Williams: We need to bridge gap between rights and religious freedom

Dr Rowan Williams made his remarks in the Church of Ireland Gazette

Dr Rowan Williams made his remarks in the Church of Ireland Gazette

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A former Archbishop of Canterbury has called for a general “reimagining” of our attitude towards human rights and religious liberty.

Dr Rowan Williams served as the leader of the Anglican Church for 10 years before he stepped down in 2012.

In an interview with the Church of Ireland Gazette, Dr Williams said it was important to bridge the gap between human rights and religious freedom.

“It is dangerous I think for everyone if the language of human rights and the language of religious liberty drift apart too much.

“One of the things I am most preoccupied with is to see if we can bring those back together,” he said.

Dr Williams made his comments in response to a speech given to the European Parliament in Strasbourg last month by Pope Francis.

The pope told MEPs the promotion of human rights was a “praiseworthy commitment,” but he also warned: “Today, there is a tendency to claim ever broader individual rights, and, I am tempted to say, individualistic rights.”

Dr Williams said: “A lot of religious people, Christians and others, look at the human rights discourse and say ‘well that’s all about individual flourishing, and individual autonomy,’ and religious faith is not about individual autonomy – it’s about community.

“The challenge is to reimagine human rights and I guess that part of what the pope is saying; reimagine human rights with a very, very strong emphasis on reciprocity – what we owe to one another, not just what is owed to us.”

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