The René Cassin ‘Human Writes’ 2015 Essay Competition – results

11 Aug, 2015 | 'Human writes', Education, Latest

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Human Writes Essay CompetitionThe 2015 René Cassin essay competition asked the topical question:  ‘Religion and human rights – compatible or conflicting?’

We are very grateful to Danny Finkelstein, Associate Editor of The Times, for taking the time to judge this year’s shortlisted entries.

Of the three essays shortlisted, Danny concluded:

“Frederick Powell‘s was intellectually very clear … very well structured and built to a strong conclusion. 

Amilee Myson picked her way through definitions to get at the truth. This left the reader with a stronger grasp of the topics being discussed, and revealed the commonalities between religion and human rights.  

Michael Rhimes had an extremely original and enjoyable approach and made sure not to dodge the difficulties of the topic. I thought it was very subtle and got to the heart of the matter. 

These were all very good essays, a credit to their writers and to the prize. For originality and for putting its finger on the issue, my winner is Michael Rhimes.”

Congratulations to all three shortlisted entries and a big thank you to the many others who gave their time to writing about this tricky conundrum. Here’s a taste of the winning entries, with links to the essays in full.

Michael Rhimes – winner Michael Rhimes - winner of Rene Cassin human rights essay competition 2015

“Rights may share a common source, but their practical application requires us to recognise the tension between them. Finding that meaningful core isn’t easy, but we will not get any closer by pretending that all rights and all interests sing in unison.  And this is not a cynical renunciation of rights. It is rather a recognition of the healthy dilemma that lies at the heart of rights-based discourse: rights clash and we must resolve this tension. In so doing, we avoid committing ourselves to aspirational but ultimately meaningless and self-referential slogans of “religious freedom”. We embrace the awkward reality that giving practical effect to rights requires us to accept they do not all point in one direction.”

Read Michael’s essay in full.

Amilee Myson – shortlisted

“Human rights and religion contribute to the formation of identity, imploring their subjects to see themselves and others as embodying identical values and deserving of the same dignity. The commands of the divine and the instruments of human rights institutionalise the wise, humanising aphorism of William Shakespeare:

When we are pricked do we not bleed?
When we are tickled do we not laugh?

The sense of identity based on shared values, manifest and reproduced in the legal and sacred systems of human rights and religion is powerful where atrocities of poverty, torture, war and famine so often deny, in practice, the dignity these systems seek to protect.”

Read Amilee’s essay in full.

Frederick Powell – shortlisted

“Theoretical conflicts between orthodox conceptions of religion and human rights can be avoided in practice through a closer examination of the ultimate purpose of human rights. Protecting people from unfair treatment is sometimes necessary, but it is less desirable and less effective than tackling the root cause: namely, the inability of people to ‘get along’ with each other.  What religion offers, therefore, is a unique roadmap to communal harmony and, by extension, the cause of human rights.”

Read Frederick’s essay in full.

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