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Toward a universal declaration of a global ethic.

Humans tend to group themselves in communities with similar understandings of the meaning of life and how to act accordingly. For the most part, in past history such large communities, called cultures or civilizations, have tended on the one hand to live unto themselves and on the other to dominate and, if possible, absorb the other cultures they encountered: for example, Christendom, Islam, or China.

I. The Meaning of Religion

At the heart of each culture is what is traditionally called a "religion," that is, "explanations of the ultimate meaning of life and how to live accordingly." (1) Normally all religions contain the four c's--creed, code, cult, and community structure--and are based on the notion of the Transcendent:

"Creed" refers to the cognitive aspect of a religion; it is everything that goes into the "explanation" of the ultimate meaning of life.

"Code" of behavior or ethics includes all the rules and customs of action that somehow follow from one aspect or another of the creed.

"Cult" means all the ritual activities that relate the follower to one aspect or other of the Transcendent, either directly or indirectly, prayer being an example of the former and certain formal behavior toward representatives of the Transcendent, such as priests, of the latter.

"Community structure" refers to the relationships among the followers; this can vary widely, from a very egalitarian relationship as among Quakers, through a "republican" structure such as Presbyterians have, to a monarchical one, as with some Hasidic Jews vis-a-vis their "Rebbe."

The "Transcendent," as the roots of the word indicate, means "that which goes beyond" the everyday, the ordinary, the surface experience of reality. It can refer to spirits, gods, a Personal God, an Impersonal God, Emptiness, etc.

II. A Major Paradigm Shift

Thomas Kuhn revolutionized our understanding of the development of scientific thinking with his notion of paradigm shifts. He painstakingly showed that fundamental "paradigms" or "exemplary models" are the large thought-frames within which we place and interpret all observed data and that scientific advancement inevitably brings about eventual paradigm shifts--from geocentricism to heliocentrism, for example, or from Newtonian to Einsteinian physics--that are always vigorously resisted at first, as was the thought of Galileo, but that finally prevail. This insight, however, is not only valid for the development of thought in the natural sciences but is also applicable to all major disciplines of human thought, including religious thought. For example, the move from the Semitic thought-world of Jesus and his followers to the Hellenistic world of early Christianity and then to the Byzantine and Medieval Western Christian worlds, and further has generated a number of greater and lesser paradigm shifts in European religion and culture over the centuries.

III. The Modern Major Paradigm Shift

Since the eighteenth-century European Enlightenment, Christendom-become-Western Civilization-now-becoming-Global Civilization has been undergoing a major paradigm shift, especially in how we humans understand our process of understanding and what meaning and status we attribute to "truth," that is, to our statements about reality--in other words, to our epistemology. This new epistemological paradigm is increasingly determining how we perceive, conceive, think about, and subsequently decide and act on things.

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the role that religion in the ultimate understanding of reality and how to live accordingly plays by the conceptual paradigm or model one has of reality. The paradigm within which we perceive reality not only profoundly affects our theoretical understanding of reality but also has immense, practical consequences. For example, in Western medicine the body is usually conceived of as a highly nuanced, living machine; therefore, if one part wears out, the obvious thing to do is to replace the worn part--hence, organ transplants originated in Western, but not in Oriental, medicine.

However, in Chinese medicine, the body is conceived of as a finely balanced harmony: "Pressure" exerted on one part of the body is assumed to have an opposite effect in some other part of the body--hence, acupuncture originated in Oriental, but not in Western, medicine. Our conceptual paradigms have concrete consequences.

Let me turn now to the post-Enlightenment epistemological paradigm shift. Whereas the Western notion of truth was largely absolute, static, and monologic or exclusive up to the past century, it has since become deabsolutized, dynamic, and dialogic--in a word, it has become "relational." This "new" view of truth came about in at least six different, but closely related ways. In brief they are:

1. Historicism: Truth is deabsolutized by the perception that reality is always described in terms of the circumstances of the time in which it is expressed.

