Chapter 10

Peoples’ Participation in Asia

No one can be really qualified to speak decisively about the subject of the future directions of the ecumenical movement in Asia. One can only make general and comprehensive remarks based upon broad perceptions of Asian realities as well as of global developments. In the Asian ecumenical movement, the point of reference has been the reality of the people: God’s original creation. Thus, we seek to relate global developments to the reality of the people in Asia and to discern some signs for new directions for the ecumenical movement in Asia.

I. People Are Subjects of History

The history of participation of the people has its roots in the life of the people themselves. In the beginning, the people existed before anything else, and the social structures were created to serve the people in their historical circumstances. These structures though were often misused to subjugate the people by the powers-that-be. Ever since, arbitrary structures have been created by the powers-that-be to dominate the people throughout their history. The people, however, continued to assert their existence, to struggle for their survival and life and to create their own future. These traces of the people’s participation in history have been accumulated in the traditions of the people. Their political situations have been determined by various forms of traditional despotism, totalitarian powers of right and left, authoritarianism and bureaucratic, military and technocratic powers.

The struggles of the people against these oppressive powers have taken different forms of rebellion, resistance and revolution according to their historical circumstances. Their perception and grasp of historical realities and their visions have varied accordingly. There has been a rich reservoir of wisdom that has risen out of their suffering and struggles.

The people’s experiences and wisdom that have accumulated cannot be easily systematized, but rather they have to be shared through various forms of communication, such as stories. Any theories or systems of ideas on people’s participation have to be subject to their experiences and wisdom. Religious doctrines, political ideologies and other social philosophies and sciences are to be discerned in this context as to their usefulness to the people.

Within this framework, we seek to discern a history of people’s participation in recent Asian history. The people participated in the traditional rural political eco1~omy. The people took their own socio-economic security in their own communities with much creativity of common living and common socio-economic security. When times were difficult, they faced crises and disasters together through mutual cooperation and sharing. When there was unbearable exploitation and suppression from above or outside, they resisted and rebelled against heavy taxes and corvee burdens. Often they had to bear these burdens in patience. The rich historical traditions of the people have been neglected hitherto because of the modernization drive by the nation-states in Asia, but they need to be rehabilitated and revitalized as roots of the people’s participation because modern social theories of the West have yet to provide real foundations for Asian societies where the real aspirations of the people are realized.

The colonial powers of the West and East penetrated the communities and kingdoms in Asia. The people had to defend themselves and their religio-cultural and national identity as well as socio-economic security. The struggle took the form of national independence and self-determination of the people. The people sometimes had to use the tools of the colonial powers to resist their domination as the leaders of the independence movements were often trained in the West. One movement emphasized the political independence of the nation-state; another stream of thought and action emphasized the people’s socio-economic security as well as national independence. The people appropriated ideas of self-determination, national independence and liberation, self-reliance and political sovereignty as they struggled to participate in their own history.

After World War II, the people assented to the formation of nation-states, which would bring freedom, justice and prosperity to them. The nation-states were led by the leaders who had struggled for national independence and liberation. The perennial question was how to relink their modernization programs with the formerly colonial and Western powers. Some chose socialist modernization; others chose capitalist models; still others chose mixed economies with liberal polity.

It is in this process of so-called modernization that the following problems have taken place: industrialization, urbanization and rural impoverishment; alienation and discrimination of ethnic and national minorities; political oppression and the violation of human rights; and cultural discrimination and repression against women and the young. All of these problems have been intensified under the rubric of the nation-states, which are often interlocked with the global economic, military and political powers that are pitted against the people.

This situation has been primarily determined by the global Cold War conflict and polarity between two military superpowers. This polarity has penetrated every aspect of the life of the people, giving the nation-states almost absolute claims over the people, which are direct violations of the people’s subjecthood. In this context, national security concerns often have functioned against the security of the people.

II. Understanding the World from the Perspective of Asian Peoples

As the world is in the wake of drastic and rapid change, the distinct characteristics of Asian peoples offer a special vantage point to view the emerging world order. As the word changes, the peoples of Asia are very much affected by these changes. We cannot think of Asia in isolation either militarily or geo-politically or economically or religio-culturally. The destiny of the Asian peoples is closely intertwined with the future of all the people on the globe. What we need to think about is the perspective of Asian peoples with which they see the whole world’s problems as well as themselves and their own situations.

