Archives March 2022

Observing the Month of Anti-Discrimination

By Dr. Paul Hwang

We have “discrimination” as a main theme for the ALL Forum’s newsletter in March this year. It is not only because we observe the “International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination” on March 21 but we celebrate the “International Women’s Day” in March 8 designated by United Nations. According to UN, the COVID-19 has heavily impacted people, especially young ones Including those from minority backgrounds. It points out that “Many are now grappling with an increase in racial discrimination, in addition to severe disruptions to their education….” It also reckons that under the pandemic, women face greater vulnerability to multiple forms of discrimination, including those who are older women, those living with disabilities, LGBTQI and trans women, migrants, displaced and refugee women, and many others.

As mentioned above, in such a difficult situation, horrible news related to racial and gender discrimination has been often heard in many countries in the world. Recently, a young white man killed eight people, including six Asian women, in Atlanta, USA, which looked a ‘hate crime’ not an accidental one. As former President Trump constantly called Covid19 “China Virus” and the media inserted photos of Chinatown or Asians in news reports of the pandemic which have hardly to do with China and emphasized China as the source, it seemed to have eventually led to violence and hatred against Asians. Many countries in Asia including Korea have gone through similar experiences.

Migrant peoples like migrant workers and even students from Southeast have been experiencing discrimination and violence against them in the country. It was the first time the exclusion and discrimination faced by Muslims in Korea have been broadcast in public media. In Daegu, a city of the southern part of the country, a small mosque under construction was suspended due to opposition from its residents. Residents complained that they would not accept the culture of Islam and all the inconveniences including its making noise and smell from cooking foods which were very new to the residents. It was the major reason for stopping the construction.

If our readers of the newsletter see the WTI’s webinar for the matter in the March issue, all of you may know what Pastor Park Sung-min, a commentator in the webinar, said about the discrimination against Muslim. He said that it is an undeniable “discrimination” that the district office ordered the suspension of construction just one day after the residents filed a petition against it. It is quite true for him to say that it would have been different if it were a Church, a Buddhist temple, or a Cathedral, not a Muslim mosque. Their opposition and conflict has been deepened and worsened because of the administrative order ofthe office. He stressed that “If we can’t accept the Muslim students as our neighbors, it’s like breaking our community eventually.

Rather, creating a community with diversity is what we should aim for.” It is amazing to hear from Abdul Yekeen, the speaker and one of the 150 graduate students involved in the incident, saying on the February 22 nd webinar that “The residents protested against it yesterday too, but I want to reconcile as soon as possible with hope.” He said his taking the legal action for lifting the suspension of construction in reluctant manner. ”We are clearly aware of the residentsopposition to reconstruction, not against us (Muslims). Because of the conflict, our good perception of Koreans has not changed,“ he said. He then stressed, “Since it appears in the Quran (Islamic scriptures) that you are not a Muslim in faith if you do not do well to your neighbors, and that you are not a believer if you do not love them.”

Abul’s statement were echoed by one participant when she shared her experience for about two years with a Syrian family. They were very open-minded, and she wanted to resemble and respected as religious people when she saw them praying in time regardless of locations. In addition, she was curious about how Abul felt about Koreans after the conflict with the residents. She was very impressed by Abdul’s positive response to the residents because of which she thanked Muslims for their tolerance and virtue from their religion.

What I want to say from the webinar especially Abdul’s response in relation to discrimination is that it has been worsened because of the governmental or the district office’s decision, in this case on the structural level. On the personal level, all kinds of discrimination must be overcome by experiencing and understanding the situation and only then, mutually articulating decisions.

Woori Theology Institute (WTI) held a Webinar in Solidarity with Oversee Muslim students in Korea

On February 22, WTI held an online seminar in which it invited Abu Masoon Abdul Yekeen, a Muslim student from Nigeria, in Kyungbuk National University to listen to what he and his colleague students have been experiencing around reconstruction of a small mosque for them. He has explained what happened.

Reconstruction work has been suspended for a year due to the strong objection and protest of some residents near the mosque whose ownership belongs to Muslim students. The university has Muslim students from various countries such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan. Abdul Yeekin is one of the 150 graduate students taking mater’s or doctoral programs in it. In 2012, they rented a space near the university and used it as a prayer room.