2. Intentionality: Seeking the truth with the intention of acting accordingly deabsolutizes the statement.

3. Sociology of knowledge: Truth is deabsolutized in terms of geography, culture, and social standing.

4. Limits of language: Truth as the meaning of something and especially as talk about the transcendent is deabsolutized by the nature of human language.

5. Hermeneutics: All truth, all knowledge, is seen as interpreted truth and knowledge and hence is deabsolutized by the observer, who is always also an interpreter.

6. Dialogue: The knower engages reality in a dialogue in a language the knower provides, thereby deabsolutizing all statements about reality.

In sum, our understanding of truth and reality has been undergoing a radical shift. This new paradigm that is being born understands all statements about reality, especially about the meaning of things, to be historical, intentional, perspectival, partial, interpretive, and dialogic. What is common to all these qualities is the notion of relationality, that is, that all expressions or understandings of reality are in some fundamental way related to the speaker or knower. It is while bearing this paradigm shift in mind that we proceed with our analysis.

IV. Globalization

Since the sixteenth-century European "Age of Discovery," the earth has tended more and more to become, as Wendell Wilkie put it in 1940, "One World." This increasingly happened in the form of Christendom's dominating and colonizing the rest of the world. In the nineteenth century, however, "Christendom" became less and less "Christian" and more and more the "secular West," shaped by a secular ideology, or ideologies, alternative to Christianity. Still, the religious and ideological cultures of the West, even as they struggled with each other, dealt with other cultures and their religions in the customary manner of ignoring them or attempting to dominate, and even absorb, them--though it became increasingly obvious that the latter was not likely to happen.

As the twentieth century drew to a close, however, all of those ways of relating become increasingly impossible to sustain. For example, what happened in other cultures quickly led young men and women of the West to die on the volcanic ash of Iwo Jima or the desert sands of Kuwait and Iraq. But, more than that, the "West" could no longer escape what was done in the First World, such as the production of acid rain; in the Second World, such as the Chernobyl nuclear accident; or in the Third World, such as the mass destruction of the Amazon rain forest, "the world's lungs."

At the same time, the world has been slowly, painfully emerging from the millennia-long Age of Monologue into the Age of Dialogue. As noted above, until beginning about a century ago, each religion, and then ideology--each culture--tended to be very certain that it alone had the complete explanation "of the ultimate meaning of life and how to live accordingly." Then, through the series of revolutions in understanding, which began in the West but ultimately spread more and more throughout the whole world, the limitedness of all statements about the meaning of things began to dawn on isolated thinkers and then increasingly on the middle and even grassroots levels of humankind: the epistemological revolutions of historicism, pragmatism, sociology of knowledge, language analysis, hermeneutics, and finally dialogue.

Now that it is more and more understood that the Muslim, Christian, secularist, Buddhist, etc., perception of the meaning of things is necessarily limited, the Muslim, Christian, secularist, etc., increasingly feels not only no longer driven to replace or at least dominate all other religions, ideologies, and cultures but instead drawn to enter into dialogue with them, so as to expand, deepen, and enrich each of their necessarily limited perceptions of the meaning of things. Thus, often with squinting, blurry eyes, humankind is emerging from the relative darkness of the Age of Monologue into the dawning Age of Dialogue---dialogue understood as a conversation with someone who differs from us primarily so that we can learn because, since we now growingly realize that our understanding of the meaning of reality is necessarily limited, we might learn more about reality's meaning through someone else's perception of it.

V. Need for a Global Ethic

When the fact of the epistemological revolution's leading to the growing necessity of interreligious, interideological, intercultural dialogue is coupled with the fact of all humankind's interdependency--such that any significant part of humanity could precipitate the whole of the globe into a social, economic, nuclear, environmental, or other catastrophe--there arises the pressing need to focus the energy of these dialogues not only on how humans perceive and understand the world and its meaning but also on how they should act in relationship to themselves, to other persons, and to nature, within the context of reality's undergirding, pervasive, overarching source, energy, and goal, however understood. In brief, humankind increasingly desperately needs to engage in a dialogue on the development of a global ethic--not a Buddhist ethic, a Christian ethic, a Marxist ethic, etc. I believe a key instrument in that direction will be the shaping of a "Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic."

