The Charles Malik Institute shapes future scholars, humanitarians, and public servants by teaching the legacy of Lebanese Christian philosopher and statesman Charles Malik.
Charles Habib Malik was born on 11 February 1906 in the small town of Btirram in north Lebanon’s predominantly Greek Orthodox district of Koura. His father was a medical doctor, and Charles was the second of six children, two girls and four boys. He was initiated into the Christian faith and the life of the church mainly though his grandmother, and the village priest, a family relative.
Charles received his secondary education at the Tripoli Boys School, founded in the nineteenth century by American Protestant missionaries. He excelled in all his studies, particularly in mathematics and the natural sciences.
He completed his undergraduate degree in mathematics and physics in 1927 at the American University of Beirut (AUB). Having excelled in his major, he was recruited to teach mathematics and physics for two years at AUB. The ease with which the young Charles mastered the sciences left him with ample time to pursue readings and studies in other areas of interest such as literature, philosophy and theology.Read full bio
Throughout his career in academia and politics, Charles Malik served as a calm and charismatic leader in uncertain times. Confronting seasons of adversity, he turned to his faith for wisdom and courage. He integrated his Christian convictions with his public duties, engaging the political world without succumbing to its vices.
A century later, Malik remains a powerful example for young Christian leaders and political actors.
Human rights and Religious Freedom
Charles Malik believed in universal values, such as freedom, human dignity, and the value of pluralism, that cut across time and permeated all civilizations and cultures. Malik saw these values manifest most clearly in the Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian, and broader Western tradition.
Best known for his work on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, Malik authored the Declaration’s Preamble with its philosophical underpinnings and the text of Article 18 on religious freedom, freedom of conscience, and the freedom to change one’s religion.
When he offered a friendly critique of America and the West, Malik did so by constantly calling the West, should it stray, to return, and to remain faithful to its bedrock values.
Free Christianity in the Near East and the West
As a Middle Eastern Christian, Malik experienced the sorrows and joys that defined his community and empathized with the challenges facing native-rooted Christians across the Muslim world. Throughout the 20th century, he defended the freedoms of beleaguered Christians in his ancestral home of Lebanon, which meant little to Malik without its free Christian community.
Malik sought to preserve the cultural and spiritual connections between Lebanon’s Christians and the wider Christian world. When the occasion for tangible world Catholic-Orthodox rapprochement presented itself in the 1960s, Malik found himself in a unique position to help mediate and facilitate this ecumenical openness, given his special proximity to the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul.
In addition to his peace-making efforts between Christian traditions, he also believed Christians and Muslims could flourish together in reciprocal appreciation for one another’s differences– celebrating and fortifying their shared values while remaining true to their cherished beliefs.
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