In 2014, because of the rental fee was sharply raised they decided to buy a house around the mosque with the money they had saved every month to prepare a better place for their religious activities. But the old house was not good to be used as a Islamic center because it used to leak during rains and had poor heating infrastructure as it was too old and small. In 2020, it was decided to purchase a building near the center and then proceed to reconstruct the building. It was smooth until the stage of demolishing and reconstructing the identical building.

However, on February, 2021, residents filed a petition in the district office against the reconstruction of the mosque. On the following day, the district office released an order of suspension of the reconstruction work. Residents said that many people would come to the mosque making lots of noise and bad smell coming from very strange culture for Koreans. They are also worried that when the Islamic temple is built, it will become a Muslim village which would threaten to ruin their life there. Concerned, the Muslim students designed the building with the sound and smell proof device and said that they will offer the joiners to stay inside the temple only during Ramadan. But negotiations did not take place.

Pastor Park Sung-min, a commentator in the webinar, who has been in solidarity with the Muslim students, said that it is “discrimination” that the district office ordered the suspension of construction just one day after residents filed a petition against the reconstruction of the mosque. He said that it would have been different if it were a church, a Buddhist temple, or a cathedral, not a Muslim mosque. Their opposition and conflict has been deepened due to the administrative order of the office. He said that “If religion and race are different, can’t they be neighbors?” is a key question. If we can’t accept the Muslim students as our neighbors, it’s like breaking our community. Rather, creating a community with diversity is what we should aim for, he stressed.

Development is a Process of Dialogue

By Fr. Niphot Thianvihan

Based on the social teachings of the Church and dialogue of life with indigenous peoples, we have discovered that“people are not empty.” True religion is already present in the villagers and not merely in us. From our reflection process, we discovered that we took ourselves as the principal actor in judging whether the indigenous peoples had or did not have religion. We believed that we were religious and we had an obligation to present theology and communicate religion to others. The development and change of our concepts and approach can be divided into three main periods.

In the beginning of our work, there were two groups of understanding. The first group of people had a concept of adjusting and applying religion in daily life. The problem of this understanding is that even if we started from the religious dimension but we had not seriously and deeply reflected on “what actual life of the grassroots people really is.” Their life in our eyes was what we imagined. The second group had an understanding that we should start implement concrete activities with indigenous people. Our entry point was through concrete activities concerning their life reality, which were inevitably economic ones. When we started to implement economic activities, they were not related to religion at all. Later, we analysed our experience and came to a conclusion it was our frame of thought that made us try to “apply” religion into life. When there were problems in real life, we thought it was necessary to implement activities to address those problems.

In the second period, we began to recognise that “the life of the villagers itself is the theology.” It took us several years to come to conclusion that it is not necessary to “apply” religion into human life. This initiated a new point of departure. It began a period in which we ourselves started to change fundamentally. These changes involved all aspects of our involvement, i.e. our conceptual understanding of development work, and even our concrete approach and methodology in supporting the activities of the indigenous peoples.

We gained this understanding when we directly worked with indigenous leaders. When we implemented activities with the villagers, we entered into a mutual learning process. First, we analysed problems together with indigenous leaders and we found that they had their own concerns viewed from their own Karen ethnic perspectives. In this analysis we found that their concern was their children, their identity and their language and cultures, such as tribal dresses and education. Their major concern was not just their economic convictions.

Informed by this view we came to ask ourselves and we raised the 16 questions in searching for “What is the authentic cultural values of the tribal people?” We began to see what is at the heart of the religio-cultural values of the villagers. We searched and found that they have their own worldview based essentially on religio-cultural values. All their expressions are based on this worldview. Their worldview encompasses their own lives, the lives of others, the present world, the world to come and God. In this very learning process with the villagers we come to ask ourselves how much more there may be to discover in this rich worldview. We even ask ourselves how much has already been lost to posterity because of our changing times. It took us 4-5 years (since 1975) to be aware of this process and its fragility. And, it becomes our paradigm shift in working with the indigenous peoples.

In the third period, we had seen a close relationship and interdependence between religion and culture in the life of the people. However, when we implemented our activities we still separated the religious-cultural dimensions from the project themselves. This was a period of searching and attempting to integrate all the aspects of life, values and meaning in our shared activities and projects.

