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Organization: Signis Asia Assembly 2004 - Kuala Lumpur
The following information may be cited or quoted as long as the source is accurately mentioned and the words are not taken out of context.
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PROGRESS: Has your organization seen progress toward a culture of peace and nonviolence in your domain of action and in your constituency during the first half of the Decade?


OBSTACLES: What are the most important obstacles that have prevented progress?


ACTIONS: What actions have been undertaken by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the first half of the Decade?

SIGNIS Asia Charter: PROMOTING* A CULTURE OF PEACE
THROUGH COMMUNICATIVE ACTION

*Promoting includes strengthening and fostering.

This Charter was drawn up at the 2nd Signis Asia Assembly held at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 5-9 October 2004. This document will be used as a guideline by every Signis Asia member while working towards the fostering of a Culture of Peace in the Asian region.


1. Our Vision: Peace as a Way of Life

We, the members of Signis Asia, envision that the world that we live in today will be a different and better place in the future, and one that is marked by cooperation and mutual respect. We believe that the main battle for peace is within each human being, and not in the pursuit of weapons and violence.  

We shall individually and collectively work towards fostering a Culture of Peace in Asia. We shall be a vibrant organisation where all kinds of media forms are employed to foster a Culture of Peace in our communities.


2. Preamble
We, the Signis Asia Culture of Peace Assembly (SCOPA), as citizens of Asia and global society,
2.1 United in our awareness that we need an environment of peace and security for us, for future generations, and for all life, we urgently need to foster a Culture of Peace;
2.2 Acknowledging that environmental degradation, injustice, poverty, racism, gender bias, corruption, ignorance, prejudice, crime, human trafficking, drug trafficking, arms trade, armed conflicts, liberalization, privatization and globalization (LPG), structural inequalities, chauvinistic nationalism, hate propaganda, religious fundamentalism, and misuse of media, are causing widespread human suffering;
2.3 Understanding that the sole pursuit of material development without spiritual and value-based goals have contributed to a widespread culture of violence throughout Asia and the world;

2.4 Recognising that there is a search and yearning for peace among human beings, thanks to those who worked, suffered and given up their lives for peace, and that no genuine "unity and advancement of people," peace and security, authentic dialogue or real democracy can be achieved:

2.4.1 without equality between ethnic groups, religious communities, men and women, and between generations,

2.4.2 without respect for the rights of indigenous people and their contribution to the common heritage, the right of all cultural, linguistic, ethnic, and religious minorities, rights of differently-abled people, oppressed peoples, rights of women, rights of children, rights of labour migrants, and the elderly,
2.4.3 without the resolution of the conflict between society and nature,
2.4.4 without a proper resolution of power relations between the individual and community, between civil society organizations and the state, and
2.4.5 without addressing the dangers of top-down globalisation and protecting "enlightened national sovereignty" and regional autonomy,

2.5 Convinced that cooperation rather than competition, democratic dialogue rather than aggressive monologue, conscious self-reflection rather than blind imitation, relationships based on values rather than profit, are important pre-requisites for guaranteeing and realizing such human and social rights as right to life, nutritious food and potable water, comfortable eco-friendly shelter, health, education, fair and non-exploitative labour relations, free speech, clean air, sustainable and appropriate production technologies, and an unspoilt natural environment; and affirming our responsibility to one another, to the Asian community, to the greater global society, to the future generations, and to all life, we

2.5.1 Assert the fundamental importance of communication in bringing about a Culture of Peace,

2.5.2 Declare the importance of a people-centred media and communication to influence people’s attitudes, values and patterns of social behaviour,

2.5.3 Resolve to promote a comprehensive concept of sustainability through communication, and

2.5.4 Commit ourselves as social communicators from around Asia to realize in (i) our public and private lives, and (ii) through global partnerships with (ii-a) other national and international organizations and (ii-b) with world and regional people’s forums, the general principles and mission of people-and-values-centred communication that promotes genuine "unity and advancement of people" for the realization of a Culture of Peace.


3. Understanding the Culture of Violence

3.1 Characteristics and Forms of the Culture of Violence in Asia

In Asia, as in many parts of the world, we are confronted with, and also experience the culture of violence expressed in different forms: such as ethnic violence, religious violence, domestic violence, structural violence, labour exploitation, human exploitation, retail violence, such as person-to-person conflicts, and state violence, inter-state or regional conflict, symbolic violence, such as linguistic and cultural suppression, ecological violence, and self-inflicted violence, such as suicide. While many of these forms of violence are visible and inhuman, e.g. inter-religious conflict, increasingly, violence has become hidden, invisible and long-term, e.g. pesticide poisoning, which is not immediate and takes time to manifest itself.

