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The Evil of Violence: A Trigger for a Human Rights Culture?

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This article seeks to answer the following question: to what extent does the interpretation of violence as evil contribute – positively, negatively or not at all – to a human rights culture among some 2000 grade 11 students at private (Catholic and Anglican) schools and Afrikaans medium public schools in the Johannesburg/Pretoria region on the basis of surveys conducted in 1995/1996 and 2000/2001? The regression analyses show that on a number of population characteristics controlled hamartiological interpretations of violence as evil have a mainly positive effect, especially those couched in terms of the divine apocalypse, provided it is construed in its positive dimension ('the new Jerusalem') rather than its negative dimension ('the last judgment'); this also applies to interpretations couched in terms of the institutional transmission of evil contributing to the world of evil. The other interpretations have a predominantly or purely negative effect, especially those relating to a primordial dualistic struggle between good and evil forces, divine retribution and intergeneration transmission of evil. Some population characteristics appear to be more powerful than the hamartiological interpretations, especially gender (female students are more in favour of human rights) and political and cultural attitudes.


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