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Human Rights: a Channel for Salvation?

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image of Journal of Empirical Theology

In the light of many severe social-economic and health problems many South Africans today experience a situation of helplessness and despair. In the face of these problems we ask whether there is a better solution than leaving the country and starting a new life elsewhere. If Christianity still has anything to say regarding these social-economic problems it must be the belief in salvation - salvation from a situation of helplessness and despair. The belief in salvation should appeal to and inspire people and therefore trigger change-oriented action. But does it happen in practice? To gain insight into this question we did empirical research among two groups of youths: a group of grade 11 students at some private (Catholic and Anglican) schools, and a group of grade 11 students at Afrikaans-medium public schools whom we investigated in a comprehensive survey research project, about their belief in God's salvation in the past, present and future, as well as in his salvation in both their personal relations and local and global communities. The question is whether this belief has an effect on their human rights culture, which theoretically can be positive or negative, or lead to no effect at all. The conclusion of this research is that their belief in divine salvation has a non-exclusive, differentiated positive effect. The effect is non-exclusive, because other religious factors like an open type of religious socialisation, ritual praxis and church participation, and more especially non-religious factors like gender, home language, political and cultural orientations also have an effect, sometimes even a stronger effect. The effect is differentiated, because only their belief in God's salvation in their personal life and their own communities has a positive effect on their human rights attitudes, whereas the other modes of God's salvific activity have a clearly ambivalent (positive/negative) effect or even no effect at all.


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