I use "ethic" in the singular rather than "ethics" in the plural, because what is needed is not a full-blown global ethics in great detail--indeed, such would not even be possible--but a global consensus on the fundamental attitude toward good and evil and the basic and middle principles to put it into action. Clearly, also, this ethic must be global. It will not be sufficient to have a common ethic just for Westerners or Africans or Asians. The destruction, for example, of the ozone layer or the loosing of a destructive gene mutation by any one group will be disastrous for all.

I say also that this "Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic" must be arrived at by consensus through dialogue. Attempts at the imposition of a unitary ethic by various kinds of force have been had aplenty, and they have inevitably fallen miserably short of globality. The most recent failures can be seen in the widespread collapse of communism and, in an inverse way, in the resounding rejection of secularism by resurgent Islamism.

That the need for a global ethic is most urgent is becoming increasingly apparent to all; humankind no longer has the luxury of letting such an ethic slowly and haphazardly grow by itself, as it willy-nilly will gradually happen. It is vital that there be a conscious focusing of energy on such a development. Immediate action is necessary.

VI. Principles of a Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic

Let me first offer some suggestions of the general notions that I believe ought to shape a "Universal Declaration of Global Ethic" and then offer a tentative draft constructed in their light:

1. The Declaration should use language and images that are acceptable to all major religions and ethical groups; hence, its language ought to be "humanity-based," rather than from authoritative religious books; it should be from "below," not from "above."

2. Therefore, it should be anthropocentric; even more, it must be anthropocosmocentric, for we cannot be fully human except within the context of the whole of reality.

3. The affirmations should be dynamic in form in the sense that they will be susceptible to being sublated, that is, they might properly be reinterpreted by being taken up into a larger framework.

4. The Declaration needs to set both inviolable minimums and open-ended maximums to be striven for, but maximums may not be required, for it might violate the freedom-minimums of some persons.

5. It could well start with--though not limit itself try--elements of the so-called "Golden Rule": Treat others as we would like to be treated.

6. As humans ineluctably seek ever more knowledge and truth, so, too, they seek to draw what they perceive as the good to themselves (that is, they love). Usually, this self is expanded to include the family and then friends. It needs to continue its natural expansion to the community, nation, world, and cosmos and to the source and goal of all reality.

7. But, this human love necessarily must start with self-love, for one can love one's "neighbor" only as one loves oneself; since one becomes human only by interhuman mutuality, loving others fulfills one's own humanity and, hence, is also the greatest act of authentic self-love.

8. Another aspect of the "Golden Rule" is that humans are always to be treated as ends, never as mere means--that is, as subjects, never as mere objects.

9. Yet another implication of the "Golden Rule" is that those who cannot protect themselves ought to be protected by those who can.

10. A further ring of the expanding circles of the "Golden Rule" is that nonhuman beings are also to be reverenced and treated with respect because of their being.

11. It is important that not only basic but also middle ethical principles be spelled out in this Declaration. Although most of the middle ethical principles that need to be articulated in this Declaration are already embedded in juridical form in the United Nations' 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is vital that the religions and ethical traditions expressly state and approve them so that the world, including both adherents and outsiders of the various religions and ethical traditions, will know to what ethical standards all are committing themselves.

12. If a Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic is to be meaningful and effective, however, its framers must resist the temptation to pack too many details and special interests into it. It can function best as a kind of "constitutional" set of basic and middle ethical principles from which more detailed applications can constantly be drawn.

