Representatives from Baylor University are contributing to an international effort that highlights the importance of human dignity in society.
Bali, Indonesia, recently became the epicenter of global politics as the world leaders of the G20 met to engage some of the most pressing challenges of our day. The G20 (or Group of Twenty) is an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries, including the United States, as well as the European Union. It works to address major issues related to the global economy such as international financial stability, climate change and sustainable development.
In the shadow of the G20, many other groups have also gathered to discuss global challenges. One of these persistent challenges is the affirmation of human dignity — which is often ignored or lost in the faceless global networks we rely upon daily.
With this in mind, the Human Dignity in Religious Traditions (HDRT) Project held its third and final hybrid workshop in Bali in November 2022. Hosted by the Hindu University of Indonesia in Denpasar, the workshop brought together global scholars from multiple religious traditions to discuss how their respective traditions might strengthen and elevate the importance of human dignity globally and locally.
Dr. Paul Martens, associate professor of religion and director of interdisciplinary programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, joined the workshop in Bali, bringing a unique Protestant voice into the conversation.
“The HDRT Project was created in response to the adoption of the Punta del Este Declaration on Human Dignity in 2018,” Martens said. “It is a research project that started as a chat over coffee in Bologna, Italy, and become a global conversation jointly organized by the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICLRS), Baylor University, and the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University. And, it is important to note that not much would have emerged out of that Italian coffee without the generous support of ICLRS at Brigham Young.”
According to the HDRT website, the purposes of the Project are:
- To conduct research on sacred and historically important texts and practices within the world’s religious traditions that describe and display the importance of human dignity;
- To facilitate conversation among members of the world’s religious traditions around shared and disputed understandings of human dignity and its entailments; and
- To provide academic and popular resources for understanding the importance of human dignity within the world’s religious traditions.
Speaking specifically to the purpose of the gathering in Bali, Martens said, “Because part of the results of the Project will be published in the academic journal Religions in the near future, the conversation focused on refining how we articulate and display human dignity within and across religious traditions — emphasizing how human dignity serves as the wellspring of ethics and human rights.”
Martens said contributors to the HDRT Project represent a range of religious traditions including the Baha’i faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, indigenous traditions, Islam and Judaism, with global perspectives from scholars from Canada, England, India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria and the United States.
Other Baylor scholars who are contributing to the HDRT Project include: Dr. Amir Asghari, postdoctoral research associate in religion; Wemimo Jaiyesimi, doctoral student in religion; and Dr. Matthew Whelan, assistant professor in the Honors College.
The author writes that “human dignity” is “the sense of self-worth and self-respect that all people possess by virtue of their shared humanity.” However, this is inaccurate. “Human dignity” is actually the sense of self-worth and self-respect that all people possess by virtue of their shared divinity.
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