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Press statement, Bangalore (India)

The Development and Civilizations - Lebret-Irfed international centre
Association of Rural Education and Development Service (Tamil Nadu, India)

SOUTH ASIAN SEMINAR

« Dialogue of Civilizations and People’s Development: Religious Fundamentalism and Globalization »

Public Meeting, August 3, 2005, UTC Conference Hall, Bangalore (India)

PRESS STATEMENT

Background

The confusion and fear bred by the growing intolerance and violence in the world today makes the dialogue of civilizations even more necessary and urgent. For such a dialogue to be meaningful and solutions to be found, it is essential that the dialogue be not disconnected from the economic, conditions through which cultures or civilizations express themselves today. This explains the title of the South Asian Seminar: “Dialogue of Civilisations and People’s Development : Religious Fundamentalism and Globalisation”.

This seminar is part of a series of seminars on Dialogue of Civilisations initiated by the International Centre Lebret-IRFED (ICLI), the first took place in Lebanon in 2003 and brought together Christian and Muslim communities of the region. The next one will take place in Africa and focus on inter-ethnic rivalries and development. Then, one seminar in Latin America will address tensions exacerbated by globalisation.

The organisers

The Association of Rural Education and Development Service (AREDS) offered to organise this seminar in India where tensions and conflicts are rising and put at risk a long tradition of peaceful cohabitation among people of different castes or different ethnical or religious groups. The Western world, where inter-communities “cohabitation” is a new issue, has a lot to learn from Indian experience.

AREDS and ICLI have in common that they put the human being at the source and heart of all development. AREDS is convinced that small people with collective and conscious numbers can create another world. It provides education to small people, initiates grassroots development programmes, addresses human rights violations and enter into network collaboration and lobbying. ICLI through networking and seminars promotes democratic participation, links between the local and global levels and the dialogue of civilisations.

The participants

To discuss about Religious Fundamentalism and Globalisation, AREDS and ICLI invited academics , and representatives of NGOs and grassroots organisations from India, Sri-Lanka, Nepal, Cambodia, Lebanon, Pakistan, France, and Switzerland. Among them are Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, as well as Dalits. If the gender balance is not perfectly equal, women are represented by forceful personalities. Most of the participants brought written contributions that will be published with the proceedings.

The objectives

The objectives of the seminar are:
- to better understand the current threats of communalism, fundamentalism, and the relationship between religious discourse and globalization;
- to see more clearly the universal human values as they are expressed in the countries concerned and their cultural context and how these values can be strengthened and serve as a counter-power to the threats;
- to transform the proposals resulting from these encounters into material that will allow varied communication modes, intended for the wide public;
- to come up with concrete common actions, more particularly on the regional level, and strengthen the relationships between the participants and their other networks for future common actions.

Preliminary conclusions

Causes of conflicts and tensions

  • Cases of conflicts and violence in the Indian sub-continent were presented. If most of the participants feel that their number increases, at least one underlined that violence seems to have decreased in recent times because people have become more educated and aware of the reasons behind the attempts on the part of certain groups and individuals to destroy the peaceful relations that usually exist between diverse communities. Indeed, the participants consider that religion is put at the service of political and economic interests by some people and groups. They don’t see religions themselves as the source of fundamentalism. Those who want to promote fundamentalism build on the ritual aspect of religions, not on their teaching aspect, that is to promote human values.
  • Globalisation was presented as being a fundamentalism itself, as it imposes a single vision of the economic world with ready-made recipes ignorant of the diversity of the national situation, and as through WTO rules, restrains the margin of manoeuvre of the governments to address the national issues. Globalisation is also seen as a cause of the easiness with which people accept the ideology of the fundamentalists: globalisation has aggravated inequalities between people of a same country and between countries and has created uncertainty that the weakest overcome in adhering to the simplistic solutions of the fundamentalists.

Remedies

  • Many examples were given by the participants of successful initiatives taken at the local level, to bring together into common activities, people belonging to different communities, different castes, different religions or different ethnic groups. These activities go from education, protection of women’s rights, health care, development projects, children and adolescent local or regional parliaments, etc. Always people accept to work together for a cause they consider as just or in the interest of all. Inter-community actions should be multiplied at the local level and expanded at the regional and national levels.
  • Concerns were expressed that fundamentalism is taking over the sense of citizenship at the national level and that economic interests at the global level are taking over the sense of human solidarity. This calls for a strengthening of the social role of governments, and therefore more resources, and to the rethinking of aid motivation and practices. This calls also for a strict application of laws by an independent and honest justice, as those who think that the justice of their country is not equitable are prey for fundamentalists.
  • Concerns were expressed that religious authorities scarcely objected when some distorted the lessons of their religion to justify violence against women or encourage terrorism. It was noted that the major religions represented at the seminar share the same human values: peace, tolerance, equity, justice, love, non violence, compassion. This calls for more inter-religious dialogues to highlight common values.

L.A. Samy, director
AREDS

Sergio Regazzoni, directeur
Développement et Civilisations - Lebret-Irfed

AREDS Ranganathapuram
P.O.Krishnarayapuram Taluk
Karur District
Pin- 639 2108
Tamil Nadu, India
Tel. + 91 4324 250618
Fax: + 91 4324 250617
E-mail: aredsind(at)sancharnet.in
Centre international Développement et Civilisations - Lebret-Irfed
49 rue de la Glacière
75013 Paris, France
Tel. + 33 1 47 07 10 07
Fax + 33 1 47 07 68 66
E-mail : contact(at)lebret-irfed.org

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