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◎ "ASEM 2000 People's Forum" to Confirm the Role of Religion and Spirituality in the Era of Globalization and Neo-liberalism
- Give Joy and Liberation to Whole Humanity by Creating New Spirituality -

More than 100 participants from 10 countries of Asia and Europe gathered for a workshop in Seoul from October 16 to 19, 2000 in Seoul to review and reflect on the topic of globalization and spirituality. The workshop was organized as part of the ASEM 2000 People's Forum which took place in conjunction with the 3rd ASEM.

The workshop organized by the ICMICA with three other organizations provided a good opportunity for adherents of the different religious and spiritual traditions, namely, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and various indigenous spiritualities, to better understand one another and to discuss plausible collaborative responses to the significant issues arising from the phenomenon of globalization and neo-liberalism. From South Korea, four Catholic organizations including the Korean Catholic Association of Major Superiors of Women Religious and Catholic Women's Organizations participated.

In the final statement entitled "Globalization and Spirituality: Towards a Holistic and Proactive Response," the participants pointed out that globalization manifests the neo-liberal economic perspectives and such an economic globalization poses a significant challenge to the religious and spiritual traditions. The participants asked some questions: how can they, as communities of the different religious and spiritual traditions, respond to the effects of globalization? what roles do their spiritual and religious traditions have in challenging the negative effects of globalization? what kinds of alternative spiritualities and visions can they develop in order to help create a new and more healthy society? how can they better collaborate in order to respond more effectively to the challenges posed by globalization?

The statement pointed out that globalization poses a challenge to the foundations of our religious and spiritual traditions, especially in its questioning of some of the fundamental principles and values. It went on saying if the religious and spiritual traditions advocate the values of compassion, simplicity, cooperation, and justice, globalization seems to advocate, explicitly or implicitly, the values of consumerism, materialism, endless competition, and the survival of the fittest. It also declared that globalization is incompatible with the promotion of justice and peace, the common good, human rights, ecological sustainability, etc., all of which are concerns of the religious and spiritual traditions.

The statement indicated especially that existing institutional religions have not been prophetic and courageous enough in denouncing the neo-liberal globalization which pervades cultures and neither have they been distinct enough in joining the people's struggle against the negative elements of globalization. It also said that a simple living as an alternative lifestyle or 'voluntary poverty' need to be promoted and stressed importance of inter-religious dialogue, openness and mutual respect, developing common grounds based on compassion, love, justice, and solidarity, and cultivating a culture of peace dialogue, understanding and appreciation.

The statement brought up an issue of discrimination against women, and women's exploitation within the religious and spiritual traditions. "In the case of certain Christian denominations in Korea, we have learnt that the model of Church growth is very similar to that of big corporations in terms of quantity-oriented measure of growth as well as in their treatment of women. We regretfully acknowledge that many women have been marginalised in the globalization process and worse still that this has all been justified by male-centered interpretations of religious teachings." it read.

The statement called for globalization based on mutuality, compassion, and common good by empowering to resist and create an alternative, inclusive world, in which peace, justice, and solidarity are commonly shared values. It said that in order to enhance the role of spiritualities in challenging globalization, they felt challenged to renew their own spirituality in order to make it more relevant and responsive to contemporary challenges, and in this regard, they found it very important to be constantly reminded of the original vision of the founders of their own religious and spiritual traditions for the enlightenment and liberation of whole humanity.

Rev. Park Chang-kyun who participated in the workshop said, "the Church has to present concrete alternative to globalization with constant interest and concern, but, to be honest, she has neglected it. A national campaign against excessive consumerism can be a realistic alternative."


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