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Monday, June 24, 2002

Asian Conference on Religion and Peace gets under way in Indonesia


Staff writer

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia — The sixth assembly of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace (ACRP) opens today at the Sheraton Mustika Hotel in Yogyakarata, the ancient capital and cultural center of Indonesia.

The conference, being hosted by the Tokyo-based Asian World Conference on Religion and Peace, was originally scheduled to be held seven months ago, but was postponed due to the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

Reflecting the changes that have taken place since the attacks, the conference chose "Asia: The Reconciler" as its theme to emphasize the forum's heightened relevance in seeking reconciliation among people of different nations and faiths.

A total of 350 religious and community leaders from around the world will participate over the next five days in six plenary sessions that will focus on a host of issues — including disarmament, security, economics, the ecology and human rights.

Today's opening session will include a nondenominational service; a memorial prayer; an address by the moderator, Mir Nawaz Khan Marwat; an address by Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri; and a taped keynote address by South Korean President Kim Dae Jung. In the afternoon, professor Kirti Bunchua will chair the first plenary session, at which a report by the governing board will be given.

The governing body's report will be followed by the presentation of five commission papers: "Reconciliation for Common Living: Disarmament and Security;" "Reconciliation for Just and Sustainable Development: Economy and Ecology;" "Reconciliation for Life Respecting Community: Human Dignity and Human Rights;" "Reconciliation for a Harmonious Family: Women, Children and Partnership;" and "Reconciliation for a Culture of Peace: Education and Service for Peace."

The first paper covers armed conflict in Asia, the proper response of the religious community to terrorism, and international developments that could assist disarmament in Asia. Such developments include the ratification of the Bangkok Treaty, the World Court decision on nuclear weapons, the U.N. Conference on Small Arms, and the increasing effectiveness of U.N. and regional peacekeeping operations.

The second presentation will address sustainable energy development, as well as how to reconcile the needs of local economies with the environment; how to tackle the widening gap between Asia's rich and poor; and how the religious community can develop a set of environmental ethics as an integral part of global living standards.

The third paper will explore what constitutes human rights and human dignity, with special emphasis on the protection of human rights based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Also to be discussed is how Asian people of faith can contribute to foreign cultures and societies and realize equal rights, solidarity and cooperation between men and women. Determining what actions religious people should take in responding to terrorism carried out in the name of religion will be a topic of special importance.

An Asian poet once proclaimed that "every child born comes with a message that God has not despaired of humankind." This is one of the guiding principles of the fourth paper on women, children and partnership. Problems in family partnerships, as well as the religious, moral and environmental education of children will also be addressed.

Perhaps the most timely session of all will be the fifth, which will focus on education and peace. How to create a culture of peace and nonviolence will be the main issue addressed. The focuses of discussions will be on how to teach children the culture of peace both at home and in school; how each of the world's religions promotes peace education; how to disseminate the concept and practice of nonviolence and confidence-building among people of different religions; and how to create dialogue among cultures.

The second day will feature presentations on reconciliation in action, including reports from Indonesia, the Korean Peninsula and the Philippines. During the afternoon, five discussion groups will convene to discuss issues raised on the first day. The day will conclude with a dinner hosted by Interfaith Group.

The third day will begin with a plenary session chaired by the Rev. Nichiko Niwano. The moderators of the five opening-day presentations will present the highlights of their discussions.

The discussion groups will meet again in the afternoon for prayer and will finalize their reports for submission to the plenary session. The day will conclude with a dinner hosted by the ACRP.

On day four, professor Yoshiaki Iisaka will chair the fourth plenary session, while Dr. Pal Khn Chon will chair the fifth plenary session. The morning will conclude with an election and the inauguration new board members, a president, and a secretary general. In the afternoon, a half-day tour of the Borobudur temple is scheduled.

The final plenary session will take place on June 28. The morning session will be chaired by moderator Mir Nawaz, who will seek the approval of the conference declaration and the approval of a special action program for the host country.

The closing ceremony, to be chaired by the newly elected secretary general, includes a nondenominational service and a closing prayer.



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