*Tentative* ICP PLAN OF ACTION
Violence, often mislabeled as religious violence, has increasingly rocked our world since the terrorist bombings in New York and Washington DC. While such violence was a reality in much of the world long before 9/11 became a word synonymous with terrorism, the 9/11 attacks changed the nature of the violence. Now, more than ever, religious differences are, rightly or wrongly, blamed as the culprit. This serves to increase tensions and misunderstandings between people of different religious faiths. At the same time, those in power have found the war on terror to be an easy excuse to carry out repressive policies when their own people become restive due to frustration with coercive and/or manipulative government policies. This environment of division, distrust, dis-information and repression does not bode well for the future of our threatened world.
We in Asia have also felt the brunt of this "religious" violence, but at the same time we find many common elements that compel us to work together for inter-religious cooperation. Religious and ethnic conflict in many parts of Asia have existed for many generations, but external factors such as the "war on terrorism" have exacerbated this environment of conflict and will continue to do so. Such conflicts shatter patterns of communal harmony that have existed for centuries. A common factor that underlies these conflicts is when one group seeks to dominate and impose its will on others.
The lack of a functioning democratic process on both the local and global levels hinders inter-religious cooperation in many places. The concerns of marginalized people are frequently not heard and attended to by those in power. Economic disparity and the unjust control of resources often compound this lack of representation, leaving financial and intellectual resources in the hands of a few elite individuals and countries. Globalization of the market economy has widened the gap between the rich and poor, which in turn intensifies social conflict.
The increasing prevalence of violence in our world underlines the importance of cooperation across religious lines. This refers not only to communal violence, but also to everyday violence toward those sectors of society least able to defend themselves - women, children, the poor, and ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities.
Religion in itself is not the cause of conflict and violence. However, we must face the sad reality that religious identity and emotions are too often manipulated to further the self-centered goals of vested interests. Religion thus gets politicized and manipulated by powerful groups and individuals to promote political ambitions and the pursuit and maintenance of power and domination. Attitudes of superiority, whereby some religious groups consider themselves better than others, are easily exploited by the unscrupulous to foment unhealthy competition, hatred, injustice and conflict.
In this situation, the basis of inter-religious cooperation must be those religious values that we hold in common. All our religions teach peace, justice, compassion for those who suffer, equality, love, human dignity and solidarity, non-violence, sensitivity to others and the oneness of the human family. We all believe that humanity and nature are interdependent. However, we must humbly acknowledge that our own communities have often failed to be agents of peace and to live according to our shared values. Such a self-critical attitude must be accompanied by a love and renewed commitment to what is best in our own tradition, as well as genuine respect and esteem for the spiritual and humane values enshrined in all religions of the powerful.
The challenge we face is whether we can work together on the basis of these shared values to build more just, peaceful, harmonious and sustainable societies.
As people of different faiths, we should be concerned that life is not about control (of the environment, of goods, of the world) but it is about our relationship with God and our common humanity. We should realize that we are not talking about absoluteness, nor about fundamentalist views of what is right and what is wrong. We need to learn how other religions understand and live out the common values that we all share.
Therefore, the Consultation on Interfaith Cooperation in Asia, which was held in Prapat, North Sumatera, Indonesia from 5-10 April 2003, called for an on-going effort to build religious unity in the Asian region to facilitate the examination or different religious perspectives on the root causes of some of the threats and conflicts we experience in community today such as poverty, consumptive lifestyles, and unjust distribution of land. The on-going effort, called the Interfaith Cooperation Program (ICP) will work on building regional religious partnerships for working together for the transformation of society. It will be an endeavor to find alternatives through listening, learning, and discerning messages from the grassroots and the development of cooperative efforts to achieve these alternatives together through involvement and action.
The ICP program outline below covers the years 2005-2007 and is based on the recommendations put forth by the participants of the Prapat Consultation.
2. AIM AND OBJECTIVES
Support an Asian movement for justice and transformation that:
- is inter-religious in nature;
- is regional in scope;
- focuses on marginalized communities;
- confronts the roots of violence, and;
- promotes justice in the economic, political and social spheres.
1) Inter-religious Networking:
Build up a regional network of individuals and groups from different
religions who are committed to working in an inter-religious movement
for justice and peace.
2) Inter-religious Information:
Systematically collect and organize information for use in regional inter-
religious justpeace actions.