VII. History of the Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic

There are at present at least two drafts of a "Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic" available as models. Briefly, the history of their genesis is as follows: In 1990, Hans Kung, who has been a friend since my student days at the University of Tiibingen in 1959, sent me in Tokyo, where my wife Arlene and I were teaching at Temple University Japan, a copy of his new book Projekt Weltethos. (2) I grew very enthusiastic when I read it between semesters in 1990-91. Let Kung tell the next steps: (3)
 A pragmatic American, Professor Swidler of the Religion Department
 of Temple University, Philadelphia, and editor of the Journal of
 Ecumenical Studies [of which Kung has been an Associate Editor
 since its inception in 1964], then composed an appeal in which
 among other things he called for the prompt composition of a
 declaration on a global ethic. Having become somewhat sceptical
 [sic] after my experiences with numerous actions and appeals of
 this kind, I personally responded at first in a somewhat restrained
 way, but in the end decided to become the first signatory to
 Swidler's appeal, after making some corrections. I also sought out
 some signatories in Europe. The key sentences from this declaration
 run: 'Such efforts should concentrate on drawing together the
 research and reflection on Global Ethic and related matters into a
 "Universal Declaration of a Global Ethos" which would then be
 circulated to the various forums of all the religions and ethical
 groups for appropriate revisions--with a view to eventual adoption
 by all the religions and ethical groups of the world. Such a
 "Universal Declaration of a World Ethic" could then serve a
 function similar to the 1948 "Universal Declaration of Human
 Rights" of the United Nations--a kind of standard that all will be
 expected to live up to ... The "Universal Declaration of Global
 Ethos" would in a major way bring to bear the moral and spiritual
 resources of all the religions and ethical groups on the basic
 ethical problems of the world, which are not easily susceptible to
 political force.'

 So this appeal was finally published and was signed by important
 theologians and scholars in religious studies. (4)

Kung then described further how he was invited to draft a document for the upcoming Parliament of the World's Religions in September, 1993, in Chicago (where the first World's Parliament of Religions took place in 1893). He launched a series of efforts, including devoting the entire summer semester of 1992 to the task, bringing in many religious and other experts. He sent me piecemeal through the latter part of 1992, early 1993 his draft of a Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic for translation into English, which I then forwarded to the Chicago center. The delays and frustrations mounted; finally, he wrote: "Supported as always by my colleague Dr. Karl-Josef Kuschel, ... I ... on 17 July 1993--after further translation by Professor Swidler--was thus able to send the definitive English text to Chicago." (5) The text was finally approved, signed by many representatives of the world's religions, and publicly proclaimed by the Parliament on September 4, 1993.

In the meanwhile, I presented in January, 1992, to the International Scholars' Annual Trialogue (ISAT, a group of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scholars I helped organize to meet more or less annually since 1978) the idea of a Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic, and was asked by them to present a draft to be discussed at the next meeting in January, 1993. I proceeded to do so, thinking of the Declaration as a public commitment by the signatories (individuals and organizations, such as religious and ethical bodies) to live by the principles enunciated--being expected to be held publicly accountable. After a great deal of consultation with and gaining the approval of many religious, ethical, and scholarly groups, including ISAT, I made my Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic available in various places, but especially in a book with a series of commentaries by religious and ethical scholars, For All Life, (6) which includes Kung's draft as well as mine.

VIII. A Plan of Action

It is imperative that various religious and ethical communities, ethnic groups, and geographical regions work on discussing and drafting their own versions of a "Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic," that is, what they consider their own basic ethical principles, which they at the same time believe people of all other religious and ethical traditions could also affirm.

The two already existing drafts--one by Hans Kung and one by me--should certainly be made use of in this process, but all communities and regions need to make their own contributions to the final Declaration, and, in the process of wrestling with the issue and forging the wording, they will make the concern for a global ethic their own, and will thus better be able to mediate it to their "constituents" and enhance the likelihood of the Declaration's in fact being adhered to in practice.

What needs to be stressed is that such a project cannot be carried out only by the scholars and leaders of the world's religious and ethical communities, though obviously the vigorous participation of these elements is vital. The ideas and sensitivities must also come from the grassroots.

