Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the Charles Malik Institute

By M.A Student, Veronica Smaldone

On the evening of Thursday, October 5, the MA in Human Rights cohort had the privilege of meeting with the leadership of the Charles Malik Institute (CMI), an initiative of the Philos Project, prior to a screening of the new documentary entitled Charles Malik: A Universal Person. The CMI aims to maintain the legacy of one of the greatest socio-political philosophers of the twentieth century. Though Charles Malik had an illustrious career as a professor, politician, diplomat, and prolific writer, most pertinent to our course of study was his role as one of the principal drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 (and later, President of the UN General Assembly and Commission on Human Rights, succeeding Eleanor Roosevelt). 

Liza Ashley, Senior Director of the Charles Malik Institute, introduced the students to the work of the CMI, which offers seminars, workshops, and fellowships to disseminate Malik’s extensive though largely unknown body of work. Tony Nasrallah, the creator of the film about Malik, emphasized the importance of Malik’s Christian worldview – his radical commitment to Christ – as the basis of his life-long effort to serve the common good and promote true justice and charity around the world.

Perhaps the most impactful testament to Charles Malik came from his son, Habib Malik. A scholar of Modern European Intellectual History in his own right, Habib described his father’s promulgation of person-centered values that can be agreed upon across cultures, which is antidotal to the “rudderless drifting” of postmodernity and widespread relativism. On a more personal note, Habib attested to his father’s balance of justice and mercy in his approach to life, not only in his duties as a statesman, but (perhaps more importantly) in those as a father.

Meetings like this are an exceptional part of our Masters in Human Rights program. We engage with people who are shaping the course of human rights in very real ways and enjoy realizing that the people commemorated in history books, in international treaties, and in mammoth-sized biographies, are the thinkers, writers, parents, and siblings among us every day.