by Mr. Lesley G. Capus
Lesley from Philippines is the out-going Youth Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and senior friend of SCM Philippines. This article is his keynote speech at the ASYG 2008 in Yong-In Korea, August 2008.
At the onset, let me express my sincere appreciation of having been given the opportunity and blessing to be in fellowship with church youth and student leaders across Asia today. I would like to begin my address not directly on the subject matter we intend to discuss, but by sharing a bit about the concept of Sarangbang, ‘love room’ or ‘room of love’. A sarangbang is a room found in a traditional Korean house, where people who do outdoor work, the husbands primarily, live and receive guests and talk about the outside world-politics, arts, and various disciplines of learning, etc. As time goes on, sarangbang in the rural areas has become a place or room where after they have worked that day, they come together and visit a house of their colleague to talk about varying issues and concerns. A sense of ‘culture of peace’ is promoted wherein it features fellowship, belongingness, openness and readiness to listen with one another, and ones opinion are respected and acknowledged though at times they might disagree on it.
Interestingly, in the arrangement of a Korean traditional house, we can find gender discrimination, which were influenced by Confucianism in the arrangement of structure. In order to differentiate the space for man and woman, their ancestors put a fence called ‘DAM’ in the house. ‘DAM’ implies the meaning of restriction. It is the restriction on time and area. Usually, they put fence for the purpose of sectionalizing personal territory from that of others. However, in ‘HAN OK’, the fence was also used for discriminating area against gender and class. It was used for differentiating the space for the live and the dead as well.
Sarangbang has managed to develop further as a meeting room, and to welcome visitors and where guests could as well stay. However, sarangbang seemingly is now dying out especially in the cities because most people are “too busy” and “have learned too much about “western individualistic culture” according to Mr. Park Seong-joon, a professor of peace studies at Sungkonghoe University. With the introduction of modern way of living and technology, contact is not heart to heart anymore. There is limited, if not, no time at all to “listen to other people’s stories.” He said that we can still find sarangbang practiced in some far flung rural communities.
Despite this, there are efforts by some well-meaning groups here in Korea to revive this concept. A human rights organization was named after it to support and to give human rights workers a place, like a sarangbang, where they could come and go as they please and propose ideas and gather opinions. There is also the environmental movement initiated by Prof. Park wherein they are trying to revive this tradition, and applies its principle for its work for nature by promoting green values that opposes the “narrow liberalistic (values of) globalization”. Concern for money is given less priority and competition takes back seat to love, cooperation and coexistence. They believe that the creation of sarangbang will help create a “communal feeling” to counteract what they see as an overemphasis on individualism by the present society. They believe that it is important to understand each other and working together for peace.
I am reflecting that the ASYG 2008, for that matter, is like a sarambang. EASY-Net intends this gathering to provide a room for you—young Asian peacemakers, to come together to share and listen to each other on over a wide range of issues and concerns that we have been working on in the spirit of love, fellowship, cooperate, and mutual respect. This very event somewhat provides a space or room to exercise a ‘culture of peace’—by finding ‘peace within ourselves (inner peace), peace with other people (social peace), and peace with the environment (earth peace)’.
In this gathering, we intend to break up any ‘DAM’ or fence that will undermine and restrict our harmonious relation and working together, or that will discriminate anyone amongst. Utmost respect, sensitivity and flexibility must be exercised by everyone. We do have our given difference in many aspect- culture, tradition, creed, ideology and faith expression. But let us not tire ourselves in doing good to everyone, because we all belong to one family in the faith (Galatians 6:9-10).
We are very privileged and blessed. We are hosted by the EASY-Net here in Korea. Through their kindness and generosity, they offered a space or room for us where we will talk about regional contemporary concerns, and its implication to us especially on the issue of promoting a ‘Culture of Peace’. Korea, is a splendid venue, not merely because we can witness the progress and affluence as one of the tiger economies of Asia. But most importantly, we can draw inspiration on how the people together with their youth, persevere in overcoming their very own struggle in order to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Korean Peninsula. To reciprocate their generosity, let us listen to their stories and aspiration. Hopefully, we can contribute as well in their journey to resolve their long standing division as a nation and as a people who is constantly under the constant threat war since 1953, made even worse due to U.S military intervention.
