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Charles Malik


Charles Habib Malik (1906 - 28 December 1987) ( ) was a Lebanesemarker philosopher and diplomat.

Born in Bterram, Lebanonmarker, Malik was the son of Dr. Habib Malik and Zarifa Karam. He was educated at the American Mission School for Boys, now Tripoli Evangelical School for Girls and Boys in Tripolimarker and the American University of Beirutmarker, where he graduated with a degree in mathematics and physics. He moved on to Cairomarker in 1929, where he developed an interest in philosophy, which he proceeded to study at Harvardmarker (under Alfred North Whitehead) and in Freiburg, Germanymarker (under Martin Heidegger in 1932. His stay in Germany, however, was short-lived. He found the policies of the Nazis unfavorable, and left soon after they came to power in 1933. In 1937, he received his Ph.D. in philosophy (based on the metaphysics in the philosophies of Whitehead and Heidegger) from Harvard Universitymarker. He taught there as well as at other universities in the United Statesmarker. After returning to Lebanon, Malik founded the Philosophy department at the American University, as well as a cultural studies program (the 'civilization sequence program'). He remained in this capacity until 1945 when he was appointed to be the Lebanese ambassador to the United States and the United Nations.

Malik represented Lebanon at the San Franciscomarker conference at which the United Nations was founded. He served as a rapporteur for the Commission on Human Rights in 1947 and 1948, when he became President of the Economic and Social Council. The same year, he helped to draft the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights with Chair and President of the Human Rights Commission, U.S.marker Delegate to the U.N. General Assembly, Eleanor Roosevelt. He succeeded Mrs. Roosevelt as the Human Rights Commission's Chair. He remained as ambassador to the US and UN until 1955. He was an outspoken participant in debates in the United Nations General Assembly and often criticized the Soviet Unionmarker. After a three-year absence, he returned in 1958 to preside over the thirteenth session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Meanwhile, Malik had been appointed to the Lebanese Cabinet. He was Minister of National Education and Fine Arts in 1956 and 1957, and Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1956 to 1958. While a Minister, he was elected to the National Assemblymarker in 1957, and served there for three years.

Malik returned to his academic career in 1960. He travelled extensively, lectured on human rights and other subjects, and held professorships at a number of American universities including Harvard, the American Universitymarker in Washington, DCmarker, Dartmouth Collegemarker (New Hampshiremarker), University of Notre Damemarker (Indianamarker). In 1981, he was also a Pascal Lecturer at the University of Waterloomarker in Canadamarker. His last official post was with The Catholic University of Americamarker (Washington, DC), where he served as a Jacques Maritain Distinguished Professor of Moral and Political Philosophy from 1981 to 1983. Meanwhile, he had also returned to his old chair in Philosophy at the American University of Beirut (1962 to 1976).

Following the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War, which raged from 1975 to 1990, Malik helped to found the Front for Freedom and Man in Lebanon to defend the Christian cause. It was later renamed the Lebanese Front. A Greek Orthodox Christian, he was the only non-Maronite among the Front's top leaders, who included Phalangist Party founder Pierre Gemayel and former President and National Liberal Party leader Camille Chamoun. Malik was widely regarded as the brains of the Front, in which the other politicians were the brawn.

Malik was also noted as a theologian who successfully reached across confessional lines, appealing to his fellow Eastern Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, and Evangelicals alike. The author of numerous commentaries on the Bible and on the writings of the early Church Fathers, Malik was one of the few Orthodox theologians of his time to be widely known in Evangelical circles, and the evangelical leader Bill Bright spoke well of him and quoted him. Partly owing to Malik's ecumenical appeal, as well as to his academic credentials, he served as President of the World Council on Christian Education from 1967 to 1971, and as Vice-President of the United Bible Societies from 1966 to 1972.

Malik died of complications due to kidney failure, secondary to atheroembolic disease sustained after a cardiac catheterization, performed at the Mayo Clinicmarker two years earlier, in Beirut on 28 December 1987. His son, Habib Malik, is a prominent academic and human rights activist. He was also survived by his brother, the late Father Ramzi Habib Malik, a prominent Catholic priest who worked tirelessly for the cause of Christian reconciliation with the Jewish people as well as for the belief that the Jewish People are the elder brothers of the Christians.


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