On 8 July 2021, the Annual LeidenGlobal Lecture of 2021 was held online with Professor Azza Karam, who recently received the Roosevelt Freedom of Worship Award on behalf of the international organization Religions for Peace. Azza Karam is Professor of Religion and Development at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and also director of Religions for Peace. Her speech was titled “The Power of Religions and Human Rights.” The lecture was organized in collaboration with the RIAS, the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), and the Leiden University Faculty of Humanities.

Focusing on the nexus between religions and human rights, Professor Karam addressed the challenges and opportunities of religions and human rights from a global perspective. Unlike Western Europe, religions in the rest of the world continue to form the central part of the way people think, believe, and behave. Given the historical predominance of a Western mindset and framework in the ways institutions operate and in the way religions are studied, there has been a common blindness to the role and impact of religion in our everyday lives. Professor Karam argued that it is crucial to see religion as the central part of the public sphere and as the main contributor to political decision-making.

The lecture touched upon the interconnection between religions and human rights by addressing four crucial questions: Where do religions and human rights meet, and how? What is the impact of religions? How do religions matter to human rights and humanitarian dimensions? And where are religions and peace positioned today? She ends her lecture with the message that, by rethinking global relations and actively and systematically including religions in today’s world of political and social struggles, cooperation between religious and political actors is necessary.

The event was moderated by RIAS director Damian Pargas and broadcast by LeidenGlobal. A recording of the lecture is available here.