Erenlai - 按標籤顯示項目: asia
週五, 13 八月 2010 16:03

Is Asia Pacific? Interreligious conflicts, dialogue and inventiveness in today’s Asia

There is no need to underline the dizzying diversity of Asia’s religious landscape. I do not intend here to attempt even a preliminary sketch of the patchwork of faiths and traditions that extend from Pakistan to Japan… I just would like to point out some general trends that have emerged in the last two or three decades, trends that have been partly reshaping the setting of Asia’s religions. Also, I would like to reflect on the challenges that these trends are creating. Furthermore, I’d like to suggest a few possible answers that Christianity could articulate in response to current developments, provided that Christians wish indeed to become “peacemakers” as the Sermon on the Mount calls them to be. Such responses may also inspire the ones brought forward by other religions. In any case, interreligious dialogue in Asia has become an endeavor that no religion can escape from, not only for spiritual reasons but also in order to achieve the following goals: (a) progressing towards national and ethnic reconciliation (b) ensuring religious freedom and other civil rights (c) tackling global challenges (dialogue of civilizations, ecology, struggle against consumerism, development of a global ethic.)

Revivalism and Identity Crisis

Revivalism has become a predominant religious trend. The clearest example is provided by the new vitality found by Islam in Asia, as is also the case in other parts of the world. Such fact is of utmost importance: Indonesia is the most populated Muslim nation in the world; Bangladesh and Pakistan have overwhelming Muslim majorities, and Malaysia has also a Muslim majority, though not as pronounced; India has a strong Muslim minority; and Muslim populations are located on conflict-prone frontier regions in the Philippines, Thailand and China.

The point here is that such “vitality” - experienced with different feelings according to the standpoint of the observer - encompasses an array of very different phenomena that have to be carefully distinguished:

- A kind of revivalist atmosphere stressing both Islamic and ethnic pride on a background of post-colonial sensitivity and widespread religious education, affecting the consciousness of Muslim populations all around Asia.

- Marginal violent movements carrying attacks, movements often fostered by international networks.

- Pervasive political strategies trying to impose and enforce Islamic laws and Islamic state apparatus; such strategies threaten the fabric of the secular state (which was a feature of post-colonial Asia) or lead some states that from the start were not altogether secular to become openly theocratic.

- At the same time, it is important to note that, since 2001. Muslin communities often suffer from accrued hostility and prejudices, especially in countries where they are a minority - and these prejudices can reinforce violence and deviant behaviors. Some of these communities also suffer from disadvantageous social background and economic conditions.

A few additional remarks are in order:

- Among these trends, the third one might be the most preoccupying one. In history, such strategies have led to the annihilation/assimilation of populations living in Muslin societies and professing other faiths. Strategies vary according to the size of the proportion of the Muslim population and the overall political situation. A distinction is to be made between Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia on the one hand, and the other countries of the region where Muslims are a vocal minority, sometimes with complaints rooted into national history. At the same time, further comparison between Bangladesh and Pakistan for instance might help us to assess better the role of cultural or international factors in religious attitudes: Bangladesh prides itself of a spirit of tolerance and accommodation seemingly lacking in Pakistan. This opposition of style between two Moslem countries leads back to an array of cultural and political factors deeply anchored into the collective memory of the two protagonists.

- In countries with Muslim majority, Christians of tribal origin generally constitute the most vulnerable population when it comes to forced conversion and discrimination. At the same time, Christians who are social leaders because of their wealth, occupation or educational level are often at the frontline of ongoing confrontations (this is patent in Pakistan).

- Of course, besides the Islamic revival, other sources of concern exist, which strongly influence interreligious conflicts and cooperation on the continent as a whole: authoritarian States manipulative of religions or even of interreligious dialogue; revivalist political/religious currents and organizations that might go with the assertion of a “national’ religion (in a Buddhist context, the phenomenon can be observed in Sri-Lanka); materialism and consumerism as they are cutting off the very roots of interreligious dynamics and dialogue.

- With the exception of Vietnam maybe, one notes everywhere a strong growth of Protestantism, most of the time under a fundamentalist and proselytizing garb, which often exacerbates tensions already existing. Proselytism also characterizes new religions, which are in the rise in many countries. As a consequence of this increase of religious communalism, a country like China is much less “syncretistic” than in the past and, witnesses a new assertiveness of believers who are conscious of clear-cut confessional divisions.


bv_buddhist_temple_bkk_2010

In a Buddhist temple in Bangkok (July 2010)

What is to be done?