3) Inter-religious Activities for Justpeace:
Identify the political, economic and social causes of conflict and injustice
in the region and create regional activities that can effectively deal with
these root causes in ways that are sensitive to gender, ethnicity, age,
religious belief and social inequalities.
4) Annual Inter-religious Cooperation
Create annual programs in which regional inter-religious activities will
take place on a common day and focused on common justice issues.
This plan is based on recommendations made in 2003 at the first Inter-religious Consultation in Indonesia. Every six months the program plan will be reviewed in light of new issues and recommendations that arise from the various projects. If the need for a change in the over all three-year plan becomes evident, it will be discussed in detail with the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs (APAY), and Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst / Church Development Service (EED).
3. A) Networking
Build up a regional network of individuals and groups from different religions who are committed to working in an inter-religious movement for justpeace.
Identify individuals and groups in the Asia region who are already carrying out interfaith activities for justpeace, or who are interested in becoming involved in such activities.
Connect these individuals and groups for an effective exchange of ideas, experiences and strategies in building justpeace through:
- a newsletter and the ICP webpage
- exchange visits
2005 - 2007
Find individuals and groups in the Asia region concerned with interfaith justpeace by contacting members of already-existing networks, by searching through the internet and by making visits to countries experiencing serious violence.
Document what these groups and individuals are already doing so that their experience and wisdom can be used to strengthen the work of ICP.
Bring a group of these individuals and groups together in 2005 for a planning and strategy workshop to expand inter-religious justpeace activities in the Asia region.
Facilitate a process for these individuals and groups to exchange ideas and experiences through the internet and through exchange visits.
Create a program for two or three young interns representing different religious faiths to work together with the ICP each year in order to expose them to the regional issues and prepare them to help maintain the movement in the future.
d) Expected Outcomes
Network expanded to include individuals and groups from:
- Aceh (Indonesia), Burma, Cambodia, East Timor, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Viet Nam, West Papua (Indonesia)
- One workshop held in 2005 to bring people from these various countries together for a planning, strategy and action workshop
- A communications network created which will facilitate the flow of information, ideas and planning between all the groups.
- Two or three interns will have served with the ICP each year, developing their skills and interest and further developing work in their own countries.
- Several exchange visits each year will be organized to help active grassroots groups meet with each other on the field to learn, share and plan.
3. B) Website
Systematically collect and organize information for use in regional inter-religious justpeace actions.
- Establish a website that will serve the regional inter-religious movement for justpeace by providing space for them to share their writings on the subject and to exchange ideas.
The Documentation Center for Action Groups in Asia (DAGA) will build and maintain the website. The website will contain:
- movement activities
- background papers on each religion
- papers from consultations
- reflective papers on justpeace, inter-religious cooperation, etc.
- links to other important websites
2006 – 2007
- Maintain and buildup webpage, monitor usage and evaluate
d) Expected Outcomes
An active website, useful to the network in their inter-religious justpeace activities, will be created to which the ICP network contributes materials on a regular basis.
The ICP movement will continue to expand as more people throughout Asia become interest through reading materials on the website.>
The broader international community will be able to learn through the website about Asia regional inter-religious cooperation for justice and transformation.
3.C) Interfaith Peace Resource Center.
Systematically collect and organize information for use in regional inter-religious justpeace actions
Establish a documentation center where materials related to interreligious justpeace from around Asia can be collected and organized for regional use.
Identify materials on peace and justice that already exist and gather them in the documentation center. These materials might include training manuals, research papers, etc.
Create a database of regional resource persons who can serve as facilitators in interfaith justpeace meetings and activities.
Make these materials available to regional groups through a newsletter, webpage, etc.
Establish a space at the DAGA office specifically devoted to archiving materials related to regional, inter-religious justpeace activities.
2005 - 2007
Seek out existing materials including training manuals, books, journals, papers, articles, etc for collection, indexing and archiving.
Seek out resource persons in Asia who can help facilitate meetings, trainings and activities related to regional, inter-religious justpeace activities. Information concerning these resource persons will be made available through the webpage and other printed materials of the ICP.
Create an e-newsletter to help facilitate the sharing of information among the regional ICP network.
d) Expected Outcomes
The library of books and other printed materials will become an important resource for the regional inter-religious justpeace movement.