A. The Impact of Perestroika on Asian Nations

The drastic and rapid change of the world has several dimensions with the most immediate change taking place in the Cold War Order. The policy of perestroika of the Soviet Union is not only transforming Soviet society and the societies of the Eastern bloc countries, but it is also drastically revising the global order from the Cold War rivalry to a new "security (?)" structure for the East and the West. In the short term, these changes are being resisted in China, north Korea and some other Asian socialist states, but these states will have to adjust to the global changes.

B. The Erosion of the Cold War Order and Its Many Dimensions

These changes in the socialist states and in the global order challenge the Western policy of containment and confrontation with the Soviet Union and its socialist allies. The security policy and military establishment of the United States and its alliances with other Western nations, such as NATO, ANZUS, U.S.- Japan bilateral relations and with other nations, have rapidly become "redundant" in the changing global order of military security between the East and the West. This will have considerable impact among the security arrangements of Asian nations. For example, there will be a change in the security policies between socialist nations and capitalist nations in Asia. Since the Gulf War, the U.S.-centered global military order may be on the horizon. Relations between north and south Korea, between China and Taiwan, Japan and the Soviet Union, Korea and the socialist states, Asian socialist states and ASEAN nations and the position of India between the United States and the Soviet Union are all subject to changes already.

C. The Common European House:
Europe Centered-World? Greater North-South Gap?

Furthermore, the Common European House is emerging as the dominant economic power, and it is predicted that it will grow rapidly for the next 10 years because of the introduction of the market system in the East European nations and the 1992 economic integration of the European Community. This will seriously affect the economically weaker sectors of the global village, particularly its southern half. Some Asian nations, such as Newly Industrializing Countries (NICs), will participate in the economic surge in Europe, but most of the Asian people are likely to suffer more economic hardship than ever before as world resources will be drawn to Eastern and Western Europe.

D. Technetronics of Transnational Corporations Will Penetrate Asia

The next decade of the world will experience the so-called technetronic age on a global scale, which is already apparent in some Asian countries. This had been predicted as early as the 1970s by none other than Zbigniew Brzyzenski (Between Two Ages,1970). The transnational corporations (TNCs) of the Western nations will be free to penetrate all societies -socialist or capitalist, developed or underdeveloped - with their technetronic logic. In one sense, the socialist system has not been able to cope already with the TNCs’ technetronic power, and therefore, it is alleged the collapse of the socialist economic system has come about.

Technetronics will dominate the military, bureaucracy, economic organizations and the communication media to dictate the total life of the people from faraway places. The post-industrial world will be dominated by technetronic power, and naturally, the people of Asia cannot escape this predicament.

E. The Expropriation of Higher Values by the Powerful

The dramatic disintegration of the Cold War bipolarization of the world will further erode the doctrinaire ideologies, both socialism and capitalism. There has already been an emergence of trust in the pragmatic approach to economic and social policies rather than any orthodox approach in building social systems. However, the pragmatic approach alone will not be sufficient in dealing with deeper and more universal questions of humanity. Hence, the question of universal values will be seen, not as ideological expressions, but as transcendent ultimate references.

In this context, political, economic and technetronic powers will seek to exploit universal ar~d transcendent values, both religious and secular, to legitimize their hegemonic powers. The values of Asian religions, as well as the Christian faith, will be subject to mobilization by the powerful for the justification of established political powers, and political ideologies as ultimate references will be discredited in the foreseeable future. This will bring about severe competition between powers that seek to mobilize higher values to their side.

III. The People Aspire for the New Future:
An Upsurge of Democratic Participation

It is not only in the socialist states where democratic reforms are sought. In the nations of Asia, such as Burma, the Philippines, Pakistan, Korea, Taiwan and other nations, there are deeply rooted democratic aspirations bubbling in the bosom of the suffering peoples of Asia. In a similar way, the African people are struggling for multiparty democracy by striving to overcome one-party dictatorships. In Latin America, people are seeking to establish the "civil society" by overcoming militarized societies and establishing people’s movements. This is not merely on the political level but also on the level of peace movements, consumer movements, ecology movements, women’s movements and minority people’s movements. These are all part and parcel of democratic movements of the people in Asia. The peoples’ movements for participation are the central thrust of Asian history today.