1) In a context marked by potential or actual confrontations, but also by encounters and fluctuating frontiers, believers should not renounce the ideal of living and praying side by side as a privileged form of dialogue. Sometimes, and in different circles, there have been hesitations and reservations on a form of interreligious dialogue rooted into the fact of praying side by side. Still, one can reasonably think that God takes more pleasure in seeing people praying together than killing each other… Prayer often manifests itself as a kind of “revolutionary force”, and religious leaders are well advised to let and encourage people find their own way of associating their prayers in times and places of conflicts, natural disasters, or just for building up brotherly neighborhoods. Actually, what might be the most dangerous feature of violence is the fact that it exercises a kind of fascination that leads all people involved to a hardening of their own identity, fostering a chain of violent reactions - violent in spirit even when not in deeds. In this light, and even if such posture looks “idealistic”, the importance of a spiritual, even “mystical” approach towards interreligious understanding cannot be overlooked.

2) At the same time, it is impossible not to tackle directly the political dimension of interreligious encounters (understood as dialogue and tensions): ethnic or national revivalist movements and religious revivals are associated phenomena; ethnic, partisan and religious lines are often blurred. In the Catholic Church, a document of the Second Vatican Council, Dignitatis Humanae, has established the principle of religious freedom, associating it with a reflection on the mission, nature and duties of the state. At the same time, the text was strongly influenced by the American constitutionalism tradition. Asian religious leaders now need to clarify their stance about the secular state (which most of them tend to belittle or flatly reject.) Asian religions should debate of their political principles and, hopefully, agree on a few pressing tasks: (a) definition of the secular state, (b) pushing towards further regional union, encompassing a bill of rights emphasizing the spiritual roots of Asia (both their diversity and their strength), (c) working for equality among sexes (which might constitute the most important check against radical Islam on the long run)… Also going along this “political imperative”, arises the exigency to be always truthful about history. Interreligious and inter-ethnic encounters are made possible or are blocked by narratives that are shared or are conflicting. When they happen in a context where conflicting narratives are honestly recognized and retold, such encounters operate as a healing of memories.

3) Asia is a region marked by an irreducible linguistic, cultural and religious diversity. Traditionally seen by Christianity as a practical and theological challenge, such diversity is actually a treasure that needs to be assessed, appreciated and interpreted. Peace-building is thus to be seen as an ongoing endeavor inseparable from the development of interreligious dialogue: both tasks are anchored into an interpretative process through which cultures, creeds and world-views are perpetually reshaped. On the long run, the “translation” of traditional languages and narratives that the in-depth meeting with the Other makes possible nurtures a creative reinterpretation of one’s spirituality and faith.

4) Value education and other actions conducive to a culture of dialogue must target in priority women and the youth, as these two sectors are the ones who are susceptible to foster in the future a less rigid and more compassionate social culture. Value education starts from existential requirements such as the importance of honesty, mutual respect and joy. Interreligious cooperation is actually anchored into the nurturing of basic values that, ideally, could and should be taught in the schools of a pluralistic secular state.

A “musical” metaphor might help us to ascertain what is at stake in such encounters: we all have different musical tastes, different “ears”, and yet we are called to do music together. What then will come out of our musical disagreements? At the end of the day, we cannot bet for sure on the kind of music that God likes and composes. Maybe He does not compose in the C scale or in B moll, maybe He composes a kind of serial or computer-generated music that goes through disharmonies and rhythmic breaks – music that we do not immediately appreciate. Creative music generally challenges our listening habits - and we can assume that God indeed is a creative composer.


週五, 20 一月 2012 16:32

Taiwan arts in Toulouse

The Made In Asia Toulouse Festival will be held from January 25 to February 10, 2012

Created in 2008, by Didier Kimmoun, and brought to the stage by the Tchin-tchine association, the Made in Asia festival attempts to present Asian cultures in France. This year it proposes to highlight Taiwan contemporary creative works through its most talented artists, Hsu Yen Ling (徐堰鈴) and Wang XinXin (王心心). Events include dance performances, contemporary theatre, puppets shows, concerts, exhibitions and movie screenings!

The origin of the project, a passion for Asia Today

The founder of the festival spent part of his childhood in China: his father was a teacher in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution. He has always been attracted to Asian cultures. After several trips to China, he realized early on that Asian people know Western culture better than Westerners know Asian cultures. 'There is a gap between the knowledge in West Asia and Europe. This gap is greater in the cultural field: in Asia, Western culture is part of school curricula, which is not the case in France.' This observation led him to develop the project of a festival dedicated to Asia. 'I did not want an exotic festival for hippies from Yunnan. I wanted people to discover contemporary cultural life in Asia'.

