When Terry Jones burned the Quran in Florida or when a Danish cartoonist depicted the Prophet Muhammad, the controversy partly centered around the tension between freedom of expression and the “defense of God.”
That’s just one of several issues that will be taken up by participants at an upcoming conference in Beirut, Lebanon.
“Your Rights and My Responsibilities: Biblical and Islamic Perspectives on Human Rights,” hosted by the Institute of Middle East Studies at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, will take place June 17-21.
Martin Accad, director of IMES, spoke recently via Skype phone call with EthicsDaily.com about the conference, which explores a different theme each year. (Accad has spoken previously with EthicsDaily.com about Syria’s chaos and the Arab Spring’s implications.)
Accad said the topic of rights and responsibilities came about after a conversation with a Muslim friend and cleric who commented that Islam did not believe in human rights but in human responsibility.
“If you care for your neighbor, then your neighbor doesn’t need to claim his rights,” says Accad, paraphrasing his friend. “The more I thought about that,” says Accad, “the more I had a feeling that this was perhaps even closer to the biblical understanding of human rights.”
This year, the conference celebrates its 10th consecutive year.
Last year, the conference dealt with the Israeli-Palestinian issue, whose Palestinian refugee situation Accad characterizes as “one of the more flagrant” human rights tragedies in the region.
The first day of the conference will focus more generally on the notion of human rights, with subsequent days focusing on specific rights issues involving, for example, conversion, human trafficking or the Arab uprisings.
It will also explore the tension between freedom of expression and the “defense of God.”
“We will not be dealing with it only from a theoretical perspective, but we will have some activists that will come and share with us about their own experience, their own initiatives,” says Accad.
Furthermore, “Participants won’t be hearing only from Christians, but as we do every year, we will have Muslim speakers that will come and speak for themselves rather than have Christians speak about them and about their positions.”
Listen to the interview with Accad at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily/skype-martinaccad2
Visit the Institute of Middle East Studies online at imeslebanon.wordpress.com
Visit Arab Baptist Theological Seminary online at ABTSlebanon.org
Watch other EthicsDaily.com Skype interviews at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily