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New Chancellor at Queen’s

December 11th, 2009

image174512enQueen’s University, Belfast has inaugurated a new Chancellor, His Excellency Kamalesh Sharma, who after a distinguished career as a diplomat, now serves as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth. He succeeds Senator George Mitchell who retired from the position this past summer after serving for 10 years.

In his inaugural address, Kamalesh endorsed the goal of the administration at Queen’s to see it become one of the top 100 universities in the world and he distinguished between globalisation and globalism. We recognise the phenomenon of globalisation, but globalism is a mindset, or an ideology, that emphasizes the current trend toward international organisations and institutions. Some people claim that globalism has one world government as its ultimate goal, a frightening notion for many, and one that would have some of my friends reaching for their Bibles and turning up the Book of Revelation.

What was interesting about the inaugural address was how the new Chancellor talked about globalism in exclusively humanistic terms. In working for an expanded, global mindset, there was no mention of anything spiritual or religious. This goal, he said, would be achieved by looking inside ourselves and working through education.

In our very religious world, its hard to see how increased international cooperation can be achieved, or how hearts and minds can be changed, without taking into account our identity as religious beings made in the image of God. The very basic issue of justice and human rights, a key component of any international society, cannot be addressed through a purely secular approach. Nicholas Wolterstorff makes this point in his book, Justice: Rights and Wrongs where he traces our intuitions about rights and justice back to the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.

What we need, for a theistic grounding of human rights, is some worth-imparting relation of human beings to God that does not in any way involve a reference to human capacities. I will argue that being loved by God is such a relation; being loved by God gives a human being great worth. And if God loves equally and permanently each and every creature who bears the imago dei, then the relational property of being loved by God is what we have been looking for. bearing that property gives to each human being who bears it the worth in which natural human rights inhere.

I endorse the desire of Queen’s to increase its international and global connections, but that will be done best, not by suppressing its Christian foundations and opting for a purely secular, humanistic approach. We remember that the first Chancellor of Queen’s was The Earl of Shaftesbury, whose famous forebear initiated great social reforms in Britain as he worked out his strong Christian convictions.

2Of course, the most obvious Christian connection which Queen’s has is through that well-known son of Belfast, C.S Lewis, whose contribution to literature and Christianity is recognised in the C.S. Lewis Reading Room in the wonderful new library. Personally I would love to see Queen’s build on that connection and establish a C.S.Lewis Study Centre where an inter-disciplinary study of literature, Christian apologetics, and media could be focused. I am certain that such a facility would contribute to the international appeal and reputation of the university.

After all, who could fail to be interested in the writings of a man who gave us The Chronicles of Narnia, and who had so many insights?

Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.

Can a mortal man ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable.

A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful in his reading.

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