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Birth and education
Born in Bterram (Btourram), Lebanon, Malik was the son of Dr. Habib Malik and Zarifa Karam. Malik was the great-nephew of the renowned author Farah Antun. Malik was educated at the American Mission School for Boys, now Tripoli Evangelical School for Girls and Boys in Tripoli and the American University of Beirut, where he graduated with a degree in mathematics and physics. He moved on to Cairo in 1929, where he developed an interest in philosophy, which he proceeded to study at Harvard (under Alfred North Whitehead) and in Freiburg, Germany 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 metaphysics in the philosophies of Whitehead and Heidegger) from Harvard University. He taught there as well as at other universities in the United States. After returning to Lebanon, Malik founded the Philosophy Department at the American University of Beirut, 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.
In the United Nations
Malik represented Lebanon at the San Francisco 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 Universal Declaration of Human Rights with Chair and President of the Human Rights Commission, U.S. 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 Union. After a three-year absence, he returned in 1958 to preside over the thirteenth session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Roles in Lebanon
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 Assembly in 1957, and served there for three years.
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. An 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 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 University in Washington, DC, Dartmouth College (New Hampshire), University of Notre Dame (Indiana). In 1981, he was also a Pascal Lecturer at the University of Waterloo in Canada. His last official post was with The Catholic University of America (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). Malik has been awarded a world record of honorary degrees (63).
Malik died of complications due to kidney failure, secondary to atheroembolic disease sustained after a cardiac catheterization, performed at the Mayo Clinic 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.
- Mary Ann Glendon. The Forum and the Tower: How Scholars and Politicians Have Imagined the World, from Plato to Eleanor Roosevelt (2011) pp 199–220
"The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world."
“The truth, if you want to hear it bluntly and from the start, is that independence is both a reality and a myth, and that part of its reality is precisely its myth.”
"The greatest thing about any civilization is the human person, and the greatest thing about this person is the possibility of his encounter with the person of Jesus Christ."
"You may win every battle, but if you lose the war of ideas, you will have lost the war. You may lose every battle, but if you win the war of ideas, you will have won the war. My deepest fear--and your greatest problem--is that you may not be winning the war of ideas."
"The great moments of the Near East are the judges of the world."
”The university is a clear-cut fulcrum with which to move the world. More potently than by any other means, change the university and you change the world.”
- "DR. CHARLES HABIB MALIK - 13th Session". United Nations. Retrieved November 14, 2011.
- Elias, Amin. "La liberté de conversion : le débat dans l’Islam est désormais quotidien". Fondazione Internazionale Oasis. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
- A film clip "Longines Chronoscope with Dr Charles Malik" is available for free download at the Internet Archive
- Charles Malek's biography in his hometown Bterram website
|President of the United Nations General Assembly
| Succeeded by|
Víctor Andrés Belaúnde
|President and Chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights
| Succeeded by|
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