3.2 Identification of Key Realities and Trends Contributing to a Culture of Violence in Asia

The culture of violence has developed over a period of time and reflects the following realities and trends: crass materialism, the profit motive and neo-liberal capitalism, unrestrained ecological interventions, chauvinistic nationalism, patriarchy, aggressive prejudice, stereotyping, parochialism, religious and ethnic fanaticism, and political and cultural hegemony.

3.3 Understanding the Culture of Violence at the Global, Asian, National & Local Levels

The culture of violence has come about through organised, institutionalised activities. These institutions operate at global, Asian, national and local levels, overtly and covertly. These institutions are, and also operate, in the secular, cultural and religious spheres with short-term and/or long-term devastating effects on individuals, families, communities and nations. These institutions have grown either within an external global sphere, or within a local national sphere.

3.4 Understanding the Role of Communication and Media in Promoting a Culture of Violence

While accepting the usefulness of the media as "gifts of God," some of the mainstream media, tend to focus on spectacular, dramatic, and sensational news items for public consumption. Many of these are based on, or a result of, conflicts and violence, usually presented without careful ‘backgrounding’ or follow-up, leading to desensitisation and lack of concern for conflict and violence. Our response to the portrayal of violence in the mainstream media has not been adequate. Further, the mainstream media also promote lifestyles that are based on an exploitative social and economic system, and that have a negative impact on the environment and on future generations. They promote unsustainable consumption. Genuine "unity and advancement of people" or a value-based philosophy, do not guide or animate the mainstream media.


4. Our Challenge

The culture of violence in Asia affects the lives of individuals, families, communities and nations. This culture poses a massive communication challenge to all social communicators, especially Catholic communicators, in Asia, needing intervention in the social, political, economic and cultural/religious spheres. Only in meeting this challenge can the culture of violence be confronted, and a Culture of Peace be promoted. This is the basis for achieving genuine "unity and advancement of people" among the peoples and nations of Asia and global society. This should be done in an organised way, which includes local efforts, national and regional partnerships, innovative institution-building and the formation of communities.


5. The Way Forward: Our Communication Mission

5.1 Principles: Basis of and for Communication to Promote a Culture of Peace

The SCOPA proposes that the challenge to promote a Culture of Peace to achieve genuine "unity and advancement of people" must be based on sound principles that guide communication.

5.1.1 Strength of Ecumenical Witness

No one denomination or agency has the resources to effectively address the problem of the culture of violence or promote a Culture of Peace. The combined strength of the Christian community represents a significant potential to influence public policy towards a Culture of Peace. Christians and Christian communities, being part of the body of Christ, have an urgent and historical role to contribute to the development of a new value system. This system is critical to confront a culture of violence, which is sustained by prejudice, power and money. In this effort, we need to support communities and organizations which strive to articulate and live out values of love, peace, solidarity and celebration of life. Christians have to live a life of peaceful co-existence in a context where communities of other faiths live.

5.1.2 Strength of Inter-Faith Solidarity

Asia is home to a multitude of faiths that cover indigenous, traditional and prophetic religions. Besides many organised religions, which include Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Daoism, Hinduism, Jainism, Shintoism and Sikhism, there are also very local religious expressions. This rich background, while being one of the major causes contributing to a culture of violence, is also the basis for peace in many parts of Asia. Inter-faith solidarity is an unrealised strength for Asia to be a region of peace. Asia needs to foster a Culture of Peace by building institutions that help promote understanding among the different religions in the Asian family. Asians of various faiths must experience the wholeness of God’s creation through inter-faith solidarity by living as dialoguing, peaceful communities.
5.1.3 Genuine Respect for Life and Earth Resources
Endeavours in the areas of production, consumption, and reproduction should be sustainable so that the quality of life of the present and future generations is not compromised and the Earth’s capacity to regenerate to sustain these generations is not jeopardised. Both bio-diversity and cultural diversity needs to be defended and protected. The genuine respect for all life in all its diversity also requires us to shed our aggressive anthropo-centrism. We need to also check our aggressive, short-sighted nationalism that privileges artificial political boundaries and pay more attention to bio-region/eco-regions.
5.1.4 Understanding, Compassion and Love for People
All persons, regardless of their social standing, gender, colour and affiliation, need to be treated with respect for their innate human dignity. It is important that we recognise that everyone and every community is unique and different, and therefore, should be treated with understanding and compassion rather than with prejudice and intolerance. A culture of non-violence and peaceful negotiation needs to be urgently organised and promoted.
5.1.5 Participation, Peace and Sustainability to be the Key Platforms for Democracies
A pervasive and deep democratic culture needs to be achieved in Asia consistent with existing traditions and in harmony with a global understanding of it. There is a need to harmonise individual and community rights, political and cultural rights, over our present and future social existence. Institutions of democracy must achieve sustainable governance, participatory decision-making and recourse to justice at all levels. It should also reflect transparency and accountability. Without discrimination, the rights of all to a natural and social environment supportive of human dignity, physical health, and spiritual well-being needs to be actively sustained. Adequate attention needs to be given to indigenous peoples, social/cultural minorities, and differently-abled persons .
5.1.6 Eradicating Poverty and Confronting Affluence as a Social, Ethical and Environmental Necessity
Both poverty and affluence pose social, ethical and environmental problems. They are problems borne out of an inequitable and unsustainable social order. Thus, we need to ensure that economic and political activities and institutions promote integral human and social development in a just and sustainable manner at all levels. This would essentially remove the basis for conflict based on class lines, which very often, takes different forms in Asia.
5.1.7 Affirm Gender Equality
Many cultures in Asia privilege the male and sustain patriarchy. In modern society, this is expressed in the public sphere and public policies, which often marginalises and victimises women. Gender equality is a must to promote peace, both at an individual and structural level. Enlightened gender equality is a basis for domestic peace. It is a prerequisite for sustainable development and ensures universal access to education, health care, economic opportunity and participation in private and public decision-making.