Beyond Vatican II

By John Mansford Prior

Need for a Paradigm Shift in Parochial Cultures

Due to rapid social change in a post-modern “cyber” world, Catholics now feel relatively free to forge new meanings and networks that are often only loosely connected with the parish. There is a plurality of models in contemporary Catholicism (See, Claver 2009:111-115). As in Latin America, Catholic loyalties are shifting from diocese and parish to movements, groups and organisations (Smith: 1994: 119-143).

BECs (Basic Ecclesial Community) cannot breathe in a staid, homogenous religious culture. For if BECs are absorbed into the institutional structure of the conventional parish they tend to be reduced to little more than parish wards. In that case Catholic activists move out into extra-ecclesial networks. Similarly, when charismatics are brought under the control of the conventional parish, and clear demarcations are insisted upon between liturgical rites and charismatic celebrations,1) then understandably many move on to the freer Pentecostal churches.

When left to mature according to their own dynamic, both movements advance social pluralism, foster participation in the wider society and promote an expectation and practice of both church and societal accountability. Participatory BECs express a process of social differentiation in the direction of personal choice and greater participation. In participatory BECs women experience independence and self-esteem. Individual choice is encouraged, and therefore free will. The emphasis is on achieved rather than ascribed status which contrasts sharply with the conventional parish.

We need, then, to shift from an authoritarian to a collegial culture; from a commando ethos to one of listening; from a religiosity that inculcates acceptance to that which inspires faith-in-action; from a church culture over-adaptive to local and global cultural norms to a church culture embedded in the values and norms of the Scriptures; from a church centred on its members to a church focused on its mission to society.

Towards a Communion of Communities

In short, the culture of the conventional parish needs to be replaced by an open, networking culture. We need to develop the parish into a flexible poly-centred web where BECs and other (charismatic) movements can mutually enrich rather than studiously avoid one another. If each movement were somehow to combine their strengths in the coming decades the result would be extraordinarily potent. If the charismatic movement were to absorb, and be transformed by, the social justice vision of the BECs while the BECs would take up the emotional, communal, narrational, hopeful and radically embodied ‘experientialism’ of the charismatics, the offspring could be more powerful than either parent (Smith: 1994: 119-143).

At the beginning this might well have to be forged despite the parish priest and his pastoral council. The vision and the practice comes from below; the pressure must also. The central threads converging in the ‘nucleus’ of this poly-centred web would consist of Catholic activists and their families. This core would arrange their own ongoing training and so challenge the parish pastoral team. Does anyone here know where we can find any “dialogic, participatory, co-responsible parish pastoral teams?

Lay leaders from BECs could be trained together with ordained pastors and non-affiliated activists according to the reflection-action-reflection (see-judge-act) model of reading life in the light of the Hebraic-Christian scriptures — and in multi-faith contexts the scriptures of other faith traditions – and then acting upon insights.2)

This would assist the BECs in uncovering the social roots and religious implications of the problems of life. Members could learn to read the bible in a way that links Christian symbols, events and teachings to the life of Asia’s poor. Then, as long as the ordained. leadership does not feel threatened by developments but continues to work collegially in bold-humility, the open parochial culture would cultivate a communion of communities. 3)

Ref:

1) While the disciplinary norms of the Instruction on Healing (art. 1 – 10) are theoretically plausible, I am not aware of their implementation which, if carried out, might well drive even more Catholics into the Pentecostal churches.

2) One pattern that has emerged in Java, Indonesia, is that collaboration in the struggle against systematic corruption and for human rights forges deep friendship and close bonding which opens up into inter-scriptural sharing on their fath based commitments.

3) For an appreciative yet critical look at Gaudium et spes 40 years down the road, see Felix Wilfred 2006, 15-20. Felix Wilfred argues for a broad sociological-political-economic-cultural analysis of society rather than a narrower cultural-anthropological one.