The on-going Six Party Talks that focuses on the ‘denuclearization’ of the Korean conflict has yet to produce substantive results, and many are awaiting what would be the outcome of these negotiations. Apart from this, there is also the issue regarding the dispute over the control of Dokto Island between Korea and Japan. This reminds me of the similar tension between India and Pakistan, Taiwan and China, and the many countries contesting the control of the Spratly’s Island. The controversy regarding the US beef imports in South Korea have been a contentious issue in South Korea-United States relations as the US government has sought to re-open the market to the product, and the South Korean government has been criticized for allegedly increasing the risk to public health in appeasing the US government. The case sparked the country’s largest anti-government protests in 20 years. Relevant to this issue, we must analyze here the adverse impact of ‘Free Trade Agreements’- that is grossly disadvantageous to the economy of poorer nations because it intends to lift restrictions or remove tariff imports. Also, this FTA’s poses great risk and danger to the health and environment of the people. These are the same controversies hounding the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), Japan-Indonesia Economic Partnership Agreement (JIEPA), and the Thai-Chinese FTA in 2003 (particularly its impact on garlic production), etc. It is therefore an appeal for everyone to make your hearts and mind a sarangbang, a room of love, to accompany each other, especially our Korean youth and students, in overcoming the many forms of violence and misery inflicting the people of Asia.
It was in 1989, during the International Congress on Peace in the Minds of Men, in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’ Ivoire, that the notion of a “Culture of Peace” was first mentioned. Over the succeeding ten years, the idea has come a long way that in 1994, Federic Mayor, Director-General of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), launched an international appeal on the establishment of a right to peace. By February 1994, UNESCO launched its Towards a Culture of Peace programme and it was only in 1997 that the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the year 2000 as the “International Year for the Culture of Peace. The same Assembly through resolution 53/25 (10 November 1998), declared the period 2001-2010 as the “International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World”. This is how the ‘Culture of Peace’ came to being.
As many of you might have already known by now, the United Nations defines Culture of Peace as set of values, attitudes and forms of behavior that reflect respect for life, for human beings and their dignity and for all human rights, the rejection of violence in all its forms and commitment to the principles of freedom, justice, solidarity, tolerance and understanding among peoples and between groups and individuals (Article 1). Accordingly, the Culture of Peace can be achieved only if we can:
There are also the 8 domains of action defined by the Programme of Action of the Decade for a Culture of Peace (The Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, UN Resolution A/RES/53/243 1999):
Given the above, this concept underwent many processes—tedious research and discourses engaging wide range of so-called ‘experts’ of various fields. i.e. academics, politicians, religious leaders, peace advocates, etc. Nothing in what it says needs to be contested, and everything it says is in fact relevant. For me, there is no need to then to ‘redefine’ this almost perfect and ideal concept. But how many of our people in the world have been informed and were aware of these noble concept and cause? How effective was the campaign when it was conceived and was carried out?
To answer these queries it might be good to quote a section of the Report of Good Practices for a Culture of Peace published in 2007 by the Escola de Cultura de Pau – School for a Culture of Peace, and the Foundation for a Culture of Peace:
“In comparison with other campaigns of international coverage, the Decade for a Culture of Peace has not obtained the visibility and support that deserves. Moreover, it is difficult to perceive the advances made within the framework of the decade. This is due to the wide range of issues covered, the difficulty of setting progress indicators and the scarce dissemination of information on the Culture of Peace.” (Section B. On Better Visibility of the Movement for a Culture of Peace, Proposals for the Second Half of the Decade, http://www.fundculturadepaz.org/BarnaDOC/Report_of_Good_Practices.pdf)
Let me highlight as well two important recommendations to address this concern: 1) There is a need to make efforts to communicate more clearly the concept of culture peace, in a way that transmits its content (holistic concept) and at the same time it is accessible to a non specialist public; and 2) To make more efforts to relate the eight campaign topics with the people’s daily life. Thus, it can be more easily identified what can be done, from everyday’s routine, and make obvious that peace is not an abstract fact, but it depends on everyone’s responsibility.
It is very unfortunate. We hoped for peace but no good has come, for a time of healing, but there, was only terror (Jeremiah (8:15). It seems, that a decade after it was proclaimed, and with only two years before the decade will conclude, one will have an impression that it seems it has not yet achieved its purpose. Much work is obviously still needed to be done.
Our churches and movements responded actively to the call and challenge of promoting “Culture of Peace” directly or indirectly. The churches took the issue of global peace as one of its primordial concern since we commemorated the biblical Jubilee in year 2000. There was great joy and so much hope in welcoming that historic event. Roman Catholics and Protestants alike, engaged in many dialogues, conferences, and mobilizations to revisit and reaffirm the spirit and relevance of the jubilee (Leviticus 25 & Luke 4:16-18).
