Inter Faiths Meeting: Strategic Planning of Collaborative Works among Traditional and Reliigous Peacemakers in Asia

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Amanasia.org – The Asia Foundation’s Contested Corners of Asia study, reported that Since the early 1960s, Asia has grown richer faster than any other region in the world. In 1990, 56 percent of people in East Asia and 54 percent in South Asia lived on under $1.25 a day (PPP). By 2010, these rates had fallen to 12 percent and 31 percent, respectively. In 2013, East Asia grew by 7.1 percent and South Asia by 5.2 percent, far outpacing any other region. The Asian Development Bank is not alone in dubbing the decades ahead the Asian century.

Yet the rising Asia narrative masks an ugly truth. While hundreds of millions have seen their incomes and opportunities expand precipitously, in many countries accelerated growth has been conjoined with an upsurge in violent subnational conflict.

Subnational conflicts (SNCs) affect half of the countries of South East and South Asia. These conflicts involve armed struggle over a part of a country with insurgents using violence to try to gain greater self-rule. In the past decade, 60 percent of the world’s SNCs have taken place in Asia and more than 100,000 people have been killed from these conflicts in Asia alone. An estimated 131 million people live in these conflict-affected areas, and in 2011, there were 13 active conflicts in Asia, almost the same total as those found in Africa.

Reflecting from the report, it is important to strengthen collaborative works among civil society, faith-based communities, community based organisations, as well as policy makers to confronting injustice and inequality. The Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers (NRTP) has shown their commitment to support intra and inter faiths dialogue to strengthen trust and cohesiveness.

On 30 September to 2 October, 20 representatives from faith-based communities, academia, civil society, gathered in Jakarta to formulate the strategic planning in promoting intra and inter faiths dialogue. The overall Goal of this meeting is to respond to the support needs expressed by interfaith peacemakers, with a strategic focus on concrete cross-regional action planning based on collaboration building, sharing of best practices and analysis of regional dynamics.

Understanding challenges in Asia

Through the presentation of Dr. Samia Huq, BRAC University, Dhaka, It is obvious that Asia is not only portrayed at the longest sub national conflict, but also the region that shown how the intersection of post colonialism setting, secularism v.s crisis in religion, militarism and strong patriarchal society. (you may add some more, i lost my note)

Furthermore, Prof. Dr. Djamhari Makruf, State Islamic University Syarif Hidayatullah, analysed that one of root causes of conflict in Asia in because lack of critical thinking and exposure to diversities. He believed that inclusive religious education provided in school, as the major foundational component to install values of respect and acceptance among young generation. Prof. Jamhari, offered approach called “broccoli in the pizza” , referring to the approach that bringing inclusiveness on religions should not be separated one from another. All different religions should be read in to a book, so students can learn naturally about different religions.

Other fragile foundation in Asia is about the Buddhist and muslim relations, where in Asia, the two religions (Islam and Buddha) declared as peaceful religions. Interview with three participants, Ven Napan from Thailand, Nang Luong Hom, Srilanka, Al Haj U Aye Lwin, Islamic Center of Myanmar, there were three important lessons learnt that will sustain the efforts on intra and inter faiths dialogue. Firstly, concept of a safe space, where everyone feeling comfortable to talk and not being judged by somebody. Religion should be used as source of peace not conflict. Secondly, bringing alternative narrative to challenge status quo practices, in term of how to engage lay people among religious people, to create feeling of equality for lay people, but still feeling special for some religious leaders, or event to create a transformative culture where pregnant women can be part of dialogue. Digging down from traditional culture, religious references, might bring more closed . Thirdly, commonality is foundation to build trust. Finding commonality will help to reshape conversation on the inter intra faiths dialogue. However, understanding sensitivity among different religions and approach it in more reflective way, might possibly to bring us into more deeper dialogue.

In many countries in Asia, pro gender equality movement is still perceived as liberal or secular movement, which never been compatible with religion. Question of authority over religion, often becomes obstacle for not only women activist, but also female ulama who do not speak out because of fear. Consequently, Asian women is still dealing with subordination, stereotyping, discrimination against, marginalisation, and gender based violence. Some strategies done to deal with problem injustice and inequality;

  1. Doing religious reform with approaches by bringing women’s experiences, amplifying the voices of female religious leaders, and promote enabling environment where female and male religious leaders are comfortable to
  2. Strengthening the political spaces for women to engage in decision making process
  3. Offering framework of “story lines” and “discourse coalition to create a change. “story lines” can be understood as simplified summary of a problem or issues by calling specific attentions to its scope, causes and people in charge, that are able to challenge status quo. and “discourse coalition” refers to actors and stakeholders with closely aligned views on a particular issue who are able to come together under the framework of a story line
  4. Creating and promote women friendly methodology to approach problem. Avoiding controversial approach, rather to challenge thinking on the prevention area. Ex Is “child marriage” acceptable in religion? RATHER, seeking religious opinion on preventing child marriage.
  5. Shift narrative gender equality into narrative of partnership, when we want to engage men
  6. Provide an exchange space to learn each other good practices to make a change

Collaborative works

The success of collaboration may have component such as:

  1. Naturally collaboration, where everyone realise that they cannot work alone
  2. A good team history; If these people had a positive experience working together in the pat, its best to find factors to lead success
  3. Strong relationship; team member can get along , having good communication
  4. Effective meeting, where structure of meeting can push to practical and applicable result, agreement taken, clear deliverables
  5. Transparency and adequate information sharing; each team member must be independent, free to share their progress, concerns, and barriers. To stimulate this sharing trust is important, therefore transparency is a key.
  6. Collective Leadership where each of member team is recognised their leadership and ability to responsible according their
  7. Working together not competition
  8. Strong ownership to the network

However in this early stage of collaboration, the Network need to understand come concern happen that may hinder somebody engage with the network or uncondusive environment causing difficulty for somebody to engage; There are two process to strengthen collaborative work; understanding characteristic of member team and building agenda. ***

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