What a title for an editorial or message during Christmas Season 1979!
And yet we must speak of both - for we celebrate at this time the coming of the Christ Child into the world and we likewise join the whole world in what is billed as the observation of the International Year of the Child (IYC) - another United Nations campaign. By now, our eyes will have feasted on pictures and posters of children, radio and TV Jingles on children, essays and declamations on children. There are even songs on children and in a particular Asian country, popular balladeers and singers were asked to compose songs about children. There can be a bastardization (no pun intended) of what is a very good idea such as the observation of the Year of the Child!
We have had the fortune of spending
all of October and the first week of November in
Rabindranath Tagore, around a hundred years ago wrote of Bengali children in his poem/songs:
They do not know how to swim, they do not know how to cast nets. Pearl fishers dive for pearls, merchants sail their ships, while children gather pebbles and scatter them again.
But, in 1979, the above-mentioned The Bangladesh Observer opens an article already referred to on the exploitation of children!
There are currently about 3.2 million children under the age of 15 in Bangladesh who are engaged in directly productive work and are contributing to the survival of their families.
The message comes loud and clear in
this so-called Year of the Child. Not modernization, not development, not the
period of colonization and the present state of neo-colonialism in
The same article quoted above said of the cause of the present malady;
Children become exploited because their families are exploited; exploitation breeds exploitation in both of the two contexts within which child labour occurs; that of unpaid labour within the family or of selling goods; services or labour outside the family,
We can recite a litany of the
But why such a gloomy picture or mood in an editorial or message this Christmas 1979 and the Year of the Child? After all, the message of Christmas is that it was through a Child - in Christ - that the world has known the messages of love; compassion; peace; joy; brotherhood; sharing; humility. It was said even in the Old Testament that the time will come (after adults will have failed to establish true leadership?) when "a little child shall lead them"
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb; and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the lion and the falling together; and a little child shall lead them.
And, for his task, a Gospel writer, St Matthew; had this to say in chapter 1 verse 21:
...she will bear a son; and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
The word save here means salvation which is Christ's work! and we interpret this to mean not merely spiritual healing of sins; but the making whole of all of life - mankind's well-being, peace, justice and the fellowship of peoples. This means, too, the affirmation of persons - including children; or perhaps, especially children. This is the meaning of salvation. To return to the theme Year of the Child - there should be a correlation between the celebration of Christmas and the fate and condition of every child born into this hopelessly unjust world. Is it ever right for us to say that for every child born into unjust societies and structures; Christ's birth is not affirmed?
Christ, too, appears to us, or is incarnated, in every child that walks this earth, for he was once a child!
YEAR OF THE: CHILD
Mother and child
By Rabrindranath Tagore
ON THE SEASHORE OF ENDLESS WORLDS CHILDREN MEET.
THE INFINITE SKY IS MOTIONLESS OVERHEAD AND
THE RESTLESS WATER IS BOISTEROUS.
ON THE SEASHORE OF ENDLESS WORLDS CHILDREN MEET
WITH SHOUTS AND DANCES.
THEY BUILD THEIR HOUSES WITH SAND
AND THEY PLAY WITH EMPTY SHELLS.
WITH WITHERED LEAVES THEY WEAVE THEIR BOATS AND
SMILINGLY FLOAT THEM ON THE VAST DEEP.
CHILDREN HAVE THEIR PLAY ON THE SEASHORE OF WORLDS.
THEY KNOW NOT HOW TO SWIM, THEY KNOW NOT HOW TO CAST NETS.
PEARL FISHERS DIVE FOR PEARLS,
MERCHANTS SAIL IN THEIR SHIPS,
WHILE CHILDREN GATHER PEBBLES AND SCATTER THEM AGAIN.
THEY SEEK MOT FOR HIDDEN TREASURES, THEY KNOW NOT HOW TO CAST NETS.
THE SEA SURGES UP WITH LAUGHTER AND PALE GLEAMS
THE SMILE OF THE
DEATH-DEALING WAVES SING MEANINGLESS BALLADS TO
EVEN LIKE A MOTHER WHILE ROCKING HER BABY’S CRADLE.
THE SEA PLAYS WITH CHILDREN, AND PALE GLEAMS
THE SMILE OF THE
ON THE SEASHORE OF ENDLESS WORLDS CHILDREN MEET.
TEMPEST ROAMS IN THE PATHLESS SKY,
SHIPS GET WRECKED IN THE TRACKLESS WATER,
DEATH IS ABROAD AND CHILDREN PLAY.
ON THE SEASHORE OF ENDLESS WORLDS IS THE
GREAT MEETING OF CHILDREN.
There are currently about 3.2 million children under the age of 15 in Bangladesh who are engaged in directly productive work and are contributing to the survival of their families.
Of this number about 90% are involved in agricultural cultivation or processing and animal husbandry, and the remainder "work" as hawkers, providers of various services such as shoe-shining, tiffin carrying, etc., helpers in family businesses, or as wage earners in shops and factories.
It should be noted that this number does not include the vital work performed by children within the family such as looking after younger brothers and sisters, cleaning, cooking and washing, fetching fuel and water, and the many other small but important jobs typically done by children.
Our main concern here though is with those children who contribute directly to their family's income as wage earners or as producers of products for sale or consumption by the family.
In order to relate child labour to the concept of exploitation, we need first to look at the nature of exploitation. Exploitation used here in its economic sense can be thought of as the expropriation and use of the SURPLUS VALUE produced by workers by their employers or those who own or control the means of production (i.e. land, machinery and capital). It is the size of this surplus value which is the difference of the products produced, which determines the size of the profit realized by the employer.
The third element in the exploitation equation is the price of the agricultural products, which to a large extent, determines the standard of living of the rural population and which contributes to determining the standard of living for the non-agricultural part of the population. The equation works as follows: As long as profits from business rise faster than wages and wages faster than the prices of agricultural products (i.e. peasants' income) which seem to be generally the case today, the gap between owners, employers, non-agricultural wage labourers and agricultural producers tends to widen with standards for the first two groups rising faster than those of the producers of primary agricultural products (i.e. the peasants), even in the face of rising productivity in the agricultural sector.
Thus the squeeze is placed on many rural families, who face rising prices for basic commodities, including land at a time when their consumption needs may be increasing due to the birth of children and when their viability as productive unit may be threatened by competition from growing agro-businesses. This decrease in the family's productive base which consists of land, labour and capital leads to economic hardship and a relative decline in standard of living compared to other groups in the population. In order to prevent its situation from deteriorating even more and more ultimately below the survival level, the family must attempt to compensate for its loss by somehow increasing its productive base. Since land and capital are usually short or decreasing supply, labour is the only commodity which many families can resort to in their efforts to remain above the survival level. This increase in NECESSARY labour can be met by increasing the amount of productive labour done by already working family members or by drawing additional family members into productive labour.
In a society like
children, particularly the male children, to take up productive work. Children then function, as the family's labour reserve which can be drawn upon in times of economic hardship, a permanent condition for majority of families.
Thus the stage is set for the exploitation of child's labour either directly through being forced to work for wages or provide services at prices which are much lower than they should be, or indirectly by joining the agricultural labour force where the value of what they produce and hence their labour declines relative to the price of other basic commodities and to inflation in general. Children become exploited because their families are exploited, exploitation breeds exploitation in both of the two contexts within which child labour occurs, that of unpaid labour within the family or of selling goods, service or labour outside the family.
Exploitation is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon, but occurs in degrees. The intensity of exploitation is related to both the time and effort used in the amount of surplus value which is extracted from labour. Children are particularly susceptible to high rates of exploitation since they are generally only working to supplement the family's income and do not demand higher wages to better working conditions. Thus, it is the purchaser of the child's labour or of the goods and services he has to sell who ultimately benefits from child labour.
What of the consequence of child labour? One of the most damaging and practically irreparable effects is that the child who for economic reasons must work and is therefore hindered from getting an education drops even further behind than those more fortunate children who are able to compensate their education — he becomes "disqualified" as regards the skills needed to break the vicious cycle of poverty - child labour, poor education, poorly paid job, poverty.
The dilemma many families face between the necessity of child labour and the benefits of education cannot be resolved by attempting to improve working conditions or educational opportunities alone but rather by means of education programme which recognize the child's need to work and earn money while attending school...The ultimate answer to the disqualifying and exploitative effects and to the tremendous waste of human potential which child labour represents lies in relieving the rural and urban poor of the economic pressures which force their children prematurely into the labour market.
October 17, 1979
35,000 children die each day of malnutrition
-United Nations Report
Revenge for the death of youth infants is not an
invention of Satan.
Most die at night
When the Banana leaves
Become the leathery wings
Of Old birds passing
And the slums are quiet.
Black brown yellow children
Our grey damaged dolls
In death you look alike.
We’ve driven from our fields
the small hungry birds
And let the steady wind carry
Off the chaff.
All the stars the eye can see
How would they know it was the end
What has death to do with infancy?
Who will avenge them?
The roaming herd that stop each night
Eat mates sleeps and then
At dawn leaves the weak behind
Yet we seek a better love
Desperately as the child reaches for life
When terrified and weak as birds
They were passed to death’s patients arms
We want a love that weeps for children dying
That is true as the whale rising to the sunlight
A love that settles serving as the rains
That warns and pains and humbles
As the eyes of a child.
By Dr. Abu Mahmood
The Marxian and Rousseauian traditions are so strong-in the world of the second half of the twentieth century that no doctrine or interpretation which is inconsistent with them is capable of general acceptance. Moreover, a culture of private power and affluence give such stress to mercenary values- and resist accountability to law and order. In his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, Rousseau attempts to describe the origin of evil. The first man who dared to take from the common ownership of a plot of ground, fence it in, and say "this is mine" - he is the villain responsible for the end of the state of nature. Rousseau does not explain why the child of nature acted so unnaturally. Neither the idealists, Fitche and Hegel, the positivist, Comte, the liberal, Mill, nor evolutionary nationalist Spencer, regarded themselves as social revolutionaries or as renegades from the underlying cultural tradition in which their own philosophies had been conceived and nurtured. They were critics and reformers who sought only to clarify, purify, and amend tradition; they had no intention of breaking with it altogether. Their philosophical disagreements (the idealists and the positivists),serious as they were, may still be viewed as phases of a continuing parliamentary debate between tolerably well-bred liberals and conservatives, all of whom were committed in greater or less degree, to the developing institutional life of bourgeois Christendom. When we come to Marx, we find those lines have become obscured and that philosophical oppositions of a difficult and more radical kind begin to emerge. Marx was not contented merely to amend tradition; in his own way he tried to destroy it, what he sought to accomplish as a philosopher was not just a new way of ideas or a new critique of reason, but virtually the creation of a new kind of man where there will be an end of exploitation of man by man. So different both in form and substance are his writings from those of his predecessors that many academics, historians have scarcely recognized that he was a philosopher at all. Yet it has been his doctrines, his approach to social reality rather than the "respectable" theories of his more conventional contemporaries that have had the greater impact upon the effective thought of our age.
