyad Barghouthi

Religious interpretation is what counts. This explains why Pakistanis vote for female leaders, while ...

Whose faith wins? Keeping religion out of the law

August 14, 2014
By: Geraldyn Ezeakile

Religion may help to control behavior and justify human worth and dignity, but in Nigeria, the co-existence ...

Arguing like Abraham for Gaza’s innocents

August 11, 2014
By: Rabbi Arik Ascherman
العربية | עברית | Türkçe

Most Israeli Jews support the Gaza war, but the justice of self-defense has created a spiritual myopia ...

Occu-Kashrut and ethical Jewish consumerism

July 23, 2014
By: Louis Frankenthaler

For some, a boycott of products made in Israeli settlements - Occu-Kashrut - is an ethically motivated ...

Let’s talk about religion

July 4, 2014
By: Meghan L. Morris

Many human rights advocates work with people and/or communities who believe in a God or gods, but few ...

The real power of rights is not religion

June 19, 2014
By: Michael Bochenek

It’s not useful to debate whether human rights derive from religion or to include religious leaders ...

In Africa, human rights and religion often go together

June 12, 2014
By: Abamfo Ofori Atiemo

In Africa and other regions in the global South, religion and human rights support similar values. For ...

No human rights without God

May 28, 2014
By: Daniel Philpott

Human rights need God because three ingredients are critical to their validity: universal moral norms, ...

Faith in rights: ethics of the public square

May 14, 2014
By: Amyn B. Sajoo

Human rights cannot thrive globally without the support of pluralist religious theologies that are in ...

Starting at the top: why rights groups need to engage religious leaders

May 1, 2014
By: Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr 

For human rights to find resonance in the global South, we must connect them to the existing beliefs ...

The politicization of Hindu faith in India

April 30, 2014
By: Fr. Cedric Prakash Sj
Español | Français | العربية

Hinduism preaches tolerance, the Indian Constitution enshrines plurality. So why has divisive political ...

The paradox of religion and rights

April 23, 2014
By: Jeremy Carrette

While religion is foundational to human rights, it is also problematic. Broad concepts of religion often ...

In Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights address painful paradoxes

April 17, 2014
By: Rabbi Arik Ascherman
Español | Français | العربية | עברית

In a world where so much blood is shed for religion, Rabbis for Human Rights believes that the Jewish ...

Muslim NGOs, aid, and human rights

April 17, 2014
By: Marie Juul Petersen 
Español | Français | العربية

Drawing on studies of Muslim aid organisations in Britain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and Bangladesh, ...

Religion as a human rights liability

April 16, 2014
By: Nida Kirmani 
Español | اردو | العربية

lthough many human rights movements have religious underpinnings, explicitly linking religion to human ...

Human rights abuse in Burma and the role of Buddhist nationalism

April 16, 2014
By: Wai Yan Phone 
ภาษาไทย | မြန်မာဘာသာ

Myanmar is taking significant strides towards political and economic liberalization after decades of ...