Moreover, it is also at the grassroots, as well at the levels of scholars and leaders, that, first, consciousness must be raised on the desperate need for the deliberate development of a global ethic, and, second, once drafted and accepted, the conviction of its validity must be gained. The most carefully thought out and sensitively crafted Declaration will be of no use if those who are to adhere to it do not believe in it. A global ethic must work on all three levels: scholars, leaders, and grassroots. Otherwise, it will not work at all. Hence, I urge:

1. All religious, ethical, ethnic, and geographic communities and organizations (either alone or in concert with others, but always in a dialogic spirit)--and most especially the myriad nongovernmental organizations of the world--need to move seriously but quickly to the drawing up of their own draft of a "Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic";

2. These groups need to strategize on how to maneuver their drafts to gain the greatest influence in all the theaters in which each operates: the United Nations, other NGO's, scholarly groups, religious groups, the vast world of the Internet, myriads of grassroots organizations--in short, wherever aroused imaginations will lead; and

3. Each group should send its draft of a "Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic" to the Center for Global Ethics (Professor Leonard Swidler, Journal of Ecumenical Studies (022-38), Temple University, 1114 W. Berks St., Philadelphia, PA 19122-6090; fax: 215-204-4569; e-mail:, which will serve first as a collection and distribution center, and, when the time is appropriate, as a facilitator in the process of synthesizing a final draft and devising in as democratic a manner as possible a process of worldwide adoption.

In sum, having studied, listened, and thought, I challenge us all to take up this vital task and act! As a stimulus to the dialogue that is essential to this project, at the conference I went through orally my draft of a Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic, with everyone holding a copy. It has already been revised many times after consultation with scholars and grassroots persons from many religious traditions, including Catholic and Protestant and Orthodox Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Confucianists, Muslims, Sikhs, and Baha'is. I invite the reader to do so for herself or himself now. Even better, I invite each reader to gather a group and go through and discuss the text thoroughly--and then draft your own version of a Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic, and share it widely, including with my Center for Global Ethics.


I. Rationale

We women and men from various ethical and religious traditions commit ourselves to the following Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic. We speak here not of ethics in the plural, which implies rather great detail, but of ethic in the singular, i.e., the fundamental attitude toward good and evil, and the basic and middle principles needed to put it into action.

We make this commitment not despite our differences but arising out of our distinct perspectives, recognizing nevertheless in our diverse ethical and religious traditions common convictions that lead us to speak out against all forms of inhumanity and for humaneness in our treatment of ourselves, one another and the world around us. We find in each of our traditions:

a) grounds in support of universal human rights,

b) a call to work for justice and peace, and

c) concern for conservation of the earth.

We confirm and applaud the positive human values that are, at times painfully slowly, but nevertheless increasingly, being accepted and advocated in our world: freedom, equality, democracy, recognition of interdependence, commitment to justice and human rights. We also believe that conditions in our world encourage, indeed require, us to look beyond what divides us and to speak as one on matters that are crucial for the survival of and respect for the earth. Therefore we advocate movement toward a global order that reflects the best values found in our myriad traditions.

We are convinced that a just global order can be built only upon a global ethic which clearly states universally-recognized norms and principles, and that such an ethic presumes a readiness and intention on the part of people to act justly--that is, a movement of the heart. Secondly, a global ethic requires a thoughtful presentation of principles that are held up to open investigation and critique--a movement of the head.

Each of our traditions holds commitments beyond what is expressed here, but we find that within our ethical and religious traditions the world community is in the process of discovering elements of a fundamental minimal consensus on ethics which is convincing to all women and men of good will, religious and nonreligious alike, and which will provide us with a moral framework within which we can relate to ourselves, each other and the world in a just and respectful manner.

In order to build a humanity-wide consensus we find it is essential to develop and use a language that is humanity-based, though each religious and ethical tradition also has its own language for what is expressed in this Declaration.