It seemed increasingly clear to Marx, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, that any cultural synthesis or compromise between Christianity, positive science and political liberalism is impossible, because they were not interested in not being simply reasonable but in salvation or success or to put to an end the recurrence of human suffering. The philosophical problem, said Marx, is not to understand the world but to change it. For Nietzsche, "truth" itself becomes virtually a term of decision; where truth is of no avail Nietzsche resorts to noble lie. The philosophically important questions, for Nietzsche, are not so much, "What is true?", "What is right?", but "What do I want to do?" and "What do I want to become?" Kierkegaard is equally intransigent. He simply turns his back upon the "rational" theologies of our tradition. In his way, they were merely so many unchristian attempts to rationalize the idea of Christ and hence so many ways of accommodating its inner subjective meaning to the irrelevant demands of the secular (capitalistic) order. For him, there is no more possibility of reconciling the idea of a Christian life with the demands of the historical institutions with which Hegel identifies "objective truth" or "reason" than there is of equating spiritual freedom with historical necessity. His break with theological rationalism is not at the same time a radical break with the bourgeois institutional life of the 19th Century, and it is as radical and final a break as that of either Marx or Nietzsche.
But for Marx, the problem does not end there. He has to discover ways and means of getting out of the traditional methodology of social research with its elaborate strategy to mystify and obfuscate social reality. It was the hey day of neo-classicals which tried to mystify further by introducing abstract mathematical model pre-fabricated to arrive at acceptable explanations of the social reality. Bourgeois social science perfected itself as positivists and empiricists pursue their goal of studying the surface phenomenon which skirts any deeper analysis of social phenomenon to find out the basic structure of the society, and the fundamental relationships, which through class struggle provide the dynamics of change and growth. But he could not run down the social research which end up with empirical findings of surface phenomenon and try to delude public and researcher by equating appearance with reality. But if appearance were the reflection of reality, there was no need for science, intuition, technology and manipulations of those to capture reality. In natural science, the dialectical relations between component elements of a thing is clear but it is not clear in the social science, how the struggle between opposites explain a social phenomenon. Nor, could he explain the influence of historically rooting religious influence, geographical constraints through the conventional concepts, methods and models used in current social research. It is one of fundamental belief that Marx's greatest contribution has been his approach to social reality via historical rooting, structural locations and cultural situating of a particular society by using dialectical materialism as tool of analysis.
"As an economic theorist, Marx was first of all a very learned man", Schumpeter observed. In the descent from Ricardo, the Social Darwinists were an eddy to the right. Marx was a massive eruption to the left. Marx built socialism on Ricardo's orderly arrangement of economic ideas and on his bold conception of the problem of income distribution, and came to Ricardian conclusion - "the inevitable impoverishment of the masses, the progressive enrichment of those who own the natural means of production, the inevitable conflict between wages and profits and the priority of the latter for progress", but unlike Ricardo, Marx was a man of passion and those conclusions culminated in a call to revolution.
Marx's conception of capitalism was no more gloomy than that of Ricardo, or Malthus, but Marx's "mission was to identify fault, place blame, urge change, and above all, to enlist disciplined belief". He subscribed to the iron law of wages but in a modified form where the worker is kept on the margin of destitution less because he breeds up to this point than because of his utter weakness in dealing with the capitalist employer and because the system won't work if he is well paid, this partly so because the labour force is a reservoir into which with the passage of time, independent craftsmen and farmers are also forced. Helpless is assured by the industrial reserve army - by the rising and falling but enduring margin of unemployment which is a part of the system. Any worker at any time can be flushed into this reserve which insures that he will be cooperative and will accept the wage that is offered to him.
But, he was more than an economic theoretician. .The breath-taking grandeur of Marx's achievement profoundly affected those who did not accept his system, and his influence even extended to those who least supposed they were subject to it. For "no one before, or for that matter since, had so many strands of human behaviour and woven them together - social classes, economic behaviour, the nature of the state, imperialism, and war - were all here and on a grand fresco which ran deep in the past to far into the future", thus records Galbraith in his book, The Affluent Society. Our economists are studiously silent about imperialism, and would not behave in a manner that they have come across this term. Even in the developed country of this day, the principal alternative to explaining imperialism in terms of economic self-interest is to argue the benevolence of the imperial power; its commitment to the white man's burden,, and its feeling that the natives are not ready for independence.
After the formal independence of
The first challenge to the obfuscating jargon-ridden writings with their false concepts of "modernization", political development and "economic development" and so on, came from Stanislav Andreski, who called the modern research in social sciences as sorcery not only for the inadequacy of the positivistic persuasions arid the perniciousness concealed in the ideology of "end of ideology" and bankruptcy of behaviourism, but for its complete inability to explain contemporary socio-economic situations in the developing countries today. Political science studies the conflict in power in a given social milieu, but it does not explain how and why such a milieu emerged, nor does it explain how this conflict can be resolved so that the society can get rid of all antagonistic contradictions whose fountainhead was discovered by Marx to be private property. A social system is not like a simple arithmetical equation so that the innumerable complexities can be understood from its quantitative relationships. For mankind lurches along in an unquantifiable mix of historical determinism, human will and accident, and even historians cannot agree how much of each went into, say, the Russian Revolution. It can be comprehended fully or more satisfactorily only by taking into consideration the social relation of production and power. The political organization and state machinery though belonging to the superstructure, is deeply in reciprocal relationship with the economic base, which can be handled simultaneously by following the Marxist method of analysis and outlook.
The Freedom Fighter's objective was
national liberation and to create conditions to make social progress possible. Mujib and his gangs intervened with the help of
He had nationalized the key
industries including banking and insurance. Jute industry and trade, which are
the mainstay of
During Mujib's regime, foreign capital was avowed grudgingly to obtain foreign aid, the present regime has
opened the floodgate through which more
than half a dozen multinationals entered the country, monopolized medicine,
food processing, electrical goods, and a host of others. The present regime has
also launched a policy of massive propaganda and diplomatic maneuver to create
confidence in the foreign investors, promising adequate compensation to the old
foreign investors whose concerns were nationalized and assuring full
compensation in case of future nationalization. The President instructed his
bureaucratic machine to posit to the public the image of capitalist growth of
This regime which came after Mujib's killing through a process of successive coups Latin American style, has already evolved and added to Ayub's tax-incentive measures, priority in import and land allocation, rigid labour laws, a duty-free zone just to invite foreign investment - to make Bangladesh attractive to foreign exploiters and world capitalism. He went one step further than Ayub's regime to satisfy U S imperialism- its main foreign-aid donor. It has adopted the policy of developing the private enterprise not independently, but with the help of foreign capital, multi-nationals and state support, thus providing the happy hunting ground for foreign capitals and their junior, bootlicking indigenous partners, dependent capitalists like Zuhurul Islam and his cohorts.
This regime came into power by coup and clamped martial law and ruled by ordinances for three and a half years, and took a stance of democratizing itself. It held an election at gun-point, got a thumping majority in the Parliament, regularized more than 7000 ordinances without any discussion into laws of the country, and did not allow any kind of discussion of the budget by the opposition. Immediately after the budget session, the Parliament went out of session. News media, and TV are state-operated institutions, and no private newspaper can survive without government's sanction and patronage. Prices of all commodities kept their long march, and prices of utilities were stepped up by the government without consulting the Parliament. And yet there is no end of stout claim by the "forty" ministers which were created overnight to scurry over the country and spread the message of democracy, self-reliance, and independence, of the nation from foreign .dependence.
Immediately after capturing the power, the regime initiated a two-pronged policy: establishing law and order and increasing production to decrease dependence on foreign help. Law and order situation has progressively deteriorated after a lull for a while, while the economic situation, marginalization of the peasantry, employment opportunities, nutrition of the people, all have massively worsened to culminate to the present engulfing famine in Bangladesh. Mujib lost his grip and his life due to his inability to cope with famine. It is yet to be seen how the present regime handles this colossal problem of hunger of 65% of the 80 million population. This famine comes into being due to unprecedented drought in this century. Both foreign and domestic experts cautioned the present regime at least one & a half years ahead of time and suggested measures to tackle this situation. But the regime, instead of paying heed to these warnings instigated its clowning cohorts to ridicule the experts, and one of them who successfully ridiculed this cautionary proposal from the editorial of a local daily has been awarded with a ministerial job in-charge of the country's youth who are supposed to supply the president with the vanguards of his kind of "revolution".
Since 85 to 90% of the total population lives in the countryside, let us try to find out who owns the means of livelihood there. The record clearly presents a high degree of land concentration in non-cultivating strata of rural population: the top 9.67% of the rural households own 40.68% of the total agricultural land whereas the lowest 77.67% of the rural households hold only 25.17% of the total agricultural lands.
Successive military and bourgeois governments attempted to solve the problem of land-tenure, land ownership, rural indebtedness by appointing royal or non-royal Commissions, and tidal waves of rhetorics were spurted by all governments in a much more effective and colourful way boosted by conferences, seminars, and workshops with banner heads in the news media, with always an attempt to surpass the past efforts to be poverty-oriented, production-oriented, and to bring sunshine in the lives of country people: To that end since the days of Ayub regime, we have Commilla Experiment, basic democracy. Food for Works programme, and finally culminating in the Integrated Rural Development Programme, but all of them mainly benefited large farmers and the small farmers that the cooperatives were originally set up to help have largely been left out of the KSS/TCC Structure, and are being forced into an ever more marginal position. The effects of the government's "poverty-oriented" rural development programmes on those who have been excluded from the cooperatives - the landless have been disastrous. The following empirical findings are likely to be fairly indicative:
33% of households in
The proportion of landless households in rural areas has increased from an estimated 18% in 1961 to 33% in 1977; this during a period of consistent agricultural growth.
The rate of increase of landless households over the past decades (4-5% per annum) was higher than the population growth rate (3% annually) and is likely to increase further.
Current un- and under-employment is estimated at between 30 and 40% and is growing rapidly.
Because of a combination of an increasing supply of labour (growth of landless) and decreasing demand for labour through sub-division holdings (due to lack of any other means of livelihood besides landholdings) which concentrates lands in hands of smaller peasants who are less likely to hire in labour, there was a decline of about 50% in the real value of agricultural wages (prices of wage-goods were increasing sharply due to agricultural stagnation and massive inflationary pressure on domestically produced goods) between 1965 and 1975.
As a result of these trends, the proportion of “absolutely poor” households increased from 52 to 87% from 1963 to 1973-74 and the proportion of “extremely poor” households jumped from 10% to 54%.
About malnutrition, the
Foreign aid and loan:
Aid currently finance 4/5th of the
development budget and provides approximately half of the government's total
finance. Aid is now equivalent to more than 10% of the country's gross domestic
product. Aid fills the country's large trade deficit which is almost double its
current level of export-earnings. This dependence on aid tends to undo
initiatives, if any, towards self-reliance despite government's rhetorics for it. The government finds it much easier to
rely on the flow of capital from abroad than to make the hard decisions
necessary to develop the economy from local resources. Aid also prevents
political change by keeping all kinds of regimes afloat which would otherwise
sink under the weight of popular discontent. "In
That the government's dependency on aid financed counter-insurgency measures increases which has adverse impact on human rights in Bangladesh is also exposed by the same report in the following terms: "To secure his grasp of power, Zia has increasingly devoted scarce government resources to building up his security following" (See Table 5 of the Report). Expenditures for defense, justice and the police have grown from 20% of the reverse in Mujib's regime to 30% today. Fearing unrest in the army, Zia, in 1976 militarized the police creating a 12,500 men special task force to carry out "special drive mopping-up operations and . other activities requiring techniques and training.