The festival strives to make French people better understand the reality of contemporary Asia, its developments, its contradictions, and to build bridges between East and West.

In 2000, he met the Tchin-Tchine association which organized cultural events to promote Asia. ‘I proposed to develop an annual cultural week about China and opened it to other countries as well such as Vietnam and Korea. I wanted to propose different kinds of shows, including contemporary living arts, which are not so well known here. I had to convince the French programmers who were afraid of the audience reaction and had difficulty to conceive the existence of contemporary creative works in Asia '. Indeed, at this time, only Korea was known for its contemporary dance performances. 'It took time to find financial partners; I had to convince the city hall and government. I finally got a grant from the city hall'. To make up the deficit in the budget, he approached private companies, offering them projects such as the installation of Korean sculptures in a Hyundai shop in Labège from January 25 to February 18.

A festival of sharing and artistic exchange

Didier Kimmoun does not want the festival to be the only egg in his basket and so he develops artistic residencies and exchanges between Asian and French artists, in order to create bridges. That is why this year he welcomed the wonderful Wang XinXin, specialist in Nanguan, for a period of residency in collaboration with a baroque orchestra. Throughout the year he has also invited artists for residencies like in last November, when he invited an experinmental Japanese group led by Oriza Hirata, who presented 'Sayonara' played by Geminoid F. The next countries that will be featured at the festival will be Japan - due in part to the events that occurred in Fukushima - and also Singapore. In 2014/2015, there will be contemporary Chinese Opera. This year, the guest is Taiwan. Why Taiwan? Because 'this year was the centennial of the Republic of China and the Taiwanese artists, guardians of hungry Western ways of life and ancient Chinese culture, are very good at crossing between East and West, tradition and modernity ', he says.

Theatre, music, dance

The french audience will be able to admire the extraordinary performance of Hsu Yen Ling, one of the best Taiwanese actresses, in 'Remix - Hsu Yen-Ling x Sylvia Plath, the Monodrama of HSU Yen - Ling', written by Chou Man-Nung and staged by Baboo. Produced by the Shakespeare's Wild Sisters Group, it will be performed on January 25 and 26, at Théâtre Garonne. Another great performance will follow, dedicated to a younger audience: 'The Birth'*, produced by the East and the West and the Flying group, performed on February 4, in Mediatheque José Cabanis. This show mixes puppetry, shadow theatre and theatre: the first part of a trilogy, he takes the children and their parents into the dream of a little girl who, still in the womb of her mother, discovers the world. This dreamy and poetic trip is interpreted by the talented Chou Jung Shih, accompanied live by Wang Yu Jun, a gifted young musician. Besides this, the festival also welcomes Shang Chi Sun, a young choreographer and talented dancer with 'Traverse' on January 27 in Espace Bonnefoy, and the fabulous Wen Chi Su with 'Loop me', a multimedia dance performance signed by Yilab. The Ten Drums Art Percussion Group, from the South of Taiwan, based in Tainan, composed of 10 amazing percussionists, will perform 'the charm of Taiwan', a tribute to spiritual Taiwanese traditions, on February 3 at the salle Nougaro. The XinXin Nanguan Ensemble, led by the majestic Wang XinXin, will present ' the Passions', a musical dialogue between Nanguan, a Chinese traditional instrument, and Baroque music, in collaboration with Passions Orchestra - Orchestra Baroque of Montauban, under the direction of Jean-Marc Andrieu. This concert where Chinese and Baroque music are revisited will allow the audience to discover all the vocal and instrumental virtuosity of Jiang Nan and Wang XinXin on February 8 at the Capitol Theatre.

TEN-DRUMS2

Focus on REMIX: Hsu Yen-Ling + Sylvia Plath, A red-hot mono-drama

Remix, Hsu Yen Ling's mono-drama, is inspired by fever 103, a poem written by Sylvia Plath and deals with the last moments of Sylvia Plath’s life. This last was an American poetess haunted by the idea of death, who killed herself, despaired by love, when she was 30. Hsu Yen ling, fascinating and disturbing, plays magnificently and brilliantly Plath's character: she becomes completely this hurt woman, wild animal tortured by abused love and sickness. She's belching, yelling, sighing, murmuring with fervor, violence, and despair the poetess' words, rewritten by Chou Man-Nung – young Taiwanese author. This poetical rewriting shows the extent of the talent of the young actress, here, in one of her best performances. Baboo's art direction is very rhythmic and spread intelligently and soberly the poetic whisper of this tortured writing. It swings between foolish and indolent scenes, showing the ambiguous relationships between Plath and her father, Plath and her husband, both beloved and hated men of her life. The spectator becomes the witness of the actress' inner truth revelation: Ms. Hsu defends body and soul this American author unknown in France. Ms Plath used to live in her husband's shadow, a famous poet, and suffered from the cruelty of a patriarchal society. We warmly recommend it to the audience.