A. Religious Values as a Reservoir of Wisdom
in Search of an Alternative Human Community

The Asian people have learned to live together and are still learning how to live together in community, for they are destined to do so even though there are often flare-ups of communal, societal and national conflicts. The question of living together in community among different religious, racial and ethnic peoples will become a question of living together under the rubric of universal values while preserving one’s own identity and, at the same time, transcending the limits of one’s own race, ethnicity and religion. Racism, ethnic bigotry, economic greed, hunger for political power, religious intolerance and self-centered values create short-term events and long-term contexts that fracture humanity. What the human world needs is a trans-racial, trans-ethnic and trans-religious solidarity which is truly an ecumenical bond for justice, peace and wholeness of heaven and earth. Justice, peace and the integrity of Creation are vitally related to the religious traditions of Asian people.

IV. People’s Participation in the National Contexts in Asia

A. The Nation-State as the Center of Power in Asia

The life of the people in Asia as well as in other parts of the world has been determined by the power configuration in any given nation-state. Some states are heavily dependent upon other political and economic powers within and outside of the nation. Even religious and cultural influences can come from outside, as well as from within, to effect changes in the nation-state, and yet the nation-state is the current nucleus around which the life of the people is organized. A new alignment of centralized power is necessary to open the way for the people’s participation.

B. The Secular and Religious State in Asia

Two axes have decided the nature of the State: the first is religious or secular; the second is socialist or capitalist. The demarcations of these axes have never been clear cut, but they serve to clarify the nature of the State in our discussion.

None of the traditional kingdoms and nations in Asia were strictly secular; most of them had religious underpinnings. This means that the religious traditions of Asian people contained much political wisdom. This, however, has been substituted for, or eroded by, the Western idea of the secular state, which means independence from religious values as well as religious institutions. The secular states in Asia as well as the religious or semi-religious states followed the ways of the Western secular nations as they sought to modernize or Westernize themselves. Recently there has been some revival or resurgence of religions, which has implications for the nature of the State. Islam in Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia; Hinduism in India; Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Thailand; Christianity in the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand; and Shinto in Japan have become definite political influences to the extent that these religions affect the nature of the State and the political life of the people.

C. Westernization and Modernization of the Political Economy

This trend is countered by the idea of the Western secular states, capitalist and socialist, which seek to strictly separate the State from religion. The socialist states have gone on to define religion as destructive to society, but now this is being challenged in the Eastern European nations. This trend will likely come soon in Asia as well. The countries that adopted capitalism on the economic level have been practicing "pragmatic atheism" in which the economy runs without religious influence, although some countries seek to apply religious principles to their capitalist economies. Capitalism is fundamentally a secular reality of its own, whatever theoretical explanations of it there may be in terms of its origin.

D. Religion in Itself and Its Institutionalization (Religion and Power)

We need to speak about religions on two dimensions: the first is the established institutional dimension, which is closely related to the reality of power and the powerful; the second is a transcendent dimension, which is not related to the powerful institutions but is closely related to the alienated people in their powerlessness. Religion that transcends the religious institutions and powers is genuine, for it seeks to transform the existing power structures by realizing the aspirations of the oppressed people as well as refusing to function to justify the powers-that-be. The problem with the resurgence and revival of religions is that they seek to be "political" religions holding power, either directly or indirectly. The political service of religions should be to manifest religious values in the political life of the people without becoming the power holders or without being integrated into the dominant political institutions.

E. The Service of Religion for the Political Life of the People

The service of religion in the political life of the people should not be regarded as mere secularization of politics. History has shown that the secularization of politics in Asia has not provided a sufficient condition for the democratic development of the people. Religions in Asia should serve the realization of the full sovereignty of the people in their political life. Often religions have served the nation-states in their drive for absolute and authoritarian power, which violates the sovereign rights of the people, particularly their basic human rights.

F. The Sovereignty of the People

Asian peoples have been expressing their ardent aspirations for democratic participation in political life. The realization of their full political sovereignty is a priority in the changing global context. This is manifest in different ways in each of the Asian countries, but there is an emergence of democratic movements in every nation. Religion can be a decisive factor at this crucial historical juncture of Asian political development.