Zia has received military assistance
The U S State Department is not
unaware of human rights abuses in
Personalization of Aid:
"Within three years of
independence, the new nation received 2.5 billion U S dollars in aid
commitments, more than it had received in its 25 years as
The answer to this riddle lies in
the following institutional set-up of world capitalism the imperial state
network regulates through juridico-political and
institutional mechanisms the functioning of the international economy. In this
regard, the international economic and political entities of the imperial state
network developed in the post-war years is parallel with the changes occurring
in the process and structure of world capitalism. Imperial international
economic policy which is partly implemented through the various economic
entities of the imperial state network: World Bank, IMF, OECD, etc., is
essentially oriented to devising the economic and institutional support
mechanisms which sustain the internationalization of capital. In the economic
sphere, the imperial state network is essentially concerned with a) the
regulation of trade and of the international monetary system, b) the monitoring
of capital flows, by the World Bank, for instance are directed in
infrastructural investment projects in the periphery (for mainly population
control, insurgency control, and building up civil and military organizations
to contain peasant revolts and communist activities), which in the
sophisticated language of the World Bank constitute "external
economies" for private foreign investment. The role of the World Bank has
to be understood in the context of the expansion of international capital in
Despite massive inflow of foreign aid
and loan, agriculture is still under constant threat from flood and drought,
and some years it takes such a disastrous proportions causing huge damages to
crops, livestocks, and even human lives. Agriculture
accounts for about 55% of the GDP, but agricultural productivity is very low.
For comparative purposes, it may be noted that in 1975-76, the yield of rice
per hectare was 1802 kg in
The manufacturing sector contributes
about 11% of the GDP and absorbs about 5% of the total civilian labour force. The share of the large-scale industries in
GDP is shown to be about 6% and that of the small-scale and cottage industries
about 5%. The sector suffers from low productivity, wide-spread
under-utilization of capacity. This urban sector is extremely small and own
their existence from their tied-aid-financed which are euphemistically called
"large-scale" industries, practically all nationalized and operating
at 30 to 40% capacity and are run at a huge loss yearly. Those "show"
industries hardly contribute more than 4% to the GDP. "There is a scant
market, at home and abroad, for built-in reasons. If anything, it is of an
expanded decay rather than reproduction". For the purpose of indicating
the trend and level of performance, the recent World Bank report is conclusive.
It states that the average gross domestic product of the Low Income countries
between 1970-77 grow at the rate of 3.2%.
(PART III will appear in next issue)
THE PRESENT CONFLICT
Early in the morning of 17 February
1979, 225,000 Chinese troops, backed by armored cars, tanks, artilleries and
hundreds of warplanes conducted a large scale invasion of
After 'counterattacking the Vietnamese aggressors as they deserve', the Chinese announced the start of troops' withdrawals on March 5, at the same time proposing bilateral talks to discuss border problems; 3 while the Vietnamese, calling the announcement a hoax and smokescreen for bigger attacks that would include Laos as target, proclaimed a nationwide general mobilization.
The Chinese finally completed their troop withdrawals on March 16, claiming that they have 'reached their set goals' in the operation, and that in the course of the 'counterattack in self-defense', Chinese forces had captured Vietnamese provincial capitals Lang Son, Cao Bang and Lao Cat, and more than twenty other Vietnamese border cities, towns and strategic positions, "dealing devastating blows to the armed forces in these areas, deflating the Vietnamese aggressors' arrogance and exploding the myth of their invincibility".4 The Vietnamese, on the other hand, celebrated their repelling the Chinese aggressors in the midst of alarming assertions about Chinese incursions into Laos, its protectorate state, and adamant demands for compensation for war damages. 5
As of the latest press reports, 6 Vietnam is still dilly-dallying on whether or not to accept Peking's offer for negotiations to be held on March 28 in Hanoi, with subsequent sessions alternating between Peking and Hanoi, using as a pretext Chinese troops' occupation and fortification of some border territories which they considered legally belonging to Vietnam, while China claims Vietnamese artilleries have been shelling four areas on the Chinese frontier to create alibis for delaying and sabotaging the proposed negotiations.
Whichever way one looks at it, this
Many an analyst of international politics tend to look at the Sino-Vietnamese conflict as a mere extension of the Sino-Soviet Dispute, viewing Vietnam as a pawn of Russia, or explaining Vietnam's behaviour by pointing out the ascendance of the so-called pro-Soviet faction in the Vietnamese leadership, This kind of analysis, I believe, overlooked the Vietnamese leadership's views on how to achieve historical circumstances impinging on Vietnam and China as independent international actors — although Sino-Soviet conflict figured prominently as one factor in the present problem. It tends to forget that it is ultimately national interest as perceived by the political leaders of a country — whatever their political inclinations — that determines actions of states; and there is no such thing as a pro-Soviet or pro-Chinese faction that is totally subservient to Russian or Chinese interests. A Czech scholar made this assessment in 1969:
The slight changes in relations between North Vietnam and China on the one hand, and the Soviet Union on the other, depend very much on the degree of understanding, at a particular moment, of the great powers of the national goals of Vietnam and of the these goals.8
I feel this assessment still holds true today.
In this present conflict, at least the following more immediate problems between the two countries could be cited as causes, and these may or may not have a direct connection with the Sino-Soviet Dispute.
First, Vietnam's invasion of
Cambodia: In early January this year, around 100,000 Vietnamese troops
march" ed into Cambodia -- with which Vietnam had been having border
conflicts, and which was the only country in Indochina which refused to
acknowledge the dominance of Vietnam in the region, toppled the Pol Pot regime,
after which they propped up the puppet Heng Sam-rin government. This was literally a slap on
During Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-oing's trip to the
Second, border conflicts:
Third, the problem of overseas
As a result of this problem, the Chinese
terminated all economic aid to
Fourth, dispute over the Paracels and Spratlys: These
South China Sea Islands, particularly the Spratlys
have been the subject of an international territorial dispute involving
Fifth, the general pro-Soviet stance
"In case either party is attacked or threatened with attack, the two parties... shall immediately consult...with a view to eliminate that threat." 16
From the foregoing, at least one thing is clear from the factors that led to open hostilities between China and Vietnam, and that is: There are unresolved fundamental issues between the two countries which are considered by both to have a significant bearing on their respective national interests, and those differences accumulated with the passing of time to an explosive proportion.
A review of the history of
Sino-Vietnamese relations would bear out the fact that
This paper intends to show that
Vietnam-China relations since 1949 have been characterized by periodic shifts
on the part of
1949 - 1957
The victory of the Chinese
Revolution in 1949 marked a turning point in the Vietnamese struggle. Almost
immediately after Mao's armies reached the border of
Four days after the DRV Government requested the
establishment of diplomatic relations with the governments of the world on
January 14, 1950,
earlier after the proclamation of the DRV
if it had wanted to — after which other Eastern European countries and
Because Chinese prestige and influence were so high in North Vietnam at that time, the Hanoi leadership in 1953 instituted a land reform program that imitated exactly the Chinese model, forgetting that Vietnam had a complex social and economic situation far different from that of China, and that the success of the land reform program in China was backed up by decades of patient political work and educational campaign. This poorly-thought-out land reform led to disastrous results. Party Secretary-General Troung Chinh, its leading proponent, wad demoted after its failure.
Another indication of good relations
A contributing factor to the predominance
of Chinese influence in
On the part of
1957 - 1960
In 1957, several factors led to a Vietnamese turn towards the Soviets.
First, the land reform program based on the Chinese model met so much resistance from the peasants to the extent of provoking several counts of peasant uprisings. By 1957, it was clear that the program was a total failure. This cast a very bad light on the Chinese communists. As a result, it led to a serious re-examination of the validity of the Chinese development model and the decrease in influence in the party of the group of leaders whose thinking was more similar to the Chinese.
Second, the deadline for a general
election in North and
Third, by 1957, the Sino-Soviet
Conflict had started. With the parting of ways of China and Soviet Union, the
Russians now felt the necessity to maintain a presence in Indochina, if only to
offset the Chinese influence. The Soviet Union, together with the Eastern
European bloc had now become keen on giving aid to
Communist Bloc Aid to the DRV27
(millions of U,S, dollars)
- - -
1960 - 1965
The period 1960-1965 was a period
generally characterized by
As in the previous period, the
question of the North versus the South was a perennial issue of debate in the
LDP. In September, 1960, the Third Congress of the party met. The conclusion of
the Congress was the party should simultaneously develop the North and increase
support to the South.29 The Congress called for the organization of
a broad national front to overthrow the Diem government and form a national
democratic government in the South. A few months later, the National Liberation
Front' (NLF) was formed in
Aside from the even-handed position
taken by the LDP, the war in
For a short while in 1963-64,
By 1963, the
On the other hand, the NLF, founded
in December; 1960, was gaining ground in the South, as a result of which the
southern branch of the LDP, the People's Revolutionary Party (PRP) was
established in January, 1962.33 In November, 1963, the Ngo Din Diem
government was overthrown in a coup after a long series of unrests in the
countryside and Buddhist mass actions. The chances of the NLF indeed looked
good. This again prodded
In August, 1964, as an aftermath of
the Gulf of Tonkin incident wherein the North Vietnamese allegedly fired upon
the U.S. destroyers Maddox and C. Turner Joy.
With the advent of the
The ascendance of Brezhnev in
1965 - PRESENT
In a very real sense, the year 1965
marked a point of no return in
With the passing of years since 1965, several irritants in Vietnam-China relations led to slow but steady estrangement between the two countries.
In 1966, the Great Proletarian
Cultural Revolution broke out in
being proposed by
The development in the 1960's also
have to be seen in the backdrop of the Soviet Union's attainment of the
superpower status against China's internal strife and self-imposed isolation
during the Cultural Revolution years. This brought out more distinctly
In the 1970s, the Vietnamese were
implicitly critical of US-China rapprochement dramatized by the Nixon Visit to
In 1974, there was the controversy
over. the Spratly and Paracels.
Although the Chinese fought the military of the
With the liberation of the South and
subsequent reunification of the whole
Another factor is
And then, there was the problem of
the ethnic Chinese in
All factors added up together eventually made conflict inevitable.
Sino-Vietnamese relations from 1949
to the present could be summarized in one formula: It depended on the
Vietnamese leaderships perception of the national goal at hand at any
particular point in time and how useful
3 "Official Statement of the Chinese Government", Hsinhua News Agency, Press Release, March 5, 1979.
4 "Huang Hua Gives
Press Conference on Chinese Frontier Forces' Withdrawal from
5 Jiji News Agency
quoted by Agence France Press,
6 The cut-off date for this paper is March 23, 1979.
7 Hsinhua News
Agency, quoted by United Press International,
8 Ivo Vasiljev, "China-North Vietnam Relations", in The Cultural Revolution and China's Foreign Policy (Bruxelles: Centre D' Etude Sud-Est Asiatique et de 1'Extreme Orient, 1969), pp. 71-72.
9 Ibid. p. 83.
11 "Statement of Chinese Foreign Ministry on Expulsion of Chinese Residents by Vietnam, June 9, 1978", in The Truth of Expulsion of Chinese Residents by Vietnam (Hong Kong: Joint " Publishing Co., 1978), passim.
"Statement by the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry". Embassy of the
13 The Truth, pp. 1-2.
14 "Statement by the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry", p.2
15 Zheng Yan, "The SIno-Vletnamese War and International Relations In
16 "A Bear Hug from
17 Leonard S. Zagoria,
18 Chen, op. cit. p. 232.
19 Melvin Gurtov, The First
20 Wesley R. Faisal, "Editor's Introduction" In Fishel, op. cit., p. 625.
21 Gurtov, op. cit., p. 98.
22 Chen, op. cit. p. 273.
23 Ibid.. p. 275.
24 The Truth, pp. 1-3.
25 P. J. Honey, Communism in
26 Zagoria, op. cit., p. 103.
27 Honey, op. cit., p. 49.
28 Zagoria, op. cit. p. 10.
29 Ibid., p. 107.
30 Honey, op. cit., p. 120.
31 John M. Van Dyke,
33 Zagoria, op. cit., p. 117.
34 Norton H,
35 Van Dyke, op. cit., p. 224.
36 Ibid.. pp. 221-222.
"US-USSR=Chlna Triangle: Impact on
38 Reuter Press,
39 The Truth, p. 7.
Throughout their -history
Australians have fashioned a number of different images to portray what
For example, popular belief and
public opinion polls seem to suggest that
It may seem inappropriate to present hard facts of this kind in the midst of Australia Day celebrations. I want to suggest, however, that an examination of facts such as these serves a highly appropriate and ultimately positive purpose. For it is only through understanding of what life is really like for most Australians that we can form an accurate picture of our nation, and it is only by facing the questions raised by the hard facts that we can fashion for ourselves more effective image for the future.