Our youth and student movements have devoted so much time, energy and resources in peacemaking and peace-building initiatives. Let me site a few of our notable contributions:
The enumerated responses demonstrate that we are not remised of our duty and responsibility to this very important concern. We do not only speak and work for peace in the abstract or in ending up with beautifully worded and formulated statements and resolution. We sincerely engaged ourselves in various undertakings with significant impact to our constituencies and a wide section of our societies. In fact, you have waged WAR!:
As Christians, the Gospel of Luke portraying the Jesus as a peacemaker is a very good framework in understanding and in promoting the culture of peace. It is an outstanding book with deeply rooted social message, and the word peace is mentioned 14 times in this Gospel. It dealt with God’s concern for the poor, and the rejection of Jesus Christ of various forms of discrimination (class, gender, racial, religious), including the values of self-centeredness or selfishness of individuals and powerful groups.
Jesus is portrayed as a peacemaker in the Lukan Gospel from birth (Luke 2:14-15), till the resurrection event (Luke 24:35-40). And the concept of peace that Jesus exemplifies is consistent with that of the Old Testament tradition. From promoting individual peace or that of the soul (Lk. 5:20), in attaining the essential needs or necessities of life like good health and prosperity (Luke 5:12-15; Lk. 13:10-17), to an assurance of peace based on justice and liberation (Luke 4:16-22 and Luke 7:22-23). Jesus was also presented that in working for peace, he was ready to put himself in conflict situation and even life threatening situations. He experience being subjected to:
In relation to interfaith concern in the Lukan Gospel:
Galilee and entered a village where he provided medical service and healing to a mix (multi-racial) leprosy patients. But of all of them, it was a Samaritan who returned to him and who praised and thanked him.
In relation to you being students working for peace, the story of the young Jesus in the Temple in Luke 2:41-51 is a very good reference:
When I was invited to be your keynote speaker, I learned that day that:
When a day before I decided to accept the invitation, I have read:
When I decided already to accept the invitation, it was shared to me that:
As I was preparing for references for this keynote address, I discovered that (World Report on Violence and Health prepared by the World Health Organization 2004):
As I was about to write this presentation, I chanced upon the internet that:
When my initial draft of the presentation was erased in our office laptop:
As I was about to conclude this paper I was scandalized to know that:
When I was finalizing this paper here in Young In City Youth Center, 3:40 a.m. today, I decided to still share with you some recommendation in taking concrete actions in promoting a ‘culture of peace’ (Dato (Dr) Anwar Fazal, DOING PEACE Locally and Globally: The Agenda for the 21st Century, Promoting a Culture of Peace, SIGNIS ASIA, August 2005, page 3):
Firstly, think power and politics,- understanding the nature of power and politics in our society, both local and global, know how decisions are reached and fully utilize the pressures that make politics work for you.
Secondly, think multiplying leadership- we have to create not just more followers but more leaders, especially among women and youth.
Thirdly, think lateral- link with other groups- mass media, women, ecology, youth and religious groups. Such alliances make powerful synergy.
Fourthly, think everywhere- encourage the proliferation of autonomous self-reliant groups at all levels, and at all places. Little victories have a way of creeping up to become national revolutions.
Fifthly, think action- there must be a constant steam of simple, high profile, do-able activities that must be specific and have visible targets.
Sixthly, think structural- look at the root cause of the problems, not just at the symptoms.
There is an old story in Malaysia that says: “A man sees a baby drowning in a river; he jumps in and saves the baby. As he is bringing the baby ashore, he sees another baby floating down the river and rushes in to save the second baby. And then he sees a third, a fourth, and a fifth. He is busy saving drowning babies that he has no time to look up the river to see the person throwing the baby into the water.”
Sevently, think long term social problems are not going to disappear quickly or easily. We have built frameworks, institutions, resources and people who will ensure the stamina for a long struggle.
And as I was winding down to rest because I am somewhat really exhausted and has not rested well, I was challenged:
“These are times that try the souls of men [may I add women as well]. But while we cannot win the fight for the poor overnight, we shall prevail overtime. There is only one way to lose this fight- when we lose our sense of revolt on the revolting lives of the poor.” (Chief Justice Reynato Puno, Puno Admits RP Justice System Tilted vs. Poor but…., Philippine Daily Inquirer A1 July 1, 2008).
“But once more God will send us his spirit. The wasteland will become fertile, and fields will produce rich crops. Everywhere in the land righteousness and justice will be done. Because everyone will do what is right, there will be peace and security forever. God’s people will be free from worries, and their homes peaceful and safe.”