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Communiqué on peace and security in Asia

Church and ecumenical leaders from Asia gathered at the Bangkok Christian Guest House in Thailand from 2 to 5 August 2011, on the invitation of the WCC and CCA, to address emerging concerns in Asia, with a thematic focus on Peace and Security in Asia: Ecumenical Responses.

05 August 2011

We are writing in the spirit of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) held at Kingston, Jamaica in May 2011, the climactic event of the Ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV). We, the church and ecumenical leaders from Asia gathered at the Bangkok Christian Guest House in Thailand from 2 to 5 August 2011, on the invitation of the WCC and CCA, have addressed emerging concerns in Asia, with a thematic focus on Peace and Security in Asia: Ecumenical Responses. We derive inspiration from the powerful  biblical concepts of “shalom” and “irene” which connote well-being, wholeness, abundance and harmony with God, neighbour, creation and one’s own self (cf. Luke 4:18-19; Mic. 4:3-4; Ps. 144:12-14) – and indeed, the realization of the fullness and blessedness of God’s creation (Rev. 22:1-2).

We are impelled by our faith to fully commit ourselves to realizing God’s reign of peace based on justice, an imperative that has assumed greater urgency in light of escalating conflicts that now engulf Asia. Many of these conflicts and security issues, while long-running and rooted in economic inequities, have been exacerbated by the on-going US war on terror, economic globalization and mounting imperial domination.

We have deliberated on pressing issues of peace and security in the context of the current interplay of geo-political trends: the dominant US economic, political and military role in Asia, the emerging strategic competition between China and the United States and, to a lesser extent, between China and India; and the contesting of boundaries and challenging of sovereignty in the quest for highly prized but increasingly scarce natural resources, as well as more secure, cost-efficient trade routes.

Among the critical issues with which countries in Asia are grappling is the problem of political repression and denial of human rights. Although many Asian countries claim to be democracies, the paradox is that they are defiled by frequent cases of illegal detention, torture, custodial deaths, extrajudicial execution and forced disappearances. The common people, particularly minorities and the underprivileged, are made to endure all forms of inhuman and degrading treatment at the hands of armed personnel. This displaces the rule of law creating dysfunctional constitutional legal systems.

We understand human rights as inclusive of economic and social rights. Far from improving the rights of Asia’s teeming population, untrammelled economic globalization has spawned a stream of economic crises. Once again it is the poor, the minorities and other marginalized groups who are excluded from accessing their rights to public services and goods.

A direct result of such exclusion is the continuous migration of the mostly rural poor, seeking better lives for themselves; their dreams and aspirations remain unfulfilled due to unfavourable and often sub-human conditions in which they are required to live and work. Many of them, who are women, are also victims of forced migration and human trafficking.

Militarization due to rivalry, unhealthy competition and insecurity, is prompting Asian countries to rely on foreign military aid and to spend precious revenues in arming themselves against their neighbours and justifying their drive for nuclearization. At the same time, militarization has been aimed at legitimate dissent and at resistance movements within their own states.

The unmitigated abuse of power in the hands of the few has seen protracted internal conflicts when persecuted minorities and the impoverished majority rise up in opposition to repressive, corrupt and self-serving regimes. The escalation of internal conflict has also seen a proliferation of illegal arms, and the toll on human lives is becoming unprecedented.

Asia is the birthplace of the world’s major religions and ideologies, and adherents of various religious beliefs cohabited peacefully for numerous centuries. However, the recent rise of fundamentalism and majoritarianism, which is inextricably linked with economic globalization and superpowers' geo-political manoeuvring, has in many instances almost entirely wiped out the respect and tolerance hitherto enjoyed by minority religions, leading to religious intolerance and violence in the name of religion. Numerous governments foster and promote religious extremism with a view to either acquiring or holding onto political power.

The changing geopolitics of the Asian region, due to factors referred to above, has caused the forcible displacement of entire communities: refugees adrift along borderlines and on open seas, fleeing civil wars or border conflicts and oppressive regimes, and massive numbers of internally displaced people living in inhumane conditions.

This consultation recommends:

  • the facilitation of solidarity and pastoral visits to countries in conflict situations;
  • the provision of resource materials concerning Asian situations;
  • advocacy on disarmament and peace;
  • addressing issues relating to the rights of migrant workers;
  • addressing issues relating to stateless and internally displaced people;
  •  advocacy for  human rights concerns;
  • advocacy for religious freedom, protection of rights of minorities and  strengthening interreligious cooperation.
  • ecumenical accompaniment of churches and people in conflict situations in Asia such as in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, Indonesia, the Philippines, the Korean peninsula.

We call upon Asian churches to provide a prophetic voice against all forms of injustice which breed violent conflicts and threaten peace and security in Asia.