G. The Concept of National Economy vs. People’s Economy

The nation-states have become the basic units of economic development, whether socialist or capitalist models are adopted. The role of the nation-states in this respect has often been exaggerated or overemphasized causing violation of the socio- economic rights of the people. Many nations have carried out successive five-year plans of economic development; but whether under capitalist development or socialist development, the Asian people have not been able to escape from daily hunger, dire poverty and cruel injustice. The political cost of most of the so-called NICs in Asia can be attributed to the authoritarian role of the State in shaping economic policy in collaboration with global capital. Although the nature of their victimization varies in each country, Asian peoples have suffered during the past 40 years with the exception of those belonging to the upper echelons of their societies. History, however, must be seen from the underside of Asia’s societies.

H. The Search for People’s Political Economy

The people cannot sit any longer and discuss the relative virtues of capitalism or socialism under the aegis of Cold War competition. The people need whatever economy will secure their socio-economic security - one that is decided with their own participation. The people cannot leave economics to the state planners, capitalists and experts. They must take charge of their own economic and social well-being. Their economic life is an integral, valuable part of their humanity.

I. Asian Religions and People’s Political Economy

The wisdom of Asian religions can serve the people in their formation of a political economy to achieve humane socio-economic security in their own nations. National economies as the basic units of people’s economic life have up to now been subjected to internal political control and dependency upon external economic powers, such as transnational capital. A common ecumenical search for liberative religious wisdom in Asian religions in order to realize socio-economic security is an important ecumenical agenda for us, just as it is critically important to realize the sovereignty of the people in their economic, social and political life.

J. Technetronic Power as a Modern Culture among Asian People

What has been maintaining the shackles of social injustice, the vicious cycle of conflict and violence, the permanent condemnation of the people to fate and apathy and the misery of hunger, poverty and disease? The socalled modernizers, whether capitalists or socialists, blamed Asian traditional religions. They discarded the wisdom of Asian people as obstacles to progress. The secular rationality has instead been regarded as the saving logic for historical progress. Technology has been incarnated as a rationality that has been allowed to penetrate into the economic process, into statecraft and into the security apparatus. The consequence of this process has been the subjugation of the people by the technocratic powers.

K. Christian Theology, Asian Religions and Modern Culture

Asian peoples have rich religious and cultural heritages that can contribute to the cultural and religious life of the peoples on the whole earth. Unfortunately, past and present distortions of Asian religious and cultural heritages and wisdom prevented people from appreciating their true values. The Christian theology of religion and culture in the Western missionary movement is guilty of theological and cultural arrogance and prejudice that still resides in the life of Asian churches.

L. Trans-Religious Solidarity

In the new horizon of history, Asian churches and the ecumenical movement are standing together with Asian religions to enter into solidarity with Asia’s people in their struggle to shape their own political, economic and cultural life and destiny. Churches and ecumenical movements must have courage more than ever to enter into deeper sharing and dialog with Asian religions within the context of this struggle for a common and shared vision of society. The crises within the ideologies that dominated the Cold War era make this ecumenical agenda more compelling than ever before.

The penetration of Western scientific and technetronic rationality into Asia’s societies and the lives of its people has been subtle, to say the least, as it becomes absorbed into the security apparatus, statecraft and economy in the name of modernization. This Western secular thrust of history has been destructive of the subjectivity of the people in their political, economic and cultural life. We cannot celebrate this secularization of power as the process also eliminates the place of the Christian faith in history, discarding it as a pre-modern anachronistic religious tradition together with other Asian religions.

V. The Asian Ecumenical Agenda:
Churches Serve the People for Participation

Initially the Asian ecumenical agenda was framed from the Western global perspective, but gradually it became clear that the historical agenda of Asia’s peoples should set the agenda for the churches and ecumenical movement in Asia. This is, indeed, a dramatic change. Churches and ecumenical movements in Asia have sought to discern God’s Word in the Bible in the context of the suffering and struggling experiences of Asia’s peoples and to shape the life and witness, ministry and mission of the churches from within the same context. Theological reflections have been taking place in the t~udst of the struggles of the people and have gradually been replacing Western theological traditions. This is certainly a creative and faithful development.

