Professor Malcolm Evans Delivers Annual Inter Faith Lecture – Lambeth Palace, UK

8 June 2011 – London

Professor Malcolm Evans of Bristol University delivered the Annual Lambeth Inter Faith Lecture, hosted by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, at Lambeth Palace on Wednesday evening, 8 June 2011. Professor Evans addressed the topic “Advancing Freedom of Religion or Belief: Agendas for Change.” 

Noting that understanding what religious freedom means or requires is difficult, Professor Evans focused in his address “on the manner in which that freedom is currently being engaged with, in order to highlight … a singularly significant opportunity to advance the realisation of at least some elements of that freedom.”

The approach currently adopted by the international policital community, “rather than being a celebration of a thing of worth, … is dominated by the language of special pleading, disadvantage, hostility, and hate,” argued Professor Evans. This must change,” he insisted, noting further that agendas such as defamation of religions, incitement to religious hatred, combating anti-semitism, Islamophobia, Christianophobia, and Discrimination against Christians, risk being “self-defeating by being self-serving.” Urging that barriers created by the self-interest of faith communites be overcome, Evans called for a re-start on a UN Convention and posed a simple question:  “Why not start with the idea of the freedom of religion or belief for everyone?”  Why not “roll back the essentially negative approaches of recent years and champion a more positive vision of what religious freedom has to offer”?

Understanding that this approach “will not be a comfortable message for those who do not like the way the application of human rights thinking has generated outcomes in some high profile western European situations – such as those cases concerning the wearing of religious symbols in the workplace, in schools, in cases concerning attitudes to morality or those concerning issues of sexual orientation,” Professor Evans nevertheless suggests “that this may be something which is just going to have to be lived with (or, perhaps more positively, worked on).”

Professor Evans, therefore, called upon on Christians and those of other faiths, and no faith, to “champion the freedoms of others as well as of ourselves.”

The full text of this address may be accessed at the links below.