Heiner Bielefeldt is Full Professor of human rights and human rights politics at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany
My specific theme today is “responsibility,” responsibility on behalf of religious freedom. I will distinguish between different layers or dimensions of responsibility.
Within the human rights movement, there seems to be some hesitancy to talk about responsibility. Certain governments like to invoke responsibility as “duties to the state” so the enjoyment of human rights becomes dependent on a prior fulfillment of citizens’ duties as defined by those governments. That, of course, can make the status of human rights including religious freedom precarious. Many human rights activists remain cautious in using the vocabulary of “responsibility.” We need a more precise way of addressing responsibility with diligence, precision, and caution but also with enthusiasm. So it is in this spirit that I will distinguish three different levels of responsibility to religious freedom as a human right.