A. The People of Asia Are the Context:
The People Are Subjects of History

Within this context, Asian churches and ecumenical movements have taken the burning issues of the political and economic life of Asia’s peoples, on one hand, and the deep religious faith and cultural heritages of Asian peoples, on the other. We have set our thinking, life and action as churches and ecumenical movement in this frame of reference. We are making some breakthroughs in this respect in the ongoing work of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA). We must continue in this direction.

However, in light of new global and Asian contexts, we need to give some thought to emerging priorities for an ecumenical agenda in Asia.

B. Issues

i.Political Vision

The sovereign rights of the people, including human rights, have been eroded by the formation of powers in nation-states whose right to rule they claim is based upon ideologies that protect national security and the integrity of the nation-states. This claim to power has occurred through collusion and alliances with the great powers in the name of modernization and the development of their economies, depending upon the interests of global capital. The democratic movements of the people in almost every nation in Asia, as well as in other parts of the world, demand sharper clarification of the nature of the democratic society beyond the definitions of liberal and people’s democracies; instead, they seek definitions based on the nature and mechanisms of the full participation of the people.

ii. Political Economy

The socio-economic security of the people is denied by the capitalist societies. The so-called NICs have emerged in Asia to mediate the penetration and domination of global capital that is rooted in the West and Japan. The sacrifices and victimizations of the Asian peoples by the NICs as well as the Western and Japanese economies have to be dealt with when we are concerned about the socio-economic security of the people. We need to clarify the nature of economic violence of NICs in connection with the economic powers of the West and Japan.

Now the socialist economies in the so-called Second World and in Asia are being challenge* because of their stagnation as well. They no longer serve as an alternative economic model of development for the people in Asia and the Third World.

Furthermore, the rapid introduction of the market process in the formally socialist countries in Europe, the economic market integration of the European Economic Community (EEC) and the emergence of the vision of the European Common House will make the global economic order sharply bipolarized into the richer North and the poorer South. This will adversely affect the majority of AMan people who are already poor and hungry.

The search for viable economic alternatives that will realize the basic socio-economic security of the peoples of Asia is an urgent task today when neither capitalism nor socialism promises such a prospect for the people so long as the people are not allowed to participate.

The key issue is people’s participation in any economy. The nation-states, corporations and other economic entities have not allowed the people to participate in the planning and execution of economic development and in the sharing of the resources for life. Democratic participation in the social and economic life of society is essential in any economy, for the people’s participation is the core element necessary to secure the socioeconomic life of the people.

C. The Unity and Solidarity of the Human Community Should Be Realized in Justice and Peace

The disintegration and dismantling of the Cold War military order and security arrangements is bound to have an enormous impact upon the issue of peace and security in Asia. The need to maintain the military systems (weapon systems and political arrangements) has considerably weakened, and the doctrine of national security that justified political oppression and the military build-up in many Asian countries has rapidly eroded. This process will continue in the foreseeable future.

However, international and national tensions and violence may increase in a different form. The national military forces of Asia’s nations will be relatively autonomous as the need for American and Soviet military hegemonies are weakened. For example, one can anticipate that Japan will be a relatively autonomous military power of a major size in Asia. This trend might increase tensions in Asia, if not actual violence. Major military powers, such as militaries in south and north Korea, will find themselves in a dilemma as their role is reduced in the relaxed Cold War environment.

Perhaps international military security may give way to internal security as the peoples in Asia and the Third World will challenge the political and economic powers for democracy and economic justice. International violence may be shifted from the military theaters to national social scenes where the violence of the national and international powers may be more fiercely directed against the people’s struggle for freedom and security. Thus, while the pressure of international wars may be reduced, internal violence may be more sophisticated and more intensified than before.

Here we may have to call for dismantling the entire violent security apparatus in every nation, and peace should be called for on the social level as well as on the international military level. The structural violence of the powers and their subtle exercises have to be analyzed and opposed by the peace movement. Religious people may be specially called to be peace workers in our world.

It is in this context that contradictions and violent conflicts between male and female, among racial and ethnic groups, between classes and caste, together with their cultural and religious dimensions, become more violent than ever.

The struggles of the people for justice and liberation from the violent powers will have to be an effort to foster a peaceful community as a real alternative for human society.

This may demand a total ecumenical mobilization of peace traditions, particularly from Asia’s cultural and religious heritages. The Asian people’s peace movement will have to address the question of violence on all levels - economic, social, military and political, cultural and ecological -perpetrated by the powers against the people and against life’s environment.