5.1.8 Education for Sustainability

Some aspects of the education system in Asia are focussed on the immediate needs of the economy and do not contribute to creating an ‘educated’ community that grows in wisdom. The end result is that this creates (1) producer and consumer communities whose behaviour suggests an immense violence on nature, and (2) promotes narrow-mindedness which has affected inter-community co-existence. Thus, there is an urgent need to address and integrate into formal and informal educational processes the knowledge, values and skills needed for a sustainable way of life that promote genuine "unity and advancement of people".

5.1.9 Integrity of the Family
Increasing problems between husband and wife, between adults and children, neglect of youth and older persons have all threatened family life. The Family is the basic unit of the community and the nation. Thus, domestic peace and tranquillity are critical for the survival and continuity of society.
5.1.10 Promote People-to-People Bottom-Up Globalisation
The dominant form of globalisation is hegemonic and top-down. It serves the corporate needs within the context of neo-liberal capitalism. The prime motive of this form of capitalism is profit. While there are attempts to humanise this form of capitalism through the efforts of corporate social responsibility, codes of conduct, and multiple bottom-lines (apart from profit, social and ecological benefits), there is a need to develop the forces and institutions for a bottom-up globalisation that recognises and sustains localities, differentiated cultures, and national sovereignty.

5.2 Forms of Communication to Promote a Culture of Peace

There is a need to develop an active theology of communication. We need to move away from prescriptive theology to a participative theology. This reflects an active engagement between people and their Creator. In the social field, such a theology recognises communication as a two-way dialogical process.

With the purpose of promoting authentic and dynamic unity, genuine advancement of peoples and sustainability of societies, we urge that the following forms of communication be used to foster a Culture of Peace.

5.2.1 Exposé Communication

The culture of violence manifests itself in many ways. In some cases, what is visible hides a more pernicious reality. Latent causes are, therefore, not available for public scrutiny and attention. In some other cases, acts/events of conflict or violence are far away from social attention. (Asia has regions and spaces that have not been explored, and therefore, are not available for public attention.) Such acts/events need to be drawn and presented for public attention and intervention. Both the situations above require investigative and exposé communication, which involves the important aspect of ‘backgrounding’ the issues.

5.2.2 Transparency in communication

Genuine communication requires exchanges where the intentions and purposes of those engaged in communication, whether individual or mass, are clear and honest. While this principle may not be applied in life-threatening situations, it is a general principle that promotes trust between communicators, and therefore, promotes a Culture of Peace

5.2.3 Reconciliatory Communication

Inter-communal, inter-religious and inter-state conflicts are a reality in contemporary Asia. This reality involves people living as neighbours and having to interact with each other on a day-to-day basis. Many of the conflicts are civil and they are between ‘brothers and sisters’ within a locality or region. They are also between neighbours, and not an invading army. This general situation in Asia needs to be addressed through reconciliation. Reconciliatory communication is an urgent need to heal communal wounds and scars.

5.2.4 Participatory Communication

In the political arena in contemporary Asia, full and involved political participation of people in public life is still an unrealised reality. The expression of democracy cannot be fully achieved without people’s participation in decision-making that has implications for them and their communities. Participatory communication requires  a free and open media. It is an urgent need for the evolution of a democratic Asia and will contribute to overcoming conflicts between individual/communities and the state. It will also contribute to the development of an active civil society.

5.2.5 Dialogical Communication

Asia is multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-lingual; it is a rich multi-cultural haven. This cultural diversity offers a great future for Asia. There is a need to appreciate and to accept  the differences in culture and religion without attempting to create a hegemonic standard. A sound but difficult way of resolving differences is through dialogue. Dialoguing requires that people and communities meet as equals, and negotiate their differences for the common good. This is also the message of the New Way of Being Church in Asia, which proposes the dialoguing Church.