Furthermore, none of our traditions, ethical or religious, is satisfied with minimums, vital as they are; rather, because humans are endlessly self transcending, our traditions also provide maximums to be striven for. Consequently, this Declaration does the same. The maximums, however, clearly are ideals to be striven for, and therefore cannot be required, lest the essential freedoms and rights of some thereby be violated.

II. Presuppositions

As a Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic, which we believe must under-gird any affirmation of human rights and respect for the earth, this document affirms and supports the rights and corresponding responsibilities enumerated in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. In conjunction with that first United Nations Declaration we believe there are five general presuppositions which are indispensable for a global ethic:

a) Every human possesses inalienable and inviolable dignity; individuals, states, and other social entities are obliged to respect and protect the dignity of each person.

b) No person or social entity exists beyond the scope of morality; everyone--individuals and social organizations--is obliged to do good and avoid evil.

c) Humans are endowed with reason and conscience--the great challenge of being human is to act conscientiously; communities, states and other social organizations are obliged to protect and foster these capabilities.

d) Communities, states and other social organizations which contribute to the good of humans and the world have a right to exist and flourish; this right should be respected by all.

e) Humans are a part of nature, not apart from nature; ethical concerns extend beyond humanity to the rest of the earth, and indeed the cosmos. In brief: this Declaration, in reflection of reality, is not just anthropo-centric, but cosmo-anthropo-centric.

III. Fundamental Rule

We propose the Golden Rule, which for thousands of years has been affirmed in many religious and ethical traditions, as a fundamental principle upon which to base a global ethic: "What you do not wish done to yourself, do not do to others," or in positive terms, "What you wish done to yourself, do to others." This rule should be valid not only for one's own family, friends, community and nation, but also for all other individuals, families, communities, nations, the entire world, the cosmos.

IV. Basic Principles

1. Because freedom is of the essence of being human, every person is free to exercise and develop every capacity, so long as it does not infringe on the rights of other persons or express a lack of due respect for things living or non-living. In addition, human freedom should be exercised in such a way as to enhance both the freedom of all humans and due respect for all things, living and non-living.

2. Because of their inherent equal dignity, all humans should always be treated as ends, never as mere means. In addition, all humans in every encounter with others should strive to enhance to the fullest the intrinsic dignity of all involved.

3. Although humans have greater intrinsic value than non-humans, all such things, living and non-living, do possess intrinsic value simply because of their existence and, as such, are to be treated with due respect. In addition, all humans in every encounter with non-humans, living and non-living, should strive to respect them to the fullest of their intrinsic value.

4. As humans necessarily seek ever more truth, so too they seek to unite themselves, that is, their "selves," with what they perceive as the good: in brief, they love. Usually this "self" is expanded/transcended to include their own family and friends, seeking the good for them. In addition, as with the Golden Rule, this loving/loved "self" needs to continue its natural expansion/transcendence to embrace the community, nation, world, and cosmos.

5. Thus true human love is authentic self-love and other-love co-relatively linked in such a way that ultimately it is drawn to become all-inclusive. This expansive and inclusive nature of love should be recognized as an active principle in personal and global interaction.

6. Those who hold responsibility for others are obliged to help those for whom they hold responsibility. In addition, the Golden Rule implies: If we were in serious difficulty wherein we could not help ourselves, we would want those who could help us to do so, even if they held no responsibility for us; therefore we should help others in serious difficulty who cannot help themselves, even though we hold no responsibility for them.

7. Because all humans are equally entitled to hold their religion or belief--i.e., their explanation of the ultimate meaning of life and how to live accordingly--as true, every human's religion or belief should be granted its due freedom and respect.

8. In addition, dialogue--i.e., conversation whose primary aim is to learn from the other--is a necessary means whereby women and men learn to respect the other, ceaselessly to expand and deepen their own explanation of the meaning of life, and to develop an ever broadening consensus whereby men and women can live together on this globe in an authentically human manner.

V. Middle Principles

The following "Middle Ethical Principles" are in fact those which underlie the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, formally approved by almost every nation in the world.