D. Religious and Cultural Identity and Freedom Should Be Fulfilled

The doctrines of national security and economism (a mammonism - a doctrine that the economy is the most important realm of life, and anything else can be sacrificed) have taken the place of supreme values in our societies. Ideologies dominate human values in society. Now the secular culture of rationality founded on science and technology has become the standard of truths and actions.

This has removed genuine human values that have roots in our religious and cultural traditions. The cultural life of the people is dominated by the rules that govern the jungle, and it has become a cultural wasteland from which truly humane values are driven out.

The invasion of "modern" Western culture has uprooted and suppressed the people’s cultural identity and freedom in Asia. Christian theology played a destructive role in this encroachment, for it identified with Western culture. There should be a radically open approach of the Christian churches to the religious and cultural life of Asia’s peoples, and it should defend the cultural identity of Asians and their religious faiths. This is a new ecumenical horizon which the Christian faith should take as its legitimate mandate.

E. The Protection of Life and Its Fulfillment:
Gardening for Life

The life of the people and all living things are under the violent onslaught of military, economic and technological powers. Now there is widespread recognition of the crisis of life because of the threats of ecological and military destruction. The burden of protecting the environment may be shifted from the Western industrial societies to Third World peoples. It should be clear that the problem is for all peoples, and the powerful should not shift the burden of ecological destruction to Third World societies.

Here again, the basic scientific and technological rationale of Western culture, the Western industrial economy and military strategy have created the ultimate threat to life on a cosmic scale. Asian religious and cultural values should be brought to bear to make a critical contribution toward building the "Garden of Life for All."

VI. Democracy and Participation of the People

A. Crises of Democracies:
People’s Democracy and Liberal Democracy

People’s democracy has failed, for democratic centralism and centralized planning in the economy did not allow the people to participate, either in politics or in the economy. Likewise, liberal democracies have not been successful as they cannot prevent the monopoly and domination of global capital, such as TNCs, and they cannot control the globally operating military apparatus of the powerful nations.

B. The Facade of Democracy in Third World Countries

Traditional authoritarianism, authoritarian bureaucracy, despotism and military dictatorships give lip service to democracy. It is in this context that a search for participatory democracy has new meaning.

i. In Africa, democracy for racial equality and ethnic identity is sought, and the one-party state is being rejected, for it cannot secure freedom nor basic socio-economic security.

ii. In Brazil, a "civil society" is sought as a new form of democracy that is free from military rule and that secures the social sovereignty of the people.

iii. The people reject democratic centralism of the party, and they are searching for a polity of direct participation.

iv. People of castes and ethnic, national and racial groups are seeking a democratic polity in which their self-determination, identity and justice are secured.

v. A new democratic polity that secures life on earth as well as human life is being sought.

vi. A new polity and political economy is being sought for the security of a whole and full life, which involves all aspects of human life, so that the sovereignty of the people over their whole and full life is realized (a Humane Village in the Garden of Life).

  • NATIONAL REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY HAS NO MEANING WITHOUT DEMOCRACY FROM BELOW.

  • PEOPLE MUST HAVE SOVEREIGNTY OVER THE TRANSNATIONAL POWERS BEYOND NATIONAL BOUNDARIES.

  • SOLIDARITY NETWORKS OF THE PEOPLE ARE SOUGHT AS A HORIZONTAL, DEMOCRATIC UNITY ON NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL LEVELS.

  • COMMUNICATION FOR SOLIDARITY LINKAGES OF THE PEOPLE, WHICH INCLUDES ALL LINGUISTIC, ETHNIC AND RELIGIO-CULTURAL IDENTITIES OF THE PEOPLE, CONTRIBUTES TO A NEW POLITICAL CULTURE.

  • AUTHORITY AND POWER HAS ITS ESSENCE IN SERVICE TO THE PEOPLE, not as a vehicle to rule or dominate them.

VII. Ecumenical Stakes

Christian theology has been a fellow traveler in this cultural journey of the West. Some theologies celebrated the secularization led by Western scientific reason. Christian theology must be humble and learn from the religious and cultural wisdom of the Asian peoples.

What are the stakes in these issues as we as churches and an ecumenical movement participate in the agenda of the people’s struggle?