The ICP will be able to effectively provide appropriate resource persons to groups around Asia who are carrying out inter-religious justpeace activities.
A growing readership will contribute materials to the e-newsletter and the library.
3. D) Inter-religious School for Peace (ISP)
Identify the political, economic and social causes of conflict and injustice in the region and create regional activities that can effectively deal with these root causes in ways that are sensitive to gender, ethnicity, age, religious belief and social inequalities.
Bring together three small inter-religious teams (four to six persons each) to research issues identified as important regional issues by the first ICP consultation in Indonesia.
Develop a creative and user-friendly module, based on each team’s research, that can be used by groups to develop and expand their own inter-religious justpeace activities.
The ISP is designed to bring together people (especially youth) from around Asia who represent different religions and can research specific issues related to conflict and violence in order to create materials (modules) which can be used by groups throughout the region for study and action. These materials do not represent models for groups to duplicate, but rather will provide processes local and regional groups can use to identify their own root issues and their cultural, traditional and historical wisdom that can be used to effectively work for positive transformation of those issues so that justpeace can emerge.
The created materials must meet the aim and objectives of the ICP and must also:
- be based on local experience and wisdom;
- help identify what is already being done so that it can be positively
- be practical and easily adapted for use in different cultures;
- not be model-styled manuals, but rather provide a set of activities
and processes that can help people develop approaches to building
inter-religious justice activities based on their own history, culture
and traditions, and;
- not create new, or exasperate already existing ethnic or religious
Responding to the recommendations of the Prapat Consultation, research on the target issues should result in materials that:
- help individuals and/or organizations examine and evaluate school
text books to identify cases of prejudices and stereotyping and to
propose educational materials that enhance interfaith respect,
harmony and human values;
- help create interfaith mediation and reconciliation teams that can
intervene in situations of violent conflicts; (this will require research
on what already exists so that there is not duplication)
- highlight the common points among religions that could be used by
groups to ordinary people and get translated into local languages;
(again this will require research on what already exists)
These modules will be used with already-existing inter-religious justpeace groups to identify strengths and weaknesses so they can be revised prior to making them available to the broader network.
In 2007, each team will test their module in an area of religious tension such as Sri Lanka, Mindanao Philippines, India, or Indonesia. After the trial run, the modules will be adjusted to make them more suitable for broader use. They will then be distributed to groups actively involved in inter-religious work for justice and transformation. The modules will also be placed on the ICP webpage and added to as groups make use of them and gain new experiences.
Create three inter-religious teams to research the three issues identified by the Prapat consultation.
Monitor the research progress.
Each team will prepare their module based on their research.
The modules are tested in specific areas where religious violence is prevalent (i.e. Sri Lanka, Indonesia or Philippines)
Modules are evaluated and edited as necessary.
Modules are distributed and placed on the ICP webpage.
Teams become available as resource persons for organizations wanting to use the modules in their programs.
New issues are identified for research, teams created and the process repeated.
e) Expected Outcomes
The three teams will each produce a detailed module that can be used regionally to help build inter-religious activities for justice and peace.
The modules will result in an expansion of the inter-religious movement for justice and peace which will strengthen the network’s efforts to lower violence in the region.
The members of the three teams will be able to serve as resource persons as the modules are used by inter-religious groups around Asia.
New important issues will be identified for further research.
3.E) Asian Interfaith Day
Create an annual activity in which regional inter-religious activities will take place on a common day and focused on common justice issues.
Establish an inter-religious group that can design and initiate an Asian Interfaith Day when interfaith events would be held in each country.
The Asian Interfaith Day will consist of activities focused on one particular issue and will help people throughout Asia come together as an inter-religious community to seek positive ways to transform the issue.
The Asian Interfaith Day will help people throughout the region recognize those areas of our faiths which we hold in common in order to neutralize conflicts and maximize cooperation and understanding.
Identify a specific date that can be designated as “Asian Interfaith Day” each year.
Create an inter-religious and regional committee that will be responsible to create an action-oriented plan for the Asian Interfaith Day
2005 - 2007
Carry out the Asian Interfaith Day each year, making it action-oriented and thematic.
d) Expected Outcomes
Common values shared by the different religious faiths will be highlighted, creating more harmony and tolerance.
Common issues facing people through Asia will be addressed in a way that can more effectively bring about transformation.