1. Legal Rights/Responsibilities: Because all humans have an inherent equal dignity, all should be treated equally before the law and provided with its equal protection.

At the same time, all individuals and communities should follow all just laws, obeying not only the letter but most especially the spirit.

2. Rights/Responsibilities Concerning Conscience and Religion or Belief: Because humans are thinking, and therefore essentially free-deciding beings, all have the right to freedom of thought, speech, conscience and religion or belief.

At the same time, all humans should exercise their rights of freedom of thought, speech, conscience and religion or belief in ways that will respect themselves and all others and strive to produce maximum benefit, broadly understood, for both themselves and their fellow humans.

3. Rights/Responsibilities Concerning Speech and Information: Because humans are thinking beings with the ability to perceive reality and express it, all individuals and communities have both the right and the responsibility, as far as possible, to learn the truth and express it honestly.

At the same time everyone should avoid cover-ups, distortions, manipulations of others and inappropriate intrusions into personal privacy; this freedom and responsibility is especially true of the mass media, artists, scientists, politicians and religious leaders.

4. Rights/Responsibilities Concerning Participation in All Decision-making Affecting Oneself or Those for Whom One Is Responsible:

Because humans are free-deciding beings, all adults have the right to a voice, direct or indirect, in all decisions that affect them, including a meaningful participation in choosing their leaders and holding them accountable, as well as the right of equal access to all leadership positions for which their talents qualify them.

At the same time, all humans should strive to exercise their right, and obligation, to participate in self-governance as to produce maximum benefit, widely understood, for both themselves and their fellow humans.

5. Rights/Responsibilities Concerning the Relationship between Women and Men.

Because women and men are inherently equal and all men and women have an equal right to the full development of all their talents as well as the freedom to marry, with equal rights for all women and men in living out or dissolving marriage.

At the same time, all men and women should act toward each other outside of and within marriage in ways that will respect the intrinsic dignity, equality, freedom and responsibilities of themselves and others.

6. Rights/Responsibilities Concerning Property. Because humans are free, bodily and social in nature, all individual humans and communities have the right to own property of various sorts.

At the same time, society should be so organized that property will be dealt with respectfully, striving to produce maximum benefit not only for the owners but also for their fellow humans, as well as for the world at large.

7. Rights/Responsibilities Concerning Work and Leisure: Because to lead an authentic human life all humans should normally have both meaningful work and recreative leisure, individuals and communities should strive to organize society so as to provide these two dimensions of an authentic human life both for themselves and all the members of their communities.

At the same time, all individuals have an obligation to work appropriately for their recompense, and, with all communities, to strive for ever more creative work and re-creative leisure for themselves, their communities, and other individuals and communities.

8. Rights/Responsibilities Concerning Children and Education: Children are first of all not responsible for their coming into existence or for their socialization and education; their parents are. Where for whatever reason they fail, the wider community, relatives and civil community, have an obligation to provide the most humane care possible, physical, mental, moral/spiritual and social, for children.

Because humans can become authentically human only through education in the broad sense, and today increasingly can flourish only with extensive education in the formal sense, all individuals and communities should strive to provide an education for all children and adult women and men which is directed to the full development of the human person, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, the promotion of understanding, dialogue and friendship among all humans--regardless of racial, ethnic, religious, belief, sexual or other differences--and respect for the earth.

At the same time, all individuals and communities have the obligation to contribute appropriately to providing the means necessary for this education for themselves and their communities and beyond that to strive to provide the same for all humans.

9. Rights/Responsibilities Concerning Peace. Because peace, as both the absence of violence and the presence of justice for all humans, is the necessary condition for the complete development of the full humanity of all humans, individually and communally, all individuals and communities should strive constantly to further the growth of peace on all levels, personal, interpersonal, local, regional, national and international, granting that

a) the necessary basis of peace is justice for all concerned;

b) violence is to be vigorously avoided, being resorted to only when its absence would cause a greater evil;

c) when peace is ruptured, all efforts should be bent to its rapid restoration--on the necessary basis of justice for all.