I suppose the question that
immediately springs to mind is this. Is
First, it is probably true that the
majority of white Australians born in
Second, the majority really have no
other alternative but to accept the image- it is after all the one the media
and the advertisers feed them on day after day. The cost of living forces them
to live on the hope that one day they too will "make it". I would
even say that
real state of affairs is denied to them. The kind of education and mass media we have see to that. And so, they are deceived into thinking that some day they too will share our "luck" - that our society really is designed to fulfill the hopes of all.
Third, and perhaps this is the most important - Australians are definitely discouraged from challenging or questioning the status quo. Even to quote hard facts as I have been doing is considered dangerous and rebellious - even communist-inspired! Actually I am not a communist, but I do believe that all Australians have a right - and a duty - to know the real state of affairs and to ask the kind of questions that membership of a democratic and free society entitles them to ask. The strange - or disturbing - truth is that even terms like democracy and freedom are often considered subversive ideas here! I suppose it is precisely because questioning is not encouraged, that anyone who does dare to challenge the status quo stands out, and is easily branded as a trouble-maker - or a nut.
What this means in practice is that being a citizen is not seen as essentially a public act. Most Australians have been denied the type of experience, either while they were growing up or during their adult working life, that would prepare them to fulfill their public, political roles as citizens. Almost by definition, and certainly by force of circumstances, most are reduced to the level of mere private citizens and nothing more. Mile after mile of suburban fences ,.floor upon floor of business and government office-blocks and the pre-packaged diets of the media make sure that democracy is kept well and truly in its place.
But we can't develop a sense of identity for ourselves simply by coining a smart phrase. A sense of belonging cannot simply be manufactured or decreed. Apart from revolution, there is no such thing as a short cut to nationhood - it can only be achieved from the struggles, popular traditions and cherished hopes of a people. If, then, we want to fashion a more effective and more honest vision for ourselves in the future, we must begin now to uncover the real struggles and traditions of our people and to unlock their hopes.
In my opinion, there are two simple but basic questions that can enable us to do this.
First, it is high time the proper and desirable uses of our national wealth became a public question. Unfortunately, we have been taught to think merely in terms of private or personal wealth - how to gain more for ourselves and what to do with it. We have not been taught that democracy gives us the right to think about wealth of our nation; do those uses really benefit the ordinary people; are the ways in which we share our wealth with other nations really in the best interest of all? The uranium issue is one that immediately springs to mind as a real opportunity for following up this line of public questioning.
Second, we are never going to get
close to the truth about
I may as well admit that this line of questioning is likely to be unsettling, because it is likely to threaten the widely-held belief that ours is a classless society. When we start asking "In whose interests does our society operate?", we begin to realize that our major national priority is not equality or fair dealing, but capital gain. The fate of the majority depends on that priority. The type of jobs they have, the amount of income they receive, the degree of education they get, their legal and medical services, even where they live and where they work, all depend to a great extent on that priority. To put it simply: that priority demands a "division of labour" in this country that will ensure a compliant workforce and promote a concentration of wealth in the hands of those who want it for investment purposes.
In conclusion, it is clear that while the "lucky country" myth continues to project the successful image, it also serves as a mask. It masks a reality in which the basic and democratic rights of ordinary people are all too often subordinated to the dominant interests of those who own and control the capital of our society. That mask will remain and those rights will continue to be ignored as long as capital interests are primarily prized.
We often boast that
(BY A CORRESPONDENT)
By Zulhifly Lubis
During the last two decades, an
interesting phenomenon has been that of students who, as a newly emerged force,
have succeeded in overthrowing regimes in some developing countries. This
article will focus on events in
cabinet was not destined to live long either, as a result of its inability in
achieving political and economic stability in his country. A year after he came
into power. General Park Chung Hee in May 1961 staged
a successful coup d^e-tat. (Park Chung-hee was assassinated by KCIA chief Kirn
Jae Kyu on October 26,
1979.-Eds) Ever since.
President Sukarno faced the same
situation, when in May 1967, after waves of student demonstrations starting
October, 1965, and lasting more than one year, he was forced to resign as
life-long President of the
Similarly, Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn's regime, in
The fall of President Syngman Rhee
and the military coup a year afterwards, is inseparably related with the
In addition, the people's
comprehension of the basic values of democracy and its mechanism was very poor.
The Korean mind is unfamiliar with even the underlying philosophy of democracy,
which cherishes basic human rights in search of equality and freedom of the
individual. Meanwhile, the military and communist threat from
Under the pretext of communist danger, Syngman Rhee's civil regime started violating various democratic principles, elections were tampered with and the Constitution was altered without legal justification. As a result, the regime turned more and more authoritarian, and corruption became more and more general.
This, of course, created unrest and dissatisfaction among intellectuals as well as students. Various protests openly expressed by intellectuals and students were simply ignored by Rhee's government while the situation deteriorated. The civilian regime's popularity started to wane and its members were considered individuals with personal interest and without the ability to solve the political and economic problems.
Meanwhile the magnitude of
That has been precisely the reason why at the downfall of Rhee's regime and assumption of power by Chang Myun, the military were basically at any moment prepared to assume power. This happened one year after Chang Myun's adminstration when the civilian adminstration was unable to suppress the political turmoil. Here the students played a sufficiently important role to establish a condition favorable for launching a coup by the military.
The demonstrations they started at
least succeeded in enhancing the distrust of the people towards the civilian
regime, while western democracy became irrelevant in the search for a solution
of the problem faced. The sole alternative for breaking through the obstruction
of difficulties, and "saving"
Thousands of students thronged the
streets around the Indonesian presidential palace in
The demands were fair enough, as the population almost collapsed from soaring prices on account of the 600% inflation. Meanwhile President Sukarno giving the impression of defending PKI, accelerated the student's protest against his regime. The students accused the PKI of having directed the 30 September coup under Lt. Col. Untung, Chief of the Division of Presidential Palace Guards,
The appearance of the students as a political force was reflected by their slogans, used both for accumulation of force and in their action opposing the government. "We want justice and truth", "Implement the 1945 Constitution in its pure form and consistently" were some of the demands pronounced by political leaders who wanted annihilation of the Communist Party, and were in support of the students. The leaders of the Army expressed the same opinion. This is logical, especially in retrospect of the history of the Indonesian Student Action Unit (KAMI)'s inception in October, 1965,sponsored by Major General Syaref Thajeb, in his position as Minister of Higher Education and Science during Sukarno's regime.
The birth of the KAMI as a federation of several extra-university student organizations, which includes the Indonesian Student Association (HMD, the Indonesian Christian Student Movement (GMKI), the Catholic Student Association of the Republic of Indonesia (PMKRI), the Indonesian Islamic Student Association (PMII) and not less than 20 others, was quickly followed in other large Indonesian towns wherever there were universities. This is easily understood as, prior to that, almost all students all over Indonesia had started to assemble within the framework of ex tending the "'45 Revolution". For the same reason, at the same time of the coup, the Indonesian students almost immediately divided into two camps, one supporting Sukarno and the other (the KAMI) opposing him.
This clearly reflects the fact that the issue was centered around Sukarno's adminstration, as he was holding the status of the Great Leader of the Revolution. As there has been no survey done on the number of students in favor of, and those opposing Sukarno, it is difficult to estimate which side was more powerful. However, the role of the press at that time should be mentioned as supporting the anti-Sukarno side. Whether indirectly or not, this also caused some anti-Sukarno student leaders to emerge as heroes of their time- This started the "myth of (students') fighting for justice and truthfulness"- a role which is now being questioned. The students in that particular position were considered to be the cornerstone by the majority among the population who hoped for change toward a better future achieved through the students' actions.
The abolition of the PKI in March 1966 was followed by withdrawal of Sukarno's mandate as President in March 1967 by the People's Consultative Assembly(MPKS). The appointment of General Suharto as officiating President in 1967, and as full President in 1968, may be interpreted as fulfillment of the students' demands, at least for a sector whose wishes went just that far. The remainder, as can be seen in subsequent years, continued to demand corrections in Suharto's cabinet. This is reflected by the Anti-Corruption, and Anti-Indonesian Miniature Project movement in 1971. This last movement clearly put the students in opposition to the Armed Forces, their former allies. The Indonesian Beautiful Miniature Project, sponsored by Mrs. Tien Suharto, the President's wife, which the students considered as an extravagant project, was definitely supported by President Suharto. He even made his position clear by saying that he would use every force at his disposal, against whatever activity geared towards interception of the project.
Ever since, the students who
formerly resisted Sukarno, shoulder to shoulder with the Army, split into two
sides, one supporting Suharto, the other forming outside the power and
continually criticizing Suharto's regime. This went on until the outburst on 15
January 1974 when a wave of demonstrations culminated in setting fire to
Japanese-made cars and the Senen Shopping complex in
The event of 15 January 1974 which ended in the arrest of some movement leaders, and their being tried in court, again proved the weakness in solidarity among
students, because, after the strict measures of President Suharto towards the student leaders involved, the movement abolished itself. In addition, some newspapers which during the demonstrations conspicuously supported the actions, were banned. The students returned to campus, awaiting new motives for starting their marches anew. And the myth of students being future leaders and spes patriae, again hanged around their neck, although the cast had changed. When the students are quiet like they are now, the people as "Why do the students allow the situation to deteriorate like this?" As if students have the sole responsibility for changing or improving circumstances.
In a country where the role of political parties for a considerable part depends on the consent of the authorities, in other words, where the authorities are holding the strings to this role, the form of criticism or protests has to be adapted to the desires of the authorities, particularly in countries with military regime. Accordingly, with regard to the 15 January events, a certain part of the military gave their approval, while the other disapproved, because of their thought that political stability was at stake. Thus, the students only acted as plaything between two camps, fighting for power. This was possible because on the one hand students are continuously restless and impatient with the prevalent situation, while on the other hand, no political power has been able to force corrections on government policies disadvantageous for the majority of the population. In such a situation, students will continually emerge as a political force, nevertheless, as students who considered true fighters, echoing the people's conscience without selfish or group motivations. But is this true?
