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ASYG 2008 Keynote Speech

Youth Across Boundaries:
Redefining a Culture of Peace

EASYNet in Hong Kong
Photo taken at ASYG 2008 Korae. (L-R) Adam Row, CCA
Youth Adviser; Adrian Perlera, IMCS Asia-Pacific
Coordinator; Lesley G. Capus; Bonny Palma, IYCS Asia

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.

Sarangbang and the ASYG 2008

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.

Revisiting the Culture of Peace

ASYG 2008It 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):

  1. CPE – Culture of Peace through Education
  2. SESD – Sustainable Economic and Social Development
  3. RHR – Respect for all Human Rights
  4. EWM – Equality between Women and Men
  5. DP – Democratic Participation
  6. UTS – Understanding, Tolerance and Solidarity
  7. FFIK – Free Flow of Information and Knowledge
  8. IPS – International Peace and Security

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,

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 Christian Response on “Culture of Peace”

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:

  1. The WCC launched the Decade to Overcome Violence (2001-2010) Program. The CCA in its last assembly (2006) focused on “Building Community of Peace for All”. Most of our regional ecumenical youth formation focused our programs along this theme.
  2. The IMCS Asia-Pacific Council program focused on: “Student Engagement in Peace-Building through Dialogue” in 2006. During their Asia- Pacific Formation Session and International Committee Meeting, last June 29, 2007 at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, they reaffirmed this advocacy and focused on the theme: “Empowering Student Action to Dialogue for Peace”.
  3. The YMCA placed to make ‘culture of peace’ as its Priority 3 among the top global issues it wants to address of which it “seek to be mediators and reconcilers in situations of conflict and work for meaningful participation and advancement of people for their own self-determination.” The YMCA Olive Tree Campaign in Palestine was even selected as one of the best practices in promoting a ‘Culture of Peace’ in 2007 by the Foundation for a Culture of Peace.
  4. The YWCA on the other hand, declared that: “We recognize that all people have the responsibility of creating a culture of peace and justice, with respect for diversity, faiths and ways of life” (Conference Statement Asian Women fighting Exploitation, Creating a Culture of Peace in Chiang Mai, Thailand last January 2007).
  5. The IYCS has this meaningful battle cry-Fight Poverty and Build Peace! The world can end poverty and build peace, but only with your voice and action!
  6. The WSCF AP on the other hand gave strong emphasis on peace and justice advocacy work especially in the area of human rights, militarism and gender justice issues.
  7. The EASY-Net has published series of resource materials and national and regional initiatives celebrating the Asia youth week by highlighting young people’s role as peacemakers.

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!:

  1. Against the value systems of the dominant society i.e. ideology of greed over need.
  2. Against walls that we ourselves have set up or dividing walls of hostility like laws, commandments and ordinances detrimental to the people’s well-being (Ephesians 2).
  3. Against our very own apathy, passivity and negligence.

The Young Jesus as a Peacemaker in Luke’s Gospel

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:

  1. Forty incidents of systematic surveillance (e.g. Lk. 20:20)
  2. Twenty five instances where authorities plotted to kill him (e.g. Mk. 3:6; Mt. 12:14, 26:4)
  3. Terrorist tagging, labeling, and ‘demonization’: a) glutton and drunkard (Luke 7:34); b) demented (John 7:20); c) devil-possessed (John 10:20-21); d) Liar, imposter & deceiver (Matthew 27:63)
  4. Harassment and intimidation (Luke 4:25-30, 13:31)
  5. Accused of rebellion & subversion (Mt. 26:55; Lk. 23:1-2)
  6. Illegal Arrest & forced abductions (Mt. 26:50; Mk. 4:6; Jn. 18:12)
  7. Denied due process and trumped-up charges (Mt. 26:59-62)
  8. Torture (Mt. 26:65-67, 27:27-31; Mk 15:17; Jn. 19:2­5)

In relation to interfaith concern in the Lukan Gospel:

  1. Luke 9:52-56: Show’s a non-vindictive and retributive Jesus. After being rejected and denied help by the Samaritans when they learned that he his on his way to Jerusalem, his disciples wanted to get even with Samaritans. But Jesus rather rebuked the disciples for such an attitude and tendency. Perhaps Jesus humbly acknowledged that that the Samaritans would not receive him because of their belief.
  2. Luke 10:30-37: This is the classical story of the Good Samaritan with the theme: “loving thy neighbor or others”. But apart from this message, Jesus was actually in actual dialogue with the religious leaders and impressed upon them that through a national minority (Samaritan), Jesus contrasted mere religious belief over true love. He rejected the fundamentalism and dogmatic application of Jewish (legalism) religious belief in this incident.
  3. Luke 17:11-19: On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and

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:

  1. The Temple in Jerusalem at that time is the center of religious and spiritual life and activities of the Jewish people. It was also the educational and intellectual center then. It was also politically significant as the Sanhedrin wields political influence in collaboration with the Herodian dictatorship and Roman imperialism.
  2. Jewish boys are the only one allowed to be educated and to be taught about the Torah. Women are excluded and denied access to education. But not all Jewish boys can learn from the Temple. Jesus, a Nazarene of peasant and working class origin, is one of them.
  3. His presence in the Temple portrays a young Jesus in actual dialogue with teachers and religious leaders in an interchange and discussion of ideas, open and frank, as in seeking mutual understanding or harmony. He bravely attacks and seeks to destroy widely accepted mistaken notions, ideas, beliefs, etc. And he actively asserts his concern, ideas and issues.
  4. Jesus broke many wide held beliefs here that is somewhat discriminating to the youth and violates what we may perceive our essential rights i.e. taboo for children and youth to be involve with matters “for adults only”, and their right to education.
  5. He risked getting the ire of teachers, religious leaders and even of his parents. But I am certain that Jesus managed to present challenging views and explanations that touched their sensitivities and insensitivities. I our case, we should be like Jesus facing our ‘modern teachers and religious leaders, and even parents’. We need to engage them and present our ideas on critical issues that will compel them to rethink their views, programs and policies.
  6. The concluding section of the story, for me is the most important and relevant to our concern in understanding and promoting ‘culture of peace’ (51­53): ‘Then he went down to Nazareth…..his mother treasured all these things in her heart…and Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men’. It seems Jesus acknowledges that the Temple is not the only repository of knowledge. He needs to go “down Nazareth”- the grassroots, the marginalized communities to:
    1. Sharpen his initial understanding and identify relevant actions to take.
    2. Enhance his preparations and training.
    3. Be touched based on the concrete realities of the people.
    4. Identify qualified co-workers for peace (ordinary folks who are able and willing) perform
    5. Strengthen his conviction to serve God’s people

Conclusion: An Introduction to the Presentation

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).

ASYG 2008Let me then leave you now the encouraging words of prophet Isaiah (32:15-18) to reflect:

“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.”