On February 12-13, LCC’s Center for Faith and Human Flourishing welcomed Dr. Hans Leaman (JD, PhD, Yale University), Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Ethics, Law, and Politics at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity (Göttingen).
In an open lecture entitled, “The Religious Roots of International Refugee Protection,” Dr. Leaman traced the history of international human rights law from the late nineteenth century up to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Dr. Leaman argued that religious movements, particularly Christian and Jewish organizations, provided a “moral anchor” for the new agencies and the subsequent declarations concerning human rights.
“Recognition of ‘human rights’ was not inevitable: the victorious Allied powers could have, and indeed contemplated, using the United Nations simply as a forum for Realpolitik,” Dr. Leaman explained. “At the founding conference of the UN in San Francisco, one U.S. Congressman who was part of the American delegation voiced the view of many politicians: that universal human rights ‘means nothing.’ It took convincing that they could represent a moral core for a new world order. And leaders of Christian and Jewish organizations played the central important role in advocating for that position.”
Moreover, religious advocates for refugee protections emphasized the importance of keeping families together, and the rights of parents to raise their children according to their beliefs. These principles, Dr. Leaman suggested, should guide contemporary societies’ treatment of immigrants.
“One of the characteristics of God, if we are made in the image of God, is the right ordering of different ‘goods’. Home is a fundamental good, but we order an eternal home with God in heaven as an even greater good. To flourish in exile is to continue the spiritual pursuit of God, to continue religious worship, even when there are so many insecurities about finding a physical home. The Trinity is relational, a relationship of love. So fostering family life is also fundamental to well-being. This is the opposite of the message of fascism and communism, namely, that our ultimate identity and obligation is vested in the State.”
Dr. Leaman also spoke to a group of students in LCC’s Theology program (lcc.lt/theology) about another area of his research: the self-conceptions of Reformation-era Christian groups who migrated to escape religious persecution. He focused on the creative ways that Christian pastors of various traditions mobilized the Hebrew Bible texts pertaining to the Egyptian and Babylonian captivities of Israel, to encourage their own sixteenth-century communities in exile.
“Our community was greatly blessed by Dr. Leaman’s scholarship,” observed Dr. Benjamin Giffone, Director of the Center for Faith and Human Flourishing and Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies. “His work as a Christian historian and legal scholar shows just how relevant both history and religion are for those of us who seek to transform our world for the better.”
Video of Dr. Leaman’s talk, “The Religious Roots of International Refugee Protection,” is available free of charge and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without express permission.