By the end of 1978, the students started a protest action directed towards President Suharto himself. This was timed for the period of the session of the People's Consultative Agency elected in 1977, for the election of a President. In view of the fact that the majority of its members were from Golongan Karya (GOLKAR), a group which is controlled by the Armed Forces, there was no doubt that General Suharto would be re-elected for the third time. Criticism concerning Suharto's adminstration was heard again, this time directed towards the matter of corruption in various ministries, involving several high officials. Even the role of the Suharto family in business with Chinese partners was considered sufficient reason by the students for claiming that the government was corrupt. And the achievements of 12 development efforts enjoyed by only an insignificant part of the population, while the majority was still living in want; the students concluded by demanding that Suharto not be re-elected for the third time.
demonstrations were staged expressing the students' dissatisfaction with the
plans for re-election of Suharto. In connection herewith the Armed Forces took
a firm position in support of Suharto, with the result that the students were
placed in a position directly opposing the Armed Forces. This was the time
where they had to prove whether, without support of the Armed Forces, students
would be successful as in 1966, when they caused the fall of Sukarno. Various
Since 1932, the Thai people have not known any style or regime, other than that of authoritative military. In 1968, Thai students started organising volunteers to work for the benefit of the people. They started to understand the real situation after sensing the complaints of the people. And, for the first time that year, started discussing the role of students within society and the political problem in that country. Based on their comprehension of the reality, they felt the urge to assembly in a nationwide student organisation. Students from various universities and colleges formed the National Student Centre of Thailand (NSCT) the same year. They started giving aid to the population, especially during the floods of 1970, and by successfully raising funds, gained the deep trust of the population in their movement. Moreover, their criticism of Thanom Prapass's military regime was the resonance of criticism contained within the hearts of the Thai, and for this reason, the students knew that they were a force to be reckoned with.
And with the experience of various
demonstrations against the military regime, particularly those demanding
freedom of speech on the campus, and various other actions, the political sense
of Thai students steadily increased. When
In their actions, the students were
supported by the people, like during their political campaign against the
government's plan to put the justice department under military control. This
movement culminated in October 1973, when the students, in cooperation with the
Constitution Movement Group, tried to force the military regime to proclaim a
permanent Thai Constitution. The arrest of 12 activists of that' movement was
motive for large-scale demonstrations by students and the population. In
subsequent weeks, all Thai students started a strike against lectures, . while
a major part assembled in
When the military regime did not
meet the students' demands by the deadline set, i.e. by noon of October 13, the
next day witnessed the largest student demonstration in the history of
Student actions in 1973 demanding democratic government comes closest to the reason for the fall of the Thanom-Prapass regime. Moreover, this demand received full-support of the people. But has it been the sole reason? In other words, are student forces sufficiently powerful to cause the fall of a dictatorial military regime?
It is true that in Thai history this has been the first time people witnessed the ability of a student
movement to gather millions of people in the street in protest against a military regime. However, even if students in this case deserve credit with regard to overthrowing the military regime, their role has been only that of activator. The central issue has been that the ruling class was already planning to discard the dictatorship which had become deeply corrupt and ineffective. The Thanom-Prapass regime had given evidence of their inability to maintain the interests of other bourgeois groups. In other words, the capitalist-bureaucrats who wished to insure the safety of their wealth, did nothing to prevent the fall of the Thanom-Prapass. This becomes clear when during the last stage of Thanom's fall. General Kris, Army Commander in Chief, did not take drastic measures with regard to the students' action.
was replaced by Sahya Dharmasakti,
the situation changed. A democratic wind started blowing. Everywhere political
parties, people's movements and labor organizations started growing. For the
first time in Thai history, a Peasant Federation was established on national
and local level. These organizational activities grew rapidly in the atmosphere
of bourgeois democratic freedom. Manifold were the demonstrations and protests
staged by those organizations against corruption and some government policies.
Also, for the first time there were demonstrations in protest against American
military bases. Under Prime Minister Kukrit Pramoj, the civilian regime demanded total withdrawal of US
This demand for total withdrawal of
American troops and elimination of military bases caused a difference of
opinion within the Thai ruling class. This can be understood, especially as
some elite groups realized that the existence of American troops and bases were
within their economic interest, while American political protection was still
needed in the face of threat from neighbouring
socialist states. For that reason, under the strong pressure by Thai workers
and liberal intellectuals, demanding eviction of all American troops from
In 1974, students formed the Anti-Dictatorship 'Front as umbrella to more than 20 student activists groups. This movement was not free fo factionalism Yet, this did not diminish their power in mobilizing the population and making a critical analysis concerning all aspects of life in their country. So far, the most fascinating achievement of the students had been the close cooperation and political relations they established with the working class. In addition, relations between students and peasants also improved; innumerable groups of students assisted the village population and spread information concerning political matters in their country among society.
And for the first time in Thai history, the peasants succeeded to stand up to landlords and vill-~ age officials. Through their legal organization, the Peasants Federation of Thailand (PFT), they achieved wide publication and were able to force the Kukrit adminstration to introduce various changes, albeit limited; such as concerning land rent, etc. The same went for the workers who also for the first time, succeeded in establishing the Federation of Labour Unions of Thailand (FLUT) ,. towards the end of 1975. Their fight for better wages was successful, thanks to the support from the students. A series of strikes by workers in 1974-75 finally forced the government to increase the minimum daily wage of a worker from US$0,60 to US$1.25.
The shift from military dictatorship
to the parliamentary system apparently put
the situation did not change. Students, workers and peasants persisted in their
demands for improvement of living conditions for Thai people and a guarantee
for democratic life. Meanwhile, communist victory in
As if arranged, Prapass
returned from his exile in
Seni's attitude with regard to Thanom's return was not very clear, proving his weakness by his inability to make swift decisions in the effort to master the chaos created by Thanom's return. The fact that Thanom returned as Buddhist priest with the King's consent meant protection against his enemies, because attacking Thanom would be equal to attacking the state's religion. Once again Seni showed his weakness by declaring that if and when Thanom's presence would cause fights, he would discuss Thanom's eviction. There were also two groupings in his regime: the liberal faction of his party openly supported the demand of students and workers, while the other faction demanded that measures against the students' actions be increased.
On 6 October 1976, the students
In the course of the day after the
Thanin's regime, fully supported by the
The emergence of students as political
force, taking part in the overthrow of a regime, generally is restricted to
developing countries, such as
Meanwhile, the military in developing countries are a significant force in domestic politics. Three outstanding characteristics distinguished the military from civil organizations, namely their developed organization, their supposedly higher status, and their monopoly with regard to the use of arms.
As mentioned above, the role of students in what is called student revolts, is not more than that of trigger, in other words, of a group which is constantly ready to be induced. Whatever the' subsequent result is always beyond their calcul- , ation, because in all their actions they have never formed a clear concept of their ultimate goal. This is logical and fair, because the time of students during their period of study is very restricted. The possibility for students being misused by outside powers is always there. However, it cannot be denied that a sort of awareness among students moves them to take part in efforts towards improvement of the living conditions of the people.
The point of consideration is this: Has the movement of students in developing countries during the last two decades actually created significant change? Or do other ways have to be sought in the effort towards improvement of the fate of the oppressed?
By Nathanael L. Cortez
CHRISTIAN STUDENTS AND THE ECUMENICAL RENEWAL
It is an indelible fact of modern ecumenical history that the ecumenical proposition is in large measure a product of the concerns and activity of youth and students. The ecumenical movement would not be what it is today were it not for the pioneering vision and sense of mission of youth and students who propounded the ecumenical idea as an expression of their "active shame" over the present state of the Church's life and their hope and commitment for the renewal of the Church's mission in a changing world. It is not surprising therefore that the early leading lights of ecumenism came from the student movement and the missionary movement both of which coalesced to form the nucleus of what is known today as the World Council of Churches. .
This coalition of student and missionary forces is perhaps best illustrated in the concern for "The Evangelization of the World in the Present Generation" - that slogan which propelled the ecumenical idea in its early beginnings. Here, student "activism" combined with missionary zeal - the former, providing the bulk of the personnel and the idealism, and the latter, providing the concern for the life of the world and the Church's mission within it - to challenge the churches and call them to a more manifest expression of their unity in Christian obedience. In short, the student movement, through its various expressions within the life of the Church, provided one of the pressure points that led to the expression and the active historical manifestation of the hope "That They May Be One". The discovery of the unity of the Church as a sine qua non of its mission did not spring from the innovation of those who have arrived ecclesiastically but from the vision and involvement of younger leaders of the churches who were in the frontiers of the churches' life.
The student movement, in other words, has been an indelible partner in the ecumenical enterprise from its very inception and has remained to be so as the ecumenical idea evolved in the face of new realit ies in the life of the world and in the light of the ever-expanding new theological discoveries about the life and mission of the Church. Indeed, a considerable portion of the agenda that the ecumenical movement has had to face in its history has been provided for it by the concerns of the student movement.
Thus, for example, the student
movement contributed much in alerting the ecumenical movement to the meaning of
its critical witness in the face of the rise of fascism and totalitarianism in
In more recent times, as the contradictions of development began to surface with the disappointments over the results of the Development Decade, it was once more students who confronted the ecumenical
movement to look more seriously at the ideological question and ask whether or not other ideological options may not be explored if the promise of development is to be fulfilled. The concern for liberation and not only development - which has become so much a part of the theological landscape of the present, and the projection of socialism as an ideological option through which Christian witness may be expressed in the contemporary world have also been agitated in large measures within the ecumenical movement.
One can go on with other examples. The point here is not to give unadulterated praise and glory to the student movement in the development of the ecumenical idea. There have obviously been false hopes expressed and certainly some mistaken signals given. What needs to be said is that the ecumenical proposition would not be what it is today without the active participation of students. The ecumenical movement needed the student movement as a restless partner which in its freedom and daring -- even at times to commit mistakes -- was essential in calling the churches to ever-new theological frontiers and to ever-emerging unexplored areas of the world's life. Or perhaps all of this was not the students' doing at all, but only the result of their more active and freer response to the historical mandates that a pulsating world of change has brought to all. It is in the end man, the maker of history, who sets the agenda even for the Church to which we all belong.
UPSURGE AND DECLINE
The past decade and a halt saw,
perhaps more than at any other point in modern ecumenical history, the rise of
student power in almost all parts of the world In the United States, students
were in the forefront of the struggle against racism and against the brutalities
and misconceptions of American policies in
In the Asian scene, the student
milieu was no less volatile and dramatic in its impact. Student protests in
Many impulses generated this student upsurge. Embedded in these varied impulses, however, is the desire to see a society that is truly free of oppression and where all may enjoy the fruits of justice and peace. Clearly, there has been in these protests uneasiness and dissatisfaction with the kind of economic, social and political development going in their respective countries and the openness to explore alternate social systems within which nations may be able to forge a better life for their peoples.
Among Christian students in
particular, the vision of a society where man is freed from oppression and
exploitation by fellowman has been linked to and rooted in a theology - a
reading of the Bible - that has been done in the context of their participation
in the life and struggles of their people. The dream of a new earth becomes in
this light a reflection of the new heaven r- the
As quickly and as dramatically as student organization and power rose in the sixties, however, as quickly and as dramatically it also declined in the seventies. For one thing, it seems evident now that despite the seeming popularity of the student protest movement, only a fraction of the student population - though certainly a significant one really gave it support, especially in its overall political thrusts. For another, and perhaps the crucial reason, the expression of student idealism into more organized forms of political protests naturally brought about more stringent government control and intervention into student affairs.
Now in country after country in Asia, student organizations are banned, student activities are severely curtailed, and even minor expressions of student dissent are immediately "nipped in the bud" before they could lead to larger expressions of social protest. Educational institutions have become some of the more closely watched in society and are under constant pressure to maintain order and discipline among their student populations. When one adds to these the cultural "blitz" that is imposed upon students not only through the control of the instruments of educational instruction but through the mass media as well, it should be a surprise that the period of activity has been followed by a period of relative reaction and decline, perhaps even of crisis, in the student world.
Thus, what was not long ago an active and alert student population has been so cowed and subverted so that a generation of citizens who refuse to think for themselves, who are silent, uncritical and who would easily accept whatever officialdom says as the truth is being raised much to the impoverishment of both Church and society.