5.3 Aims of Communication to Promote a Culture of Peace

There is a need to seize communication opportunities for promoting a Culture of Peace. The existing social order that promotes a culture of violence and the highly-developed and complex media environment and the technology and institutions that support it offer great challenges and opportunities for the promotion of the Culture of Peace, such as the following:

5.3.1 Exposing the culture of violence as content of communication and sensitising people to the culture of violence,

5.3.2 Organising communication campaigns to confront the culture of violence and to promote a Culture of Peace and urging people’s active attention and intervention to confront a culture of violence and to promote a Culture of Peace, and

5.3.3 Promoting transparent, reconciliatory, participative and dialogical communication processes and institutions in Asia.

5.3.4 Promoting peace education as a specific process of creating a conscientisation and self-formation of persons from formative years to adulthood.

These aims will be realised through the various forms of communication (Section 5.2) guided by the communication principles (Section 5.1) stated above and they will contribute to the promotion of a Culture of Peace so that there will be genuine "unity and advancement of people."

5.4 Fields of Intervention to Promote a Culture of Peace

The problems and conflicts in the following areas offer us challenges and opportunities for communicative action.

5.4.1 Economic
? Poverty
? Food and water insecurity

5.4.2 Political
? Democracy and rights issues
? Hegemonic globalisation

5.4.3 Socio-cultural
? Gender issues
? Media issues

5.4.4 Psychological
? Suicide
? Drug addiction

5.4.5 Ecological
? Environmental issues
? Unsustainable urbanisation
? Unsustainable consumption

6. Institutions to Promote a Culture of Peace

Ad hoc and piecemeal actions to promote a Culture of Peace will not sustain the effort. The SCOPA therefore proposes that the exercise to promote a Culture of Peace take place through innovative institution-building. The SCOPA proposes the following:

6.1 Signis Asia Secretariat for Promoting a Culture of Peace

6.2 Global, regional, sub-regional and national networks based on established Signis structures.

6.3 Institution-building to promote communication - people’s participation through communication strategies promoting peace: achieved through BECs (within Catholic communities), basic ecumenical communities (inter-denominational) & basic human communities (inter-religious).

6.4 Signis Asia to work closely with all other international and regional organisations and networks to achieve a Culture of Peace.

6.5 ‘Seed money’ be provided for this institution-building effort by Signis. Subsequent financial needs will be met by independent fund raising for specific projects.

6.6 Work closely with the Justice and Peace Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences.

Plan for Immediate Action

7. Concrete Initiatives for Immediate Adoption by Signis Asia Members

7.1 The three sub-regional groups (East Asia, South-East Asia and South Asia) will concretise the promotion of a Culture of Peace. Each sub-region, as a whole, will pursue one initiative, and independently, each country in the sub-region will pay special attention to one initiative.

7.2 A secretariat for promoting a Culture of Peace will be set-up with at least one staff, with seed money from Signis for a two-year period. The secretariat will coordinate and sustain peace efforts among Signis Asia members, and build partnerships with other organisations, world and regional people’s forums.

7.3 Immediate communicative action programmes need to be developed in the following areas:

7.3.1 Emerging role of China from the economic, social, military and environmental aspects (for the East Asia Sub-Region);

7.3.2 Poverty (for the South-East Asia Sub-Region);

7.3.3 Communal harmony (for the South Asia Sub-Region).

ADVICE: What advice would you like to give to the Secretary-General and the General Assembly to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the second half of the Decade?


PARTNERSHIPS: What partnerships and networks does your organization participate in, thus strengthening the global movement for a culture of peace?


PLANS: What new engagements are planned by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence in the second half of the Decade (2005-2010)?

Efforts by Signis Asia to promote a culture of peace will take a more "concrete" shape in 2006. This is because the Peace Secretariat will be set up in Kuala Lumpur with the new Signis Asia Board as of November 2005.

Subsequently, some of the proposals outlined in the Signis Asia Peace Charter would be implemented according to the needs of the sub-regions (East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia) and member countries.

However, member countries are continuing their own efforts to realise the goals of peace.

Postal address of organization

Signis Malaysia
c/o Cahayasuara Communications Centre
5 Jalan Robertson
50150 Kuala Lumpur
MALAYSIA

E-mail address of organization

ccckl@po.jaring.my

Website address of organization

www.archway.org.my/cahayasuara

Highest priority action domain of a culture of peace


Second priority action domain of a culture of peace


Highest priority country of action (or international)


Second priority country of action (or international)

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Organization: Signis Asia Assembly 2004 - Kuala Lumpur

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