November 4, 2020 – In partnership with the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), the Institute for Lebanese Thought (ILT) at Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) held the “Charles Malik: The Human Rights Legacy of Lebanon” symposium to celebrate the life of the eponymous Lebanese diplomat and philosopher.
As the conference was held online, speakers from around the world were able to deliver their presentations from their countries of residence – Lebanon, Dubai, Rome, and the United States of America. The conference’s online broadcast was also able to field large global audience, with nine hundred attendees registered through the Facebook application from countries as far apart as Britain and China.
NDU President, Fr. Pierre Najem, opened the proceedings with a short speech highlighting NDU’s relationship to Charles Malik. Fr. Najem emphasized that NDU considers itself Malik’s extended family, not only through the Charles Malik archive housed at the University, but also in the values that they both share.
Berge Setrakian, president of the AGBU, spoke next, emphasizing the importance of Malik’s views on human rights in the modern day, particularly in relation to the Azerbaijani-Armenian crisis.
The conference consisted of two sessions, both chaired by Tony Nasrallah, who manages the Charles Malik Archive at the ILT.
The first session, “Charles Malik the Person,” examined Malik’s character through his relationships with all three speakers. The session began with a pre-recorded interview with Dr. Habib Malik, Charles Malik’s son, who provided a more personal perspective on his father’s legacy, saying “Many know Charles Malik as a major contributor to the crafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, others know him as an international statesman, ... still others know him in the context of academia, ... others still think of him in terms of the Christian Ecumenical movement, especially in the 1960s and early ‘70s. All of these are very important features of Charles Malik, but for me, his only son, he was a father, first and foremost." Dr. Malik’s interview was followed by a talk from Dr. George Sabra, President and Professor of Systematic Theology at the Near East School of Theology (NEST), who discussed Malik’s disposition as a teacher – Dr. Sabra being one of his students. Finally, Rev. Dr. Habib Badr, who had known Malik at several points throughout Badr’s, discussed how Malik had influenced him through the former’s Christian elucidation of the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.
The second session, “Charles Malik the Diplomat,” focused on Malik’s diplomatic achievements. The session opened with a documentary, written by Nasrallah and produced by the AGBU, where a quick overview of Malik’s diplomatic career was sketched, with reference to his twenty-thousands-word article on “diplomacy” for the Encyclopedia Britannica’s 1973 edition. His Excellency, Dr. Farid el Khazen, Lebanon’s Ambassador to the Holy See, followed the documentary with a presentation on Malik’s approach to diplomacy and how it informs Lebanese foreign policy to this day. H.E. Dr. el Khazen linked Malik’s diplomatic legacy to the “Academy for Human Encounters and Dialogue”, which Lebanon proposed in a recent General Assembly at the United Nations. Dr. Samuel Moyn, professor of jurisprudence and of history at Yale University, gave the final presentation of the conference, covering personalist dimensions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as laid out by Malik. A brief Q&A forum was established before Nasrallah gave the concluding remarks.
The full conference was recorded and can be accessed on YouTube.