Published on October 1, 2009  

What is Christianity's role in the human rights movement? 

Samford University invited scholars from a variety of perspectives to examine this issue at its "Christianity and Human Rights" Lilly Research Conference in the fall of 2004. Now, Lexington Books has published a volume of essays, Christianity and Human Rights: Christians and the Struggle for Global Justice, that draws on that event.

Edited by Dr. Frederick M. Shepherd, chair of Samford's political science department and conference co-director, the 294-page volume presents 14 essays, most of which were selected from among the 50 papers presented at the conference, plus introductory and concluding chapters by Shepherd. The contributors provide diverse perspectives on the theology behind the idea of human rights, the debate over its meaning and the evolution of the struggle for human rights.

The book is "a clarion call for the vigorous application of faith to the pressing injustices of our times," said reviewer Andrew Christian van Gorder, a Baylor University religion professor. "Readers are offered a foundational rationale as well as a deeply personal challenge to their own moral responsibilities."

The book presents perspectives from a variety of disciplines including economics, political science, law, history, philosophy and theology. The essays offer a broad political spectrum, including specific accounts from activists participating in the human rights struggle. Separate chapters focus on cases from Africa, Latin America and Asia.

"I hope that the call for collaboration among faiths and between the growing religious and secular human rights movements will be heard," said Shepherd. "The movement for human rights has brought out the best in all religions, and stands as a potent rejoinder to those forces which would emphasize our differences rather than our common humanity. I hope that this book will contribute to these efforts."

Essays are included by Thomas Bamat, Maryknoll Catholic mission movement; Patrick Byrne, Boston College; Dana Dillon, Providence College; the late Robert Drinan, Georgetown University; Jean Bethke Elhstain, University of Chicago; Nico Horn, University of Namibia; James Lewis, Bethel University; Joseph Loconte, the King's College, New York City; Joyce J. Michael, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic; John Sniegocki, Xavier University; Johannes van der Ven, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands; James Waller, the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation; Jonathan Warner, Quest University Canada; and John Witte, Emory University.

"It's been a genuine pleasure to have the chance to work with colleagues from a wide variety of fields and backgrounds as I put the volume together," Shepherd added. "I was honored to be part of a project that included scholars such as the late Robert Drinan, John Witte, Jim Waller, and many others."

Shepherd has published widely on genocide, human rights and Latin American politics. He has been affiliated with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Holocaust Education Foundation. His current research interest is the human rights movement and genocide in Guatemala.

For information on the book or to order copies, go to
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