A. Actions

  • Articulation of a Christian vision within the context of the people’s struggle in dialog with religious and secular visions of society in four areas: (I) the political vision of the people’s sovereignty; (2) the vision of a political economy for the socio- economic security of the people; (3) the vision of peace, internal (national) and international, against violent powers and their structures; and (4) the vision of the "Garden of Life."

  • Communication as a method of sharing a common vision, wisdom and experiences among the people; communication for solidarity; communication as cultural action against cultural violence and domination.

  • Common action in solidarity: interlinking solidarity and unity among liberation networks and building comprehensive and inclusive ecumenism beyond ecclesial ecumenism are methods to achieve a commonality of purpose. Inter-cultural and religious solidarity, inter-religious and inter-ethnic solidarity, inter-gender solidarity, inter-generational solidarity, trans-caste and trans-class solidarity are some forms of a new ecumenical horizon. For these emergent ecumenical solidarity actions to be born, truly ecumenical communication is critically important, and a solid infrastructure, such as a communication action network for solidarity, must be built.

  • Communication of deeper convictions and beliefs of faith, while learning and respecting convictions of Asian faiths, should be our path towards dialog and the formation of relationships with nonChristians. Traditional evangelism should be understood in this context of mutuality. The sharing of the Gospel among Asian peoples cannot be done in the old 19th century style of Christian aggression and conquest.

Unless we discover a genuine way of sharing the Gospel among Asian people, we may not be of any help to our sisters and brothers in the socialist countries in Asia. We should be prepared to learn from the churches in the socialist countries, and we need to understand the implications of those churches’ experiences and renew our churches in light of these churches’ experiences. We must pay special attention to this question as churches outside of these countries are still in the context of Christendom or in a similar situation.

B. Areas of Renewal

  • Reading the Bible in the context of the suffering and struggling peoples of Asia: we read the Bible of the early church directly into the life of the Asian peoples.

  • Articulating what we confess and believe in the Asian context today:
    theological declarations must be formulated to express the stances of the churches and ecumenical movements. These should be more than issue statements.

  • Reshaping church life, order (leadership and ecclesial democracy and administration of resources) and spiritual disciplines is necessary.

  • Theological reflections and ethical articulations for the life and mission of the churches, particularly Christian social ethics, are to be reformulated in the Asian context.

  • Reshaping mission strategies and building a new network of infrastructures for solidarity with the suffering and struggling peoples in Asia is part of the agenda for new life in the Church.

VIII. Conclusion

The future directions of the churches and ecumenical movement in Asia are stated primarily in terms of continuation of previous Asian ecumenical work, although new accents have been added in light of the current Asian and global context.

We need to envision an inclusive ecumenical (conciliar) process in Asia in the context of our solidarity with the suffering and struggling peoples in Asia on the national, regional and global levels.

The perspective of such an ecumenical process should be the Asian people who are victimized because of the dominant economic, political/military and cultural powers.

The nexus of powers that affect the people are: (1) the European, North American and Japanese economic entities that operate in Asia directly through their corporations and indirectly through international organizations and local partners; (2) the formal and informal military networks that operate in Asia directly or indirectly through military alliances and cooperative networks; and (3) the communication and transportation networks that facilitate the information and personnel links of the powerful segments of the world. The ecumenical process in Asia should involve the networks of solidarity among the peoples through intensive communication and exchanges in order to share their experiences, wisdom and visions to overcome oppressive and violent forms of domination. The democratic aspirations of peoples in all Asian countries are our fundamental points of reference for our ecumenical process in Asia. National power structures that suppress the sovereign rights of the people cannot be our final points of reference.

The ecumenical process in Asia should be based upon inter- religious and inter-cultural communication for solidarity. It should include inter-linking liberation movements in all sectors with peace movements and ecological movements, for these issues are interconnected and have to be treated as a whole. Otherwise, there will be fragmentation and even futile competition among the people.

The Asian ecumenical process should be from the grassroots to the national level to the regional level to the global level. The Asian perspective must be operative in the global ecumenical process. For example, the Asian ecumenical process cannot be limited to an intra-ecclesial, conciliar process of unity, but it must involve solidarity with the people’s movements of Asia of both religious and secular convictions. This is the ecumenical horizon ahead in order to forge a process for people’s participation in the present and future direction of their lives.