Gender Equality Today for a Sustanaible Tomorrow

By By Ashiknaz Khokhar

International Women’s Day (IWD) was first celebrated in 1975 by UNO. Historically this idea was proposed in 1910 by a lady Clara Zetkin, when she was addressing an international women’s conference in Copenhagen where 100 women from 17 countries unanimously agreed to her proposal. It was a time when women were getting the right to vote. At that time they raised their voice for shorter work hours and for better salaries.

Every year, United Nations chooses the theme to celebrate Women’s Day and they focus on that specific theme to work throughout the year ahead. This year, the United Nations’ theme for IWD is ‘Gender Equality today for a Sustainable tomorrow’. The theme recognizes the contribution of women and girls around the world, who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response, to build a more sustainable future for all.

This day is globally celebrated for women where we observe organizations and governments making efforts for gender equality by encouraging partcipation of women in politics, economics and therefore strengthing our cultures. The total population of females in the world is around 3.905 billion which is accounts to 49.58% of the total world population according to the statistics of World Times.

As the world is becoming a global village and we see that many things are developing rapidly, but it is a fact that even in the 21st century women are facing the same issues which they had faced for centuries. Slavery, violence, torture, low wages, under age marriages, honor killings, forced conversion, harassment in work places, less public spaces for girls, less job chances, health facilities, poverty and education are the issues which today’s women are facing.

Pope Francis has strongly condemned violence against women, saying in his New Year’s Day homily that: “To hurt a woman is to insult God.” How much violence is directed against women! Enough! To hurt a woman is to insult God, who from a woman took on our humanity,” the pontiff said.

“Women who, seeing with the heart, can combine dreams and aspirations with concrete reality, without drifting into abstraction and sterile pragmatism.” He added that mothers “Know how to overcome obstacles and disagreements, and to instill peace.”

“In this way, they transform problems into opportunities for rebirth and growth. They can do this because they know how to ‘keep’, to hold together the various threads of life.”

Pope Francis for the first time in the history of the Catholic Church has appointed a woman Sr. Nathalie Becquert to the senior post of undersecretary in the Vatican and which empowers her the right to vote in the next Synod of Bishops. She will be the first female in the Catholic Church who will vote with Bishops.

Liberal Catholics who are working for positive changes within Church also raising their voices on this special day to make our Church inclusive especially by giving more posts within our Church to women. As Saint Paul said: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:38).

An Antidote for Discrimination

By: Neilan D’Souza

Dear readers, what a horrific point of time it is to be living in this world. Unimaginable, inhumane acts are taking place across the world. Discrimination has diversified itself on the basis Caste, Race, Class, Ethnicity, Language, Nationality, Gender, Age, Religion, Sex, Sexual Orientation, Disability and continues to grow ever more. When will all forms of discrimination end?

With the outbreak of war between Russia and Ukraine we are witnessing immense suffering faced by Ukrainian inhabitants. The war has led them to flee and even during these difficult times the neighbouring countries who are welcoming refugees are prioritising safety only to Ukrainians and not other inhabitants. Many ethnic and racial minorities are being held back from receiving equal and adequate support for one or the other reason at the border. It is saddening and unfortunate to observe such discrimination despite the brutal war.

In this month we observe two important annual commemorations. Firstly, 8th of March is observed as International Women’s Day (IWD) commemorating the cultural, political, and socio-economic achievements of women. IWD originated from labour movements in North America and Europe during the early 20th century. Spurred on by the universal female suffrage movement and after many demonstration and commemorations from 1909 in various parts of the world, IWD was made a national holiday on March 8, 1917 After women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia.

Secondly, we observe the 21st of March as The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The United Nations General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination on this day in 1966 commemorating the Sharpeville Massacare which took place back in 1960 when police opened fire at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid pass laws; killing 69 people, and injuring around 180 more.

Dear readers we must recognise the fact that discrimination is not a natural phenomena but a ruthless invention of mankind and a ruthless sin . We have created discrimination and we solely hold the responsibility to heal the world from it. As we begin the Lenten season this year, remembering the sufferings of Christ Jesus, reflecting on ourselves and repenting for our sins, let us also pledge to become an antidote for discrimination by first – recognising all acts and forms of discrimination as wrongful acts and sin; second – deny and desist its practice and implication in society; and most importantly third – clarify, resolve and settle all impairments caused by discrimination. Therefore denouncing and actively putting an end to all discriminatory practices.