At the same time, it should be recognized that peace, like liberty, is a positive value which should be constantly cultivated, and therefore all individuals and communities should make the necessary prior efforts not only to avoid its break-down but also to strengthen its steady development and growth.

10. Rights/Responsibilities Concerning the Preservation of the Environment: Because things, living and non-living, have an intrinsic value simply because of their existence, and also because humans cannot develop fully as humans, or even survive, if the environment is severely damaged, all individuals and communities should respect the ecosphere within which "we all live, move and have our being," and act so that

a) nothing, living or non-living, will be destroyed in its natural form except when used for some greater good, as, for example, the use of plants/animals for food;

b) if at all possible, only replaceable material will be destroyed in its natural form.

At the same time, all individuals and communities should constantly be vigilant to protect our fragile universe, particularly from the exploding human population and increasing technological possibilities which threaten it in an ever expanding fashion.

June 14, 1995 Revision

Send suggested revisions to this draft to: Professor Leonard Swidler, Journal of Ecumenical Studies (022-38), Temple University, 1114 W. Berks St., Philadelphia, PA 19122-6090; e-mail:; fax: 215-204-4569.

(1) Leonard Swidler, After the Absolute: The Dialogical Future of Religious Reflection (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), p. xiv.

(2) (Munich: R. Piper, 1990; E.T.: Global Responsibility: In Search of a New World Ethic, tr. John Bowden [New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1991]).

(3) Hans Kung and Karl-Josef Kuschel, eds., A Global Ethic. The Declaration of the Parliament of the World's Religions, tr. John Bowden (New York: Continuum, 1993 [orig.: Erklarung zum Weltethos." Die Declaration des Parliaments der Weltreligionen (Munich: R. Piper, 19930]), p. 47.

(4) They included "Muhammed Arkoun (Muslim), Julia Ching (Confucian/Catholic), John Cobb (Methodist), Khalid Duran (Muslim), Heinrich Fries [Swidler's "Doktorvater"] (Catholic), Claude Geffre (Catholic), Irving Greenberg (Jewish), Norben Greinacher (Catholic), Riffat Hassan (Muslim), Rivka Horwitz (Jewish), John Hick (Presbyterian), Gerfried Hunold (Catholic), Adel Khoury (Catholic), Paul Knitter (Catholic), Karl-Joseph Kuschel (Catholic), Pinchas Lapide (Jewish), Johannes Lahnemann (Protestant), Dietmar Mieth (Catholic), Paul Mojzes (Methodist), Jurgen Moltmann (Protestant), Fathi Osman (Muslim), Raimon Panikkar (Hindu/Buddhist/Catholic), Daniel Polish (Jewish), Rodolfo Stavenhagen (sociologist), Theo Sundermeier (Protestant), Tu Wei-Ming (Confucian)" (ibid., pp. 47-48, note 2). This was published in both J.E.S. 28 (Winter, 1991): 123-125; and in Suddeutsche Zeitung, November 16-17, 1991.

(5) Kung and Kuschel, A Global Ethic, p. 52; emphasis in original.

(6) Leonard Swidler, ed., For All Life. Toward a Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic: An Interreligious Dialogue (Ashland, OR: White Cloud Press, 1999). The scholars who wrote the responsive essays were: Chung Ok Lee (Won Buddhist, Korean), Khalid Duran (Muslim, Spanish), John Hick (Presbyterian, English), Michael Kogan (Jewish, American), Shu-hsien Liu (Confucian, Taiwanese), Kana Mitra (Hindu, Indian), Mutombo Nkulu N'Sengha (Catholic, Congolese), Ingrid H. Shafer (Catholic, Austrian), Brian A. Victoria (Zen Buddhist, American), Moojan Momen (Baha'i, Iranian), and Fusan Zhao (Anglican, Chinese).

(7) Swidler, For All Life, pp. 29-36.
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Author:Swidler, Leonard
Publication:Journal of Ecumenical Studies
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2007
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