Young Taiwanese creation in the fields of cinema and fine arts

Many exhibitions complete the program: elaborated in collaboration with the Cultural Centre of Taiwan in Paris, under the advice of its Director, Mr. Chen, specialist in Fine Arts, former Professor and artist himself, the audience is invited to various places in Toulouse to have a look at contemporary Taiwanese art. This is the opportunity to meet Yong - Ning Tzeng, with two exhibitions from 25 January to 11 February, in Espace Bonnefoy - opening January 27 - and from 31 January to 5 February, at Place Commune, opening on February 2. Gallery Lemniscate will host from 26 January to 26 February - opening January 26- Mia Liu Wen Hsuan with her paper sculptures. Char Wei Tsai, for his part, will explore the process of transformation. Chi-Tsung Wu who experiments with simple processes in the manufacture of images in reference to traditional painting work will be in residency from January 15 to February 1 and will present his work from 2 to 25 February in Maison Salvan in Labège - opening February 2 at 19: 00. Young Video maker Cheng Ta Yu interested in the human body will be from the 2 to February 25 in Pavillon Blanc- Colomiers - opening February 2 at 7 pm. This palette of artists unveils the creative diversity of the Taiwanese artists in resonance with current issues.

The surprise of the Chief: Mister Candle

In the heart of the Asian village, one could try martial arts, kitchen workshops, and Asian food and attend the parade of the New Year with the dance of the dragon, accompanied by drums and a release of lanterns on 28 and 29 January. This will be the opportunity to see a young Taiwanese artist, the enigmatic Mister Candle, Huang Ming-Cheng, in residence in the village. Mister Candle is the last discovery Didier Kimmoun made during his recent trip to Taiwan. This young Acrobat has a delirious project and will work with circus artists from Toulouse and Barcelona. His artistic project is to take a photo of himself in the position of the candle in various places of the island, in a market or on a moped, bringing a particular look at the fragility of the world he looks backwards and wants to make a 15 year world tour. A gallery of his suspended photos will be shown during the festival. Didier Kimmoun is interested in his artistic posture, his authentic approach in acquaintance with his very lifestyle. Enjoy it!

 


 

*More on the Birth, follow the link: http://www.erenlai.com/index.php?option=com_content&id=4307%3Athe-birth-a-franco-taiwanese-show-for-the-young-&Itemid=164&lang=en

More detail on http://www.festivalmadeinasia.com/

 

 


週五, 24 九月 2010 19:31

Brainwashing! Suicide! Drugs! Abuse! Or, how to understand religious innovation in the modern world

To the casual observer, the first four words in the headline might come to mind when thinking of new religious movements (NRMs), or to use the pejorative term generally used by the media, cults. It seems that such groups are easy fodder for editors, given the mainstream media’s lack of expertise in the field and willingness to generate eye-catching headlines to boost circulation.

Indeed, it is the controversial groups that dominate the public sphere. Be they ‘classics’ of the field such as the People’s Temple at Jonestown, Heaven’s Gate or the Branch Davidians, or somewhat ‘mysterious’ groups from East Asia such as the Moonies, Aum Shinrikyo or Falun Gong. These are the groups that the average person will most likely have come across in newspapers and magazines and on current affairs shows.

Religion remains an ever-evolving phenomenon. Of course, what is now old was new once upon a time. As a high school student in 1993, I remember watching TV reports of the Branch Davidian siege at Waco and thinking of the group’s leader, David Koresh, “What if he is right? What if he actually is the messiah?”. Who can actually prove this? If, like Koresh, Jesus Christ arrived in the time of satellite TV (and now the internet), would he have met a similar fate?  The Waco stand-off was a profoundly unfortunate and complicated event. While this is not the place to examine that further, the event gave law-makers, the media, the public and other religious groups much to think about.  Perhaps one of this biggest issues to come out of Waco was the importance of successfully engaging with religious groups.

Even after thousands of years, the spiritually legitimacy of figures such as Christ, Buddha and Mohammed remain hotly contested. No one needs to be reminded of just how passionate people can be in defending their faith, against attacks real or perceived. Religious conflict is an ongoing and unfortunate fact of life for many people around the world and it occurs on every different scale - from nations to neighbourhoods.

When it comes to NRMs, be they old religions in a new setting or with a new organisational structure (Tibetan Buddhism outside of Tibet, Indian gurus in the West) or a whole new conception of reality (Scientology), one common thread is public misunderstanding. Not that the public necessarily wants to misunderstand, it's just that sometimes a broader perspective can be hard to come by.  And this misunderstanding is amplified when tragedies occur. Not only does sexual misconduct and financial deception remain a problem in all religions – new and old, East and West – it continues to do so in many other facets of society. Schools, places of employment, social clubs, even (gasp!) families can be dangerous to one’s well being. Anti-social behaviour is by no means limited to religious groups.

And it is this unyieldingly unsatisfying world that drives people to seek solace in faith, something that many around the world now have a choice in. These groups – NRMs, traditional religions, self help courses, the New Age movement and so on – all help people find some meaning in their life, give them some way of negotiating the highs and lows that come to all of us every day. When a scandal occurs in a religion – and they do – the adherents of that particular religion are likely to be as shocked, if not more so, than the general public is. Individuals and families can be left devastated by the actions of unscrupulous religious leaders.

This edition of eRenlai is not to tell you which faith is the holiest and most efficacious or threatening and secretative.  Nor is it an advertisement for NRMs. Rather, it is a chance to look at some of the new forms of spirituality that have evolved in Asia in recent times. By looking at some of the innovations in religion over recent decades, hopefully we can better understand the methods that people are employing to make sense of life on this planet. Better still, next time a religious group becomes a tabloid controversy, hopefully we can look beyond the headlines and try to appreciate the underlying forces at work.

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All photos by P. Farrelly


週三, 28 七月 2010 22:04

The new frontier in abolishing the death penalty

In the second half of the 20th century, there were many changes in death penalty policy worldwide. After the end of World War II and its atrocities, an abolitionist movement started in Western Europe. The first countries to abolish were Italy, Austria and Germany. They were later followed by Great Britain, Spain and France. After the last major power in Western Europe had abolished the death penalty, in 1981, the issue shifted from a question of criminal justice to a question of human rights and limits on government.

Since then, the number, scope and implementation strategies of international human rights treaties and conventions has increased. Among those treaties and conventions lies the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which prohibits the use of capital punishment, and the UN moratorium on death penalty, a nonbinding resolution reached in 2007 which calls for a general suspension of the death penalty. In addition to these resolutions, INGOs such as Amnesty International have been launching worldwide campaigns to abolish capital punishment.

In 2009, 95 countries had abolished the death penalty, while only 18 of the 58 retentionist countries are known to have carried out executions in the same year. However, despite a decline in Asia’s overall number of executions, the continent still accounted for 90 percent of the world’s execution in 2009, the majority having been carried out in China, although Bangladesh, Japan, North Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam also carried out executions.

Nevertheless, there are many reasons to believe that Asia is the new frontier in the movement to abolish the death penalty. First, many countries are already abolitionist or de facto abolitionist. In 1989, Cambodia abolished death penalty, and then Macao, Hong Kong and more recently the Philippines followed suit, while South Korea has not carried out an execution since December 1997. Second, there is ambivalence in other Asian countries that still practice death penalty, as is the case in Taiwan.

In 1987 the Republic of China (Taiwan) emerged from 40 years of an oppressive regime under martial law, where people could be punished by death, secretly and on a whim. As Chiang Ching-Kuo opened up the country economically and began the democratisation process, Taiwan's institutions were still partly in the hands of the system which had allowed for the White Terror and other miscarriages of social justice. A key component of the democratisation process is transitional justice. The term refers to a complete set of policies in order to transform a society and overcome its past of human rights abuses, authoritarianism and societal traumas to a peaceful and more certain future. For some, this 'transition' is still in progress today.

After some controversial cases during the 1990s such as the Hsichih trio case, the number of executions carried out in Taiwan decreased and a change of attitude towards the death penalty began to emerge. Between 2006 and 2009, no executions were carried out, and Taiwan seemed to be moving gradually toward abolition…

In March 2010, a controversy emerged over the death penalty issue when former Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) announced her position in favour of abolishing the death penalty adding that she would not step down over the row about enforcing death penalty. Her announcement led to public protests led by victims’ relatives, such as Pai Ping-Ping, a media personality whose daughter was kidnapped and murdered in 1997. On March 11th, Wang Ching-feng resigned after the Presidential Office stated that the death penalties handed down must be carried out and that any suspension of executions must follow the law.

On April 30th 2010, executions in Taiwan were resumed after a 4-year moratorium on the death penalty, as four men were executed by shooting. Human rights organizations as well as representatives of the international community deplored the executions and asked for the immediate reestablishment of a moratorium.

(Image by Ash Ka)

 

 


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