The other article refers to a questionnaire posed to editors of school newspapers in which many responded that they are being "put on", They are being taught the ideals of democracy, they said, but "have found the practice of it full of sham and deception". They continued, "The school keeps us passive and disciplined and provides us with tools that may lead to a job, but what if the students' burning concerns are urgent social issues? For example, can you discuss the concept of imperialism and avoid talking of the presence of multi-
nationals in the
This crisis in the student world has infused a significant dent in the alliance between the student Christian movements and the organized expressions of the ecumenical movement. On the one hand, as concerned Christian students become more and more involved in the struggles for social and political renewal and transformation, they have felt that their partnership with relatively more conservative churches has become an increasingly difficult hindrance to their activities. They have often pointed therefore to the slow response of the churches and of the ecumenical movement to the task of national transformation and liberation. On the other hand, the churches have accused Christian students of uncritically espousing political positions that are antithetical to and have no warrants from Christian perspectives and have therefore lost their moorings in the life of the Church.
Thus, with the decline of student movements in general there has also come about not only the decline of the student Christian movements that have been the vehicle of student participation and partnership in the ecumenical movement but also the alienation and isolation of these movements from the main stream of the ecumenical enterprise. What has be.en a very fruitful partnership that has been beneficial to both has turned in many instances into a "benign neglect" of each other that can only be detrimental to each.
WHERE AND HOW MAY RENEWAL COME?
Where are the seeds of renewal and new involvement in this kind of a situation? For one thing, the student world is too important a sector of contemporary society to be left too long without a relevant Christian presence. For another, the ecumenical movement will soon realize, if it has not done so already, that it needs the participation and active involvement of its concerned Christian students if it is to remain relevant to God's imperatives in the contemporary situation.
The points of convergence and partnership however will have to be located elsewhere than they have been in the past. What must remain hopeful in a seemingly dismal situation is what has been alluded to already in the two articles referred to above. There is hidden in the seeming apathy of the present student generation the latent though suppressed concern for the renewal and transformation of society as a focal point for student involvement and participation in the life of the Church. In a real sense, renewal in the student world may come only when students themselves, be they Christian or not, shall once more take up their role of being a vanguard of change, of forging into new frontiers that shall break the silence of dumb consent, shake the rigors of petrifying apathy, embolden the timid voices of those who are awakening to the possibilities of a new tomorrow and the resources of the present which are already-with us.
In this sense, renewal can come only when renewal springs from the bosom of the whole country, engulfing the total life of the people, and molding us all to new dimensions in our history as a people and as a nation. The question will then have to be asked of the churches and of the ecumenical movement not so much whether they are willing to give support to the renewal of the student movement, but whether together with concerned students, they are open to .the renewal of the whole social order. It is this writer's conviction that the time to give an answer to such questioning is not far from the present. When it comes, the response will not so much be a response to the urgings of students as it will be a response to the urgings of God for the renewal of the whole Christian community in the light of the challenge which our depressed and depressing world brings to us all.
Adopted: on May 11, 1979
There are many dimensions to human rights:
the rights of nations,
the rights of people, and
the rights of individuals.
All nations have the rights to national independence and self-determination, the right to choose their own path of development and the right to equality in relations with other nations.
All people have the right to freedom the right to shelter, to food, to work and to enjoy the product of their labour, to education, to medical care, to organise, to strike.
Peasants have a right to land. Workers have a right to own and control production. Women have a right to equality with men. Ethnic and cultural minorities have a right to freedom from racial oppression. In short, all people have a right to democracy and full participation in politics.
In addition individuals have certain rights. These include religious freedom, freedom to speak, freedom of political thought, and the right to a fair trial. However the rights of individuals cannot be seen as ends in themselves. No individual has the right to exploit and oppress others.
Western oriented individualistic
human rights campaigns cannot deal with Asian reality. Human rights in
Colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism, feudalism and semi-feudalism are the historical forces of oppression. Dominant among them is imperialism. It develops new structures and builds relations with existing forces of oppression and exploitation. As a result of this, people and individuals are denied their rights.
The vast majority of people, the peasants, the workers, the urban poor, the fisherfolk and the cultural minorities are born into a world of hunger, disease, illiteracy, debt and repression.
State power is abused in order to silence all forms of public debate and dissent, to arbitrarily arrest and detain citizens, to subject them to political imprisonment with or without trial, to torture and to murder.
Even though they have political
"independence", nations are
denied genuine independence and are forced into unequal treaties, exploitative
relationships and dependence. This is
the basis of oppression. Most Asian nations are subjected to exploitation and
oppression by imperialism. Dominant among imperialists are the
Imperialism exercises its dominance and control in the politics, economy, culture and state apparatus of Asian nations.
This is done by lopsided economies and by maintaining semi-feudal relations in the countryside and by depriving peasants of their land.
The introduction of transnational corporations in both town and countryside, the development of export processing zones and the destruction of local industry are manifestations of this.
Political control is exercised by the creation of dictatorships, military regimes, undemocratic and compliant governments .
Local elites are coopted to assist in developing the political institutions of oppression and dependence.
When other persuasive options are
not available or convenient, direct military force and coercion, either
external or internal, is used to establish control over the peoples and nations
Control of cultural and educational institutions is an essential element in the strategy of domination. An educational system is created which implants values that reinforce existing oppressive structures. The mass media is controlled and encourages pattern of consumption which enrich the exploiters.
This system is operated by intellectuals and bureaucrats trained by imperialist countries to serve their interests. By these and other means people are conditioned to accept their oppression.
Against these forces the people struggle for national independence, social: justice and democracy.
The Asia Forum on Human Rights recognizes that it must support these movements.
There will be no social justice or democracy without genuine independence; there can be no genuine development without liberation.
The struggles of peasants and workers, of women and cultural minorities, are part of a common battle to transform our societies to free the people from exploitation and oppression.
Our struggle for human rights cannot be dissociated from the struggle to transform society.
If it has to have any meaning it must be based in the great mass of peasants and workers who seek a society in which:
There is maximum participation by all people in the decisions which affect their lives.
The people themselves control the resources for the production of wealth, in which the wealth and resources are equally shared and distributed and in which there is no discrimination on the basis of property or social origin.
Consumption of resources by the community is in balance with the capacity of the environment and society to meet the needs of all its people-
A security of life is guaranteed against the abuse of authority by the state and against the pressure of social intimidation.
There is freedom to express beliefs openly and publicly without fear of reprisals and in which it is possible for those beliefs to be communicated to others privately and through public channels such as the media and the peoples's associations.
Human rights are exercised without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, birth or other status.
It is possible for people to cooperate fully and creatively with each other and in which the roots of intolerance, prejudice and discrimination are eliminated.
Only the people can achieve such a vision and the Asia Forum on Human Rights must therefore build links of solidarity and support genuine movements of peasants, workers, fisherfolk, minorities women, students and intellectuals throughout Asia,
By K. Rala Kumar
One more year has passed since the United Nations organization proclaimed the much vaunted Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The present human rights situations in the world are the very opposite to the proclaimed aims of the Declaration. And once more we have been barraged by the empty speeches on Human Rights and we have witnessed the crocodile tears shed over the violations of human rights by the very same leaders of today's world who overtly and covertly violate the rights of the people day by day. The repetition of empty rhetoric and talk and the crocodile tears of these leaders year after year only confirms the impotency and irrelevancy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in today's world.
Considering the heterogeneous realities of our world, can there really be human rights which can be construed to be universal/neutral? Can such "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" of the United Nations have any practical value in today's sharply divided world? It is worth to raise and answer these questions to help us in a critical understanding of human rights in today's world.
When we understand or define human rights, we must primarily take into consideration the historical epoch and social structure in which we are living as historical beings; for, the content of human rights differs from time to time and its expression also differs from society to society. For example, in a slave society, which was a particular epoch in human history and which developed at different periods in different parts of the world, the content of human rights had to be abolition of slavery and its expression, the struggle for human rights during that particular historical slave society, had to be anti-slavery Struggle to smash the slave social system. All other forms of human rights like economic, political, religious, cultural, etc. had to be subsumed to this central question of abolition of slavery. The struggle for this basic human right was resisted by the slave-owners who wanted to preserve the slave system and who considered exploitation of the slaves as their inalienable right.
Likewise, in a colonial society, the
content and expression of human rights must be understood and interpreted in
the light of the colonial exploitation mechanism, on the one hand, and the
anti-colonial struggles to overthrow colonialism, on the other. Similarly, in a
neo-colonial exploitative system, which is characteristic of the societies in
These historical facts highlight a very important dimension of human rights, namely, that human rights can not be neutral but biased. There can be no neutral interpretation of human rights in a divided society on economic basis.
One more important factor to be taken into consideration when we analyze and understand human rights is that in all forms of societies divided on class basis, the interests of the classes who benefit from the prevailing social system contradict the interests of the rest of the affected classes in that system. Therefore, the perception and interpretation of human rights would vary according to different classes.
To illustrate, the interests of the slave owners class were diametrically opposed to the interests of the slaves: The slave owners wanted to preserve the slave system while the slaves wanted to smash it. In such context, human rights had to have opposite connotations for the two classes in the same society.
In today's world, the exploitative
interests of the transnational corporations and their local collaborators are
just the opposite of the interests of the people in the
In such context can there be neutral or universal rights? We can either defend the rights of the neo-colonial forces and its exploitation, or uphold the rights of the anti-neo-colonial forces and its struggles for Liberation.
To sum up, there can not be in reality any such Universal Human Rights in a world wherein there exist sharply divided classes with contradictory interests, heterogeneous structural realities and uneven development of historical forces. It follows then, that even if there exist one in paper, as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, there is no practical value in such a document.
The irrelevancy of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights lies not only in its lack of any legal machinery to enforce it in today's world or even a set of directive principles, but more basically because of the existence of antagonistic contradictions in the relationships between classes and nations. To understand and to recognize this fact, we have to analyze the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" in the light of today's unjust international economic order which divides the nations into the poor and the rich.
At present, the material conditions of the majority of the people in rich countries, mostly developed capitalist countries which export finance capital
to the Third World, assure a reasonable degree of security to fulfill the fundamental needs like food, shelter and clothing to lead a human life.On the contrary, the material conditions of the majority of the people in poor countries - - mostly undeveloped countries with backward mode of production coupled with shortage of capital - assur least security to fulfill the fundamental needs like food, shelter and clothing for their daily life. Since the objective material conditions differ, the corresponding social perspective and ideas also differ in rich anc1 poor nations.
Thus, when the question of human rights is raised in the developed capitalist countries, the thrust is primarily on political rights and civil liberties. On the other hand, in the under-developed countries the emphasis is primarily on economic rights.
It is interesting to note here that
very often some leaders of authoritarian governments in Southeast Asia, as an
answer to the criticism on the issue of political prisoners raised by
Western-based Human Rights organizations, argue that human rights in
If we analyse their political actions to preserve economic stability, we are able to perceive that the "economic stability" they refer to means the economic stability of the minority classes who control the production and distribution system. Their strategy to assure economic stability has been to create a ''peaceful atmosphere" - free from labour unrest - in order to attract foreign investors and their local collaborators.
