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Declaration from the People’s Forum1

Building Communities of Peace for All:
People’s Forum Perspective

From 12 Asian countries,2 we, 51 Urban Rural Mission [URM] activists, journeyed to Chiang Mai, Thailand to participate in the People’s Forum 2005, on the theme “Building Communities of Peace for All” from 25-29 March 2005. The event aimed to express people’s concerns to the 12th General Assembly of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) in Chiang Mai, Thailand on 31 March - 6 April 2005, to acknowledge the work of CCA-URM for the poor during the past five years, and to determine future priorities and issues of the URM program for 2005-2010.

The People’s Forum reaffirmed the urgent need to build awareness among churches and people’s movements on the struggles of building communities of peace for all, amidst globalization and war on terror that deepen the socio-economic and political crises affecting labor sector, migrant workers, farmers, indigenous peoples, abused children, and women in Asia. The Forum further reaffirmed that the URM and the Asian churches can and should respond to the emerging realities in the unipolar world even with formidable internal and external challenges faced by the URM.

The People’s Forum analyzed and reflected on our common task of projecting URM vision of a new world based on peace and justice.

The People’s Forum attempted to:
• Discern and share with each other the life situations, stories of struggles, hopes and aspirations of the marginalized communities, i.e. the Minjung, Dalits, etc.
• Identify, analyze and reflect on common issues that surfaced in the wake of globalization from the people’s perspective;
• Identify burning issues and set the future direction of URM.

We believe that the theme, “Building Communities of Peace for All” is an imperative of the time and consistent to the Gospel. The churches are called upon to live out this Gospel imperative. Therefore we continued to focus on the ways and means of people’s resistance to and struggle against the adverse impact of globalization especially on abused children, labor, farmers, and women. Moreover, with the resurrection faith experience, we hope that a world, where love, justice and peace will prevail, is possible.

Issues and Concerns

Specifically the People’s Forum discussed the following issues:

Economic Globalization
We believe that globalization is responsible for the “fundamental problem of injustice as the livelihood and rights of the majority are destroyed resulting in intensifying displacement, impoverishment and misery. This provides the foundation for a situation of unpeace among Asian peoples, resulting in widespread social, economic and political unrest and destabilization.”

War on Terror
Globalization, with war on terror, unleashed by the allied forces of the New Empire, “clearly geared towards the total control of the world’s economic resources, exploitation and oppression.” With this, Asia has become a battlefield of this war.

Migration/Migrant Workers/Laborers
Migration, aggravated by globalization, has become a big problem in Asia, affecting men, women and even children. Migrant workers suffer from discrimination in terms of wages, exploitation, physical abuse, and rape of women including forced prostitution. These left families of migrants in hardships in their home countries.

Women and children trafficking
The mad drive for fast super-profits has created an industry known as Human Trafficking, the third largest criminal industry in the world today and most victims – women and children – come from the oppressed Third World countries especially from Asia.

Increasing poverty
We observe that the poverty rate is increasing in many developing countries in Asia. The widening gap between rich countries/people and poor countries/people is unprecedented. Most countries now face the fact that they cannot pay their debts from the rich countries.

Human rights violation
Precisely because of poverty, the poor and suffering people are expressing their dissent to their governments. But their legitimate dissent is being met with state-sponsored violence and terrorism, resulting to wanton violation of their human rights.

Religious fundamentalism
Asia is the seedbed of most of the world’s religions. Religions, however, despite their pious pronouncements, are not being helpful. The rise of religious fundamentalism in Asia, particularly in Pakistan, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Philippines and Nepal has brought about violence and conflict. In many instances, religious aspirations are manipulated, resulting in religious intolerance by those in power in order to divide the people so as to continue their unimpeded rule.

Environment and Ecology
Asian people continue to suffer from the outright plunder of their environment caused mainly by the extractive and exploitative industries of the transnational corporation (TNCs).

Natural Disasters and the Tsunami
Asia is prone to natural catastrophes such as earthquakes and tsunamis. The intensity of the disasters, particularly the December 2004 tsunami, destroyed a wide swath of coastal communities in Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand whose states neglected to install detection devices to forewarn the people. Moreover, natural disasters have become more ferocious with the destruction of environment caused by the denudation of forest covers and other forms of ecological abuse, a process demanded by globalization.

These issues and concerns, among others, are clear indications of the groaning of Asian countries and churches calling for URM and the CCA to respond, and respond urgently and decisively.

Recommendations

Given the situation in Asia, we, the participants of the CCA-URM People’s Forum 2005, committing ourselves to building communities of peace for all, hereby forward the following challenges to the CCA member churches and councils, and to the CCA General Assembly 2005:

  1. That CCA and Asian churches renew their thinking of mission and practice to embrace a people-centered mission;
  2. That CCA and Asian churches genuinely and consciously encourage more active participation of women, provide training opportunities in the URM and contribute to the empowerment of women;
  3. That CCA and Asian churches need to sensitize their constituents on the dangers of globalization, war on terror, forced migration, human trafficking, and similar issues;
  4. That CCA and Asian churches raise their voices to denounce repressive regimes;
  5. That CCA and Asian churches further deepen their solidarity with people of different faiths and life-affirming ideologies by sustaining interfaith cooperation to build communities of peace for all;
  6. That CCA and Asian churches do advocacy and lobby work in solidarity with the marginalized sectors and people’s movement to safeguard people’s rights. In particular, CCA asserts its role in presenting a platform to the international forum such as the forthcoming December 2005 WTO Ministerial Meeting on agricultural negotiation in Hong Kong;
  7. That CCA and Asian churches support efforts to search for alternative communities based on peace with justice;
  8. That CCA and Asian churches encourage the NCCs to reconstruct URM as a response to emerging new issues; and,
  9. That CCA help provide resources to fulfill the prophetic ministry of URM being done among Asian churches thereby sustaining the work of the URM.


People’s Forum
25-29 March 2005
Chiang Mai, Thailand

NOTES :

1 This declaration was issued by the Pre-Assembly People’s Forum held in Chiang Mai, Thailand on 25-29 March 2005.

2 Australia, Cambodia, Hong Kong (China), India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand.


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