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Universal rights in a divided world: the human rights engagement of the World Council of Churches from the 1940s to the 1970s

Bouwman, Bastiaan (2018) Universal rights in a divided world: the human rights engagement of the World Council of Churches from the 1940s to the 1970s. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

This dissertation traces the human rights engagement of the ecumenical movement through its most important institutional embodiment, the World Council of Churches (WCC). In doing so, it contributes to the historiography on human rights, on the WCC, and on religious internationalism. The first part of the dissertation argues that from the 1940s to the 1960s, the WCC’s human rights engagement was strongly focused on religious freedom and extended well beyond the United Nations. Scholarship on the WCC had addressed its advocacy against curtailment of religious freedom communist states in some detail, a story that this dissertation retraces in relation to recent work on human rights, using the case of the Soviet Union. But the ecumenical movement also saw two other major opponents, Islam (especially in the context of decolonization) and political Roman Catholicism, which led it to lobby and campaign for religious freedom in countries including Indonesia, Nigeria, and Spain. The second part of the dissertation considers the expansion of the WCC’s human rights agenda. Over the course of the 1960s, the cause of antiracism invited piecemeal expansion of the WCC’s human rights agenda. Only in the early 1970s, however, did the WCC develop a radically new conception of human rights, shaped above all by the need to respond to military dictatorships in Latin America. It sought to develop a conception of human rights that could be effective in addressing not only questions of political repression but also the structural causes underlying it. Whereas the historiography on human rights has thus far focused on secular liberals and conservative Catholics, this dissertation brings into view the transnational activities of the predominantly Protestant ecumenical movement. The WCC’s human rights engagement, which refracted but also impacted on the Cold War, decolonization, and secularization, represented an important strand of postwar internationalism

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2018 Bastiaan Bouwman
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Sets: Departments > International History
Supervisor: Ludlow, Piers
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3858

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