It is equally interesting to note
that the revolutionary forces also emphasise on the
economic rights of the people in
In the Third World, a typical
citizen or a common man lives under sub-human material conditions, i.e. without
the basic necessities of life - enough food, proper shelter, sufficient
clothing. In the perception of a common
It would be difficult for a typical
citizen in the developed capitalist countries to digest the perception of the
typical citizen of the
And the difference of the material
conditions of the typical citizen of the
The violation of political rights,
denial of civil liberties to the people, political prisoners issue, torture of
political prisoners, repressive laws, etc. are the side-effects of this
economic and political crises in the
On the contrary, in the developed
capitalist countries of today's world, even though economic crisis is a
frequent phenomenon, it never threatens in the same way as it does the people
In this context, we can say that the rich material conditions of the rich nations and the poor material conditions of the poor nations are the products of the same international economic order which favours the rich nations. Today's international economic order operates in such a way that the poverty of the poor nations becomes a pre-condition for the prosperity of the rich nations.
Are we not living in an inhuman
world where the two super-powers spend billions of dollars in their arms race
while millions of people go to bed without food? Are we not living in an
inhuman world where millions of villages in the Third World go dark without
electricity every night while millions of dollars are poured to illuminate the
disco clubs in
If the people of the rich nations will not awaken to this unjust international economic order, they would share in the plunder of the people of the poor nations with their ruling classes.
In such a divided world, what relevancy does the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights have?
By Chris Ledger
"Science has revealed a great capacity to deliver power, both political and economic… It is this network of social, political and economic relationships which live in a symbiotic alliance with science and technology that we call the technological society… The technological society is the sea where science swims, the air which it breathes, the food which it eats, the master whom it obeys. "
WCC Conference on Faith, Science and the Future
Any images of science's being
"value-free" in today's technological society were surely dispelled
from the minds of the 1000 people who met in
It became all too clear that scientific research and its transformation into tools and gadgets through technology wield great power, hand-in-hand with economic and political power. As Alves put it: "Technology is to society as water is to our homes. We do not have a plumbing system in our houses because we have water in our faucets but, on the contrary, we have water in our faucets because we have a plumbing system in our houses. The plumbing system of our world is money. It is money which makes it possible for science and technology to circulate socially... Economic interests have managed to put science to their service."
This symbiosis between economics/politics and science/technology may explain the ambivalence felt by many people about the technological society they live in. For, like all power, the power wielded by science and technology can be used wisely or it can be corrupted, misused, or concentrated in the hands of a few. A few examples drawn from the subject matter of the conference may help to illustrate this:
1/ Science for Peace or Science for War?
Sixty per cent of all scientific research and technological development is spent on weaponry. This is an obvious misuse of human intelligence and natural resources in a world where millions do not have the basic needs. Science and technology-have been "bought" by superpowers to amass potential destructive power in the name of defence.
The terrible irony of nuclear age is that the Bore the superpowers have committed their resources to the idols of deterrence and defence, the more defenceless they (and all nations) have become. The final document of the UN Special Session in 1978 declared that nuclear weapons have. become 'much more a threat than a protection' for humanity."
That last quote is from one of the ten sections into which the conference participants organised themselves to concentrate on specific topics. This section (of which I was a member) was called "Science and Technology, Political Power and a More Just World Order". This group went on to say;
"Scientists and technologists must ask themselves whether their careers are instruments of humane service.... More particularly, they must confront 'gross disparities between the funding of military research and the funding of disarmament research."
2/ The Heated Energy Debate
As anticipated, the energy debate was the most obviously divisive of the conference.
The production and distribution of energy has become the pre-occupation of our technological society - for it depends on vast amounts of it for its very survival. It is a clear example of the way in which science and technology are trusted to solve problems and avert crises that are themselves symptoms or the misuse and wastage of resources through high technology. Science and technology are now depended upon to provide a new source of energy now that the earth's fossil fuels have been hoarded and squandered by the powerful few arid benefited little the millions who do not have the access to electricity.
of the world to retain and increase their power by developing and controlling an energy source that is complex, highly centralized, and serves high industry rather than the villagers who would find a windmill more appropriate to their needs.
3/ The Transfer of Technology
Again, I quote from the Section of which I was a member:
"It is undeniable that 'developing' countries need a degree of technological development appropriate to their societies if they are to meet human needs and participate autonomously in International affairs, Transfer of technology from industrialized countries particularly through transnational corporations, has often hindered the development of such appropriate technology. In fact, 'developed* countries have replaced, in many cases, colonial political control with economic control...using science and technology to maintain the traditional relationship of exploitation and dependence…
Transfer of technology under such conditions usually has a detrimental effect because self-reliance Is not fostered and the interests of the majority are not served.
The alternative to this misapplied transfer of technology is the development of appropriate technology. The word appropriate should not imply some minimal level which will always keep developing countries in a dependent position. Rather it would represent technology which is in harmony with the needs, cultures, and environment of a particular society."
The way in which science and technology can be effective tools in widening the gap between rich and poor was brought home by representatives from the Third World who said: "We denounce the ...use of science and technology by industrialized and technically advanced societies, to serve military and economic interests which have brought about great sufferings to the people of the Third World. This has been done in the guise of an ideology of objectivity and value-free pursuit of truth."
4/ Genetic Engineering
The discussion about genetic engineering highlighted the dangers inherent in delicate scientific research serving the interests of money rather than the safety and well-being of all people. This new and rapidly expanding field of research is being quickly exploited by large transnational corporations who are anxious to protect capital investment and profit margins.
Jonathan King, in his address on this topic said: "If concerned scientists, citizens and workers demand strong safety safeguards, these will substantially increase the cost of production, which will in turn decrease profit margins. It may also result in a degree of community and worker control over the production process. As many of you know, efforts to reduce profits or get participatory control of production in transnational corporations often meets stubborn resistance, to put it mildly."
He went on to say: "Make no mistake; the controversy over recombinant DNA technology is not about freedom of enquiry; the debate is about regulating those who want to rashly exploit for private gain the fruits of knowledge which should belong to all peoples."
The power of technology... As our technological society increases in its complexity, the ordinary person's feelings of incompetence and impotence grow accordingly. Fewer and fewer people feel that they understand, much less control the science based technology on which we have come to depend as on air. I will let Jean Rossel have the last say:
"The Christian churches cannot allow themselves to be hypnotized by the unreal prospects of what is claimed to be balanced and stable society, offered to the world by technocrats and politicians whose visor is dominated by a reckless confidence in science and technology pushed to their limits.
Nature holds out to us, in its renewable and lasting reserves, the energy and materials we need to build a society which does not contain the seeds of its own degeneration.
The churches Inspired by a Christian tradition must take a clear position and make a choice in conformity with the ethic that is based on respect and love, not only for our neighbours, but for the whole creation."
II. On swords & ploughshares
Many and various matters were addressed and argued at the recent WCC conference on Faith, Science and the Future. However, hardly a day or even an hour passed without a strong reference to military technology and the arms race. Although there was no specific address on military technology, it was never off the agenda.
The conference brought together 500
people from around the world to
Inevitably, there were division among so large and so varied a group of people. Consensus on anything was nigh to impossible.
Yet, there was one resolution that was passed unanimously. True, it was a broad resolution but that did not lessen its importance. The resolution "acknowledges with penitence the part played by science in the development of weapons of mass destruction and the failure of the churches to oppose it, and wishes to plead with the nations of the world for the reduction and eventual abolition of such weapons."
The resolution went on to expand on this and to call on specific actions by the churches and governments.
Of course, it is not surprising really that the resolution was passed unanimously. After all, who would vote for the arms race and war? It is all very sensible that people would vote in favour of "science for peace", as the resolution was titled,
However, reality-is not sensible. Again and again, the conference was reminded that more than 60% of scientific research and technological development is spent on military weaponry. This sobering fact generally so little publicised or condemned, could
not be ignored in any debate exploring the-powerful role played by science and technology in a world living under the threat of nuclear war.
Listen to a few of the speaker's pleas:
Joseph Weizenbaum, Professor of Computer Science, MIT:
"With every day that passes,
more than a million dollars is spent world-wide on scientifically refined
instruments of death; every day the USA adds three hydrogen bomb warheads to
its arsenal; everyday young men and women, many of them trained at MIT, exercise
their God-given intelligence and ingenuity to bring the targeting mechanisms of
missiles ever closer to perfection. And every now and then
"...It is perhaps merely a grim joke, but I think it points up a tragic reality, that the foundation of the so-called defence policy of the NATO alliance is officially called MAD, an acronym for 'mutually assured destruction'. The first and most urgent step... ought therefore to be our withdrawal from the myth that ever more numerous and ever more powerful weapons of mass destruction offer any security whatever to the people of the world... nuclear stockpile to be a practical necessity, I think it is even more important that everyone... understands it as a profoundly moral matter. Their failure to do so would, in my view, justify their indictment as co-conspirators in genocide and the murder of God."
Dr. Jerome R. Ravetz,
History and Philosophy of Science,
"...Yet this same wonderful science now threatens to destroy us, in all dimensions of our existence. The cosmic obscenity of weapons of mass annihilation is still with us; and, I ask, when did some established scientific society last do something to avert that horror?"
Prof. Manuel Sadosky,
"...The truth is that there is not enough wealth to go around, not only because the rich waste it on useless things, but above all; because the greatest squander is the unmeasured spending in preparation for war... It is estimated that a million dollars a minute are spent on war."
Philip Potter, WCC General Secretary
"... it is said that 50% of scientists and technologists are engaged in arms research and development. Arms production wastes the resources of the earth. It takes away from the production of goods that would meet the needs of people. Such arms research is carried out in secret and the cost is kept secret from the people."
"...the problem of protecting our genes, and of biological manipulation seem to me dwarfed by the danger to our genes from the plutonium, and other deadly by-products of the production of nuclear weapons. I appeal to you as a scientist and biologist, do not allow this conference to close without speaking out as strongly as you can on the need for reversing the nuclear arms race that so deeply threatens future generations. Without the removal of this gravest of threats to human society, there will be no possibility of achieving the just participatory and sustainable society that we all so deeply desire."
For those who believe in Christ, survival of self or even the world may not be the crucial issue. However, to pray "thy kingdom come", surely can not be consistent with maintaining a world order ruled by terror, hatred and warfare rather than justice and love. We can work, pray and hope against hope for the day when swords will be turned into ploughshares.
(The following paper was written by Christians in Manila on the occasion of the UNCTAD V meeting there last May 1979.)
Our point of view - if not our
wisdom - is the same as that of Jesus, who spent so much of His time with and
for the poor seeking to bring them to a more abundant life. Do the policies
advocated by UNCTAD benefit the ordinary man, the ordinary Filipino? We speak
primarily of the
Tondo slum dwellers have said, "To be for development means to fight poverty, and to fight poverty, you must be with the poor." This is our conviction.
EXTENT OF POVERTY
1/ Our worker can buy less and less with their wages. Government statistics show that, despite a real growth in the country's per capita income, real wages for skilled and unskilled labor in 1978 were only 76% and 63% respectively, of what they had been in 1972.
2/ Income has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few. In 1971, the five per cent of the population who received the highest incomes received 24% of total national income while the poorest forty percent got only 12%. In 1975, the top five percent received more, 32%, while the lowest forty percent a meager 11% of total national income.
3/ Despite over-all adequate food production, about 70% of our population are malnourished; 50% are deficient in protein and anemic. Malnutrition, 40% of deaths among our children.
WHY THE POOR ARE BECOMING POOR
Much, much more can be said about the extent of deprivation in the country and of its terrible effects on human development. But that is not the real issue.
The real issue is 'WHY ARE THE POOR, BECOMING POORER?'
We see the cause of worsening poverty in oppressive social structures both within developing societies and without; social structures built on domination: domination of the poor nations by the rich nations of the world, and domination of the poor within the nations by the rich and the powerful; social structures motivated by an unmitigated urge for profit, justified by appeals to fictitious free enterprise within the nation, and free trade without.
