Despite Charles Malik’s prolific career and accomplishments on the world stage, his written legacy has largely been lost to history, falling out of circulation or never making it to print. It survives in hard-to-access libraries and sometimes in languages foreign to Western readers.

The Library of Congress in D.C. holds the largest collection of Malik’s work with 114.8 linear feet of material. Below you will find the Charles Malik Institute’s ongoing effort to mine this archive, with occasional additions from other libraries, and bring Malik’s work back into public discourse.

Find a Charles Malik Original Quote

In this age of marching materialism, it is difficult to champion the cause of the spirit and mind of man; it is difficult to impress on the international community that even after man is fully secure in his so-called ‘economic…

In this age of marching materialism, it is difficult to champion the cause of the spirit and mind of man; it is difficult to impress on the international community that even after man is fully secure in his so-called ‘economic rights’ he may still be not-man. But unless man’s proper nature, unless his mind and spirit are brought out, set apart, protected and promoted, the struggle for human rights is a sham and a mockery.

The second question is to determine the place of the individual human person in modern society. This is the great problem of personal freedom. How is my personal freedom limited by society? Can I freely examine any issue? Can I criticize? Can I express my criticism? Can I rebel, oppose, and say no to my group, government, or nation? Or am I wholly and without any remainder determined by my social relations, so that I have no right to rebel, no right to ask questions, no right to look around and seek, no right to lift my head above the crowd and reach forth to the light and truth? In this age of conquering socialism, it is difficult to champion the cause of freedom. It is difficult to shout from the housetops that man cannot be absorbed by society, that he is by nature free to think, free to choose, free to rebel against his own society, or indeed against the whole world, if it is in the wrong.

Source: The Challenge of Human Rights 1

Human Rights |

There are two ultimate dangers besetting present-day preoccupation with the problem of human rights. The first is … the danger of materialism. Who is not clamoring today for his economic rights, for what is called a decent standard of living?…

There are two ultimate dangers besetting present-day preoccupation with the problem of human rights. The first is … the danger of materialism. Who is not clamoring today for his economic rights, for what is called a decent standard of living? . . . There is a deadly danger that in our enthusiasm for economic and social justice we forget that man cannot live by bread alone . . . The second danger is … the danger of humanism. We have been endlessly speaking of human rights, as though there was nothing except man in the universe, as though he was the center of existence … It is very well to speak of human rights, but may it not be that these rights have of late been disturbed or disregarded precisely because man—modern man, clever man, proud man, sensuous man, self-sufficient man—has ceased to stand in fear and awe before that which is above him? If we have our rights, God also has His rights over us; and in vain shall we seek our rights until, confessing our sins, we recognize in all brokenness and humility the dominion of God over the course of history and of human life.

Source: Human Rights in the United Nations 1

Faith | Human Rights | United Nations |

[T]he need to advance the cause of human rights is more important than meeting together and securing widespread publicity. The supreme need is for vigorous moral leadership. Given such leadership, grounded not in interest but in principle and vision, there…

[T]he need to advance the cause of human rights is more important than meeting together and securing widespread publicity. The supreme need is for vigorous moral leadership. Given such leadership, grounded not in interest but in principle and vision, there will emerge a real atmosphere of expectancy and positive cooperation that will carry along the hesitant, and shame the primitive and formless into action and commitment. Where the call is absolutely clear, nations will not dare stay behind. 

The need in this field is above everything else for courageous and sustained moral leadership, for one nation to put its own house in order and so be fired by a genuine sense of mission as to have its words on fundamental human rights ring with authority. I am afraid I must observe that authoritative moral leadership in the sphere of human rights is lacking today. This is one of the deepest issues facing our undertaking. 

The crisis therefore is in national and not in individual leadership. There is no sign of national moral vocation to lead in this field. There is everything in the background and fundamental outlook of certain nations to entitle them to take a bold lead concerning the ultimate emancipation of man; and yet such a lead is not forthcoming.  

The ordinary processes of the emergence of responsible leadership in the democratic world do not seem to be tossing up at present leaders of the requisite moral stature. By the time a man reaches the top he has usually expended his soul in compromise and appeasement. The result of all this is divided and enfeebled counsel. 