People are poor not because they want to be, nor because they are lazy or ignorant or unlucky. People are poor because they are "deprived of access to material goods and resources which they need to create a truly human life for themselves. Deprived, because they live under oppression, that is, under social, economic and political structures which have injustice built into them." (Asian Bishops' Taipei Statement, 1974). To eliminate poverty, then, social structures -- national and international -- must be changed and transformed.
UNCTAD V AND POVERTY
So the standard by Which we prefer to judge UNCTAD V is: To what extent will UMCTAD V change international structures that support and strengthen national structures which breed poverty and oppression?
As long as UNCTAD V emphasises international trade which entails encouraging foreign investment -and today this means investment by transnational corporations -- and aid in the form of foreign debt, we believe that UMCTAD V can accomplish little.
INTERNATIONAL TRADE AND NATIONAL POVERTY
Take the Philippine case as an example. For several years the Philippine development program has .depended on exports, foreign investment by transnational corporations, and foreign debt for its success. Yet the vast majority of our people are poorer today than at any time before.
The rationale for an export
promotion program which UNCTAD encourages is that it hastens growth, and consequently,
development. Our experience in the
For growth concentrates on increased
production, and ignores the questions of what is to be produced, for whom it is
to be produced, and how it is to be distributed. Since the
Besides, an export promotion program
such as we see in the
So the program export-led industrialisation cannot satisfy people's needs.
INTERNATIONAL CAPITAL AND NATIONAL POVERTY
Neither can foreign investments and heavy foreign borrowing.
To attract foreign capital to invest
In addition, foreign investments drain capital from the economy by repatriating more in profits than is invested. They bring in foreign technology which is labor-saving, and barely affects employment; and which requires foreign inputs and further depletes our foreign exchange.
Consequently, we become even more dependent on foreign loans and susceptible to pressures from international financial agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Self-reliant, self-generated and self-directed growth is prevented -- and only that kind of growth can be called authentic human development.
Like a tenant bound to his landlord, the Philippines has become tied to foreign creditors, incurring new debts to pay off existing ones, each new debt imposing more restrictive conditions on how to run the national economy. The burden of these debts falls on the people living now and on future generations, for the government will not be able to pay these debts except by raising taxes.
Our people have little hope of enjoying a just and free - a human - way of life if the implementation of these so-called development policies persists. They deepen the divisions existing among our people, a people already divided into the rich and the poor, into a local elite working hand in glove with foreign interests and an exploited masses, into oppressors and oppressed. They provoke repressive measures that do violence to human rights and human dignity.
WORLD STRUCTURES AND NATIONAL STRUCTURES
The Philippine experience has also been the experience of other nations. W6rld trade structures parallel domestic structures, and in fact, have created them. It is no coincidence that the rich nations of the world, with only 23% of the world population, account for about 70% of world consumption, just as the richest 20% of Philippine families account for 55.5% of our income. And it is not by chance that the "Second Development Decade" has witnessed more and more dictatorships imposed upon the poorer nations of the world.
The world truly needs a new international economic order. But we do not believe that such an order can be achieved by what are today called "global interdependence", "socially committed capitalism", and "international solidarity". These are euphemisms, new names for the old aches, and pains.
It is not international interdependence that the world needs, but international social justice. For years now, the world has been interdependent: rich nations have depended on poor nations for their raw materials, as poor nations have depended on rich nations for their markets — " yet for years now, dominated and continue to dominate poor nations. Interdependence among unequals is simply another way to deny economic independence to the weak.
For global interdependence and solidarity to stop being slogans and become realities, the first step must be to eliminate poverty: poverty among nations and within nations. And the former would be simpler to attain if the .latter were first achieved.
We believe poverty can more easily be eliminated if, instead of relying on international trade and international capital for development, the poorer nations relied on themselves, on using their own resources, by creating their own technologies, to meet the needs of the many rather than the demands of the few.
Only after the economies of poor nations have built themselves into self-directed, self-generated and self-reliant economies can a truly new international economic order be created, an international order that does not merely render lip service to, but respects by deed, the timeless principles of international relations: sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, non-intervention, non-aggression, mutual and equitable benefit, promotion of international social justice, and international cooperation.
SELF-RELIANCE AND DEMOCRACY
We believe that self-reliance can be reached in many ways, and that each nation's history, culture, values and resources will determine the path it should take.
But we also believe that, whatever path be taken, there is an indispensable condition "for becoming self-reliant: there must be political and economic democracy.
The poor, the voiceless, the forgotten - laborers, peasants, farmers, fishermen, ethnic minorities, slum dwellers, students - the vast army of today's disadvantaged and dispossesed must not only be told they have - they must actually have - a stake in the nation: a fair share in the nation's products, a real part in making decisions that determine the national future, and effective control over their implementation. Only when the creative power of the poor is thus aroused and the hidden strength of the weak released will a nation gather the force to stand up to the pressures, the impositions and the exactions of rich nations. Only then will it be self-reliant because only then will it rely on the people, and the people are the nation.
PEOPLE ARE TRULY UNITED
In stressing that nations must become self-reliant before a truly new international order can be created, we do not wish to diminish the efforts exerted in UNCTAD V, much less to deprecate the idea that gave it birth. We suggest only that more could be accomplished to bring about justice in this world if, in coming together, governments seek direct ways of ending poverty not only among nations but also within nations. Then perhaps the world may truly say that is it is composed of united nations, peoples sharing peace arid joy, not hunger and pain,
To help bring about this vision of the world has ever been the mission of the Churches. If at times, we have allowed our vision to become clouded and our commitment to waver, today we are clear that we can accomplish our mission dynamically and fruitfully only by having what Latin American Bishops have termed the "preferential option for the poor". More than our hearts must be for the poor: We must cast our lot with them; we must be one with them and become of them. Then we can help bring people together to work for the building up of self-reliant peoples - which others have called Basic Christian Communities - where a fully human life can be enjoyed by all.
We pray that God will bless all attending the UNCTAD meeting and all men everywhere who work for justice. We pray, too, that He give us the wisdom, compassion and courage that we need to carry out with the poor the building up of a truly just and human world.
(SGD) Bp. Julio Xavier Labayen, OCD
*The National Council of Churches in the
*The Association of Major Religious Superiors of Men
and Women in the
*The National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice
and Peace of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the
*The Office for Human Development of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences.
The Ecumenical Secretariate for UNCTAD V
It is a tragedy whenever a human
being dies violently. Yet it must be said that Park Chung-hee
fell victim to the structures of violence he himself had created to maintain
his rule. Because of the increasing failures of Park's use of forceful means to
suppress the swelling democratic movement, others in the government took his
life and the lives of five of his aides in order to protect their own positions
and the Democratic Republican Party's rule. Ironically, the democratic
movement's demand to
Park's shooting by KCIA director Kirn Jaekyu at a dinner meeting
on Friday, October 26, was undoubtedly premeditated, and was not an act by him
alone or the result of merely a personal grudge. Kirn,
an ex-army general and a ex-head of military intelligence, had the second most
powerful position in
As press reporters have indicated in the weeks following the shooting, it is likely that behind Park's death there were basic policy differences concerning how to deal with the crisis situation in the nation resulting from rapidly growing public criticisms of the government's economic, social and political policies. Park and his body-guard/ policy-advisor Cha Jichul consistently pushed for hard-line suppression of his critics, whereas relative moderates in the regime, including Kim, saw and criticized the repeated backfires of this approach -- for example, in the administration’s handling of Kim Young-sam and the opposition Mew Democratic Party, the Christian Academy and "Unification Revolutionary Party" cases, anti-Urban Rural Mission and anti-Catholic Farmers Association campaigns, and demonstrations in Pusan and elsewhere. Park was reportedly also inflexible in dealing with the country's current economic situation, refusing to shift the economy away from its export-first orientation despite rapidly mounting economic problems.
With popular demands for change
mounting as a result, Kim and a group of others probably saw the result of
continuation of Park's hardline approach to be the
end of their rule, the loss of their positions (both political and financial),
and a threat to national security. Reportedly, Kim in his capacity as KCIA
chief has prepared a 120— page analysis following events in
Questions naturally arise about the
extent of the
Other than this, Japanese newspapers
reported that the
In the hours and days following
Park's death, the military was able to rapidly arrest its control over the
government. Thus, while Choi Kyu-hah
has been serving as Acting President and is expected to be "elected"
to the presidency for an interim period, decisions of import are now being made
by the military. In this situation the
We welcome the rejection of Park's hard-line policies implicit in his fall, and will similarly welcome any moves towards increased freedom and demo-
cracy made by the new leaders. Yet, under the current nation-wide imposition of martial law in the major cities, freedom has been further restricted. Strict censorship is in force, church organizations have been warned not to meet, KCIA visits have resumed, arrests of students and others calling for a rapid turn towards democratization have continued, others have been arrested in connection with what the government claims is a widespread underground conspiracy to foment rebellion, and the military warns that martial law will have to be extended if there is any sigh of domestic instability. Thus, although a certain degree of flexibility is apparent in the absence of Parks' kingpin role of enforced allegiance, considerable momentum exists to perpetuate repressive policies and an unrepresentative form of government.
The central issues being raised by the democratic opposition forces today concern the methods by which the next president will be selected, and the place of structural changes conducive to democratization. While support for Park's Yushin constitution is noticeably lacking among both the military and current leadership, both propose a transfer of power and an interim period of rule as specified in the Yushin system. Understandably, those who favor more rapid democratization see in the proposed arrangement the potential for continually frustrated hopes for democracy, and they are insisting instead on constitutional changes first, and freely - contested elections only after the structural provisions guaranteeing such elections are in place. An early end to martial law is essential to ensure that such a free climate is created.
The shooting of Park and the
subsequent weeks' events have shown that true stability and security can be
achieved only through true democracy, arid the pursuit of "stability at
any price" at this time will again lead down the same path of massive
violations of human rights and instability. At this time, moreover, with US
troops present and the "big powers' interested in stability on the
WHERE THE MIND IS WITHOUT FEAR
AND THE HEAD- IS HELD HIGH;
WHERE KNOWLEDGE IS FREE;
WHERE THE WORLD HAS NOT BEEN BROKEN UP
INTO FRAGMENTS BY NARROW DOMESTIC WALLS;
WHERE WORDS COME OUT FROM THE DEPTH OF
WHERE TIRELESS STRIVING STRETCHES ITS
ARMS TOWARDS PERFECTION;
WHERE THE CLEAR STREAM OF REASON HAS NOT
LOST ITS WAY INTO THE DREARY DESERT
SAND OF DEAD HABIT;
WHERE THE MIND IS LED FORWARD BY THEE
INTO EVER-WIDENING THOUGHT AND ACTION -
INTO THAT HAVEN OF FREEDOM, MY FATHER,
LET MY COUNTRY AWAKE.
For nearly 30 years the
Sinhala-Tamil ethnic conflict has remained unresolved in
The Tamil people have been subjected to harassment, humiliation, intimidation, assaults and arbitrary arrests since 1956. At times when a state of emergency has been declared as in 1956, 1958, 1961, etc. the Armed Forces and the Police have acted like an army of occupation in the Tamil areas. The state of Emergency in 1971 was declared to deal with an insurrection by Sinhala Youth in predominantly Sinhala areas. But that very emergency was used to harass and humiliate the Tamil people, who had nothing to do with the insurrection of 1971. The situation deteriorated after 1971 and became acute around 1974.
In January 1974 the International
Association of Tamil Research with branches all over the world, a purely
academic organization held its International Conference in
This conference did not enjoy the patronage of the then Sirimavo Bandaranaike's