We need endless rational debate and discussion; we need the bracing touch of moral leadership; but without the real political will to discover, promulgate and enforce these rights, debate and leadership will avail nothing. The will is the agency of realization, and you may know all the truth and you may know it even with passion, but unless you also will it, it is unlikely to pass into actuality. I confess that there is in fact an inadequate international will to achieve human rights. (87-95)

Source: The Challenge of Human Rights 1

Crisis Leadership | Human Rights | United Nations |

The promotion of larger ideals, more universal norms, elaborated, not arbitrarily, but according to the nature of things—I mean norms concerning justice and truth, concerning man and his dignity, concerning the place of material goods in human life, concerning the…

The promotion of larger ideals, more universal norms, elaborated, not arbitrarily, but according to the nature of things—I mean norms concerning justice and truth, concerning man and his dignity, concerning the place of material goods in human life, concerning the source of political power, concerning freedom of thought and conscience, concerning intercultural interaction and respect, concerning how to meet aggression, whether it comes by external invasion or by internal subversion effectively directed from without—the promotion of some binding understanding among the nations upon these fundamental things is the only hope for peace in the world. (28)

Source: The Spiritual Significance of the United Nations 5

Human Rights | United Nations | Western Thought |

…However, it can be shown that the tragic conflicts of our times are all rooted in man’s division over his own interpretation of himself—of his origin, his essence, his destiny, his place in the universe–it is evident that in the…

…However, it can be shown that the tragic conflicts of our times are all rooted in man’s division over his own interpretation of himself—of his origin, his essence, his destiny, his place in the universe–it is evident that in the human rights enterprise these conflicts come to the sharpest focus, and that not between armchair philosophers or well-meaning idealists, but among the responsible representatives of the governments and effective cultures of the whole world. (22)

Source: The Spiritual Significance of the United Nations 2

Human Rights | United Nations | Western Thought |

In general, man is either viewed as wholly derivative from his social and material conditions, including his animal nature, or is regarded as possessing an original human nature which enables him, through reason and freedom, not only to exploit and…

In general, man is either viewed as wholly derivative from his social and material conditions, including his animal nature, or is regarded as possessing an original human nature which enables him, through reason and freedom, not only to exploit and control his material world, but even to rise above himself. The only proper way of reconciling conflicting interpretations is by viewing them from a higher standpoint, whereby they assume a natural order. This is possible in this case only on the basis of freedom. The philosophies which stress freedom and the spirit are surely able also to give our material needs their proper due; but the philosophies which sink man in the darkness of the subhuman are never able to do justice to freedom. (280)

Source: Human Rights in the United Nations 3

Human Rights | United Nations |

If we have our rights, God also has His rights over us; and in vain shall we seek our rights until we recognize in all humility the dominion of God over the course of history and of human life. (279)

If we have our rights, God also has His rights over us; and in vain shall we seek our rights until we recognize in all humility the dominion of God over the course of history and of human life. (279)

Source: Human Rights in the United Nations 2

Faith | Human Rights | United Nations |

…the Western World has not so far articulated a sufficiently dynamic message in the economic, social, and cultural field that will fire the imagination of the non-Communist rest of the world. The Communist message in this regard still exerts a…

…the Western World has not so far articulated a sufficiently dynamic message in the economic, social, and cultural field that will fire the imagination of the non-Communist rest of the world. The Communist message in this regard still exerts a strong pull. The problem for the Western world therefore is whether, maintaining and even strengthening its fundamental respect for man and his freedom, which is undoubtedly the most important thing, it can nevertheless summon sufficient boldness of thought and action to convince the rest of the world of its willingness and ability to lead it into an age of plenty, equality and justice. (278)

Source: Human Rights in the United Nations 1

Communism | Human Rights | United Nations | Western Thought |

The tragedy of the world today is that the traditions which embody the deepest truth are not bothering clearly, sufficiently, responsibly, boldly to articulate themselves. 

The tragedy of the world today is that the traditions which embody the deepest truth are not bothering clearly, sufficiently, responsibly, boldly to articulate themselves. 

Source: Human Rights and Religious Freedom 8

Faith | Human Rights |

In this age of marching materialism, it is difficult to champion the cause of the spirit and mind of man; it is difficult to impress on the international community that even after man is fully secure in his so-called ‘economic…

In this age of marching materialism, it is difficult to champion the cause of the spirit and mind of man; it is difficult to impress on the international community that even after man is fully secure in his so-called ‘economic rights’ he may still be not-man. But unless man’s proper nature, unless his mind and spirit are brought out, set apart, protected and promoted, the struggle for human rights is a sham and a mockery. 

Source: Human Rights and Religious Freedom 7

Faith | Human Rights |


Copyright © 2023 Charles Malik Insitute. All rights reserved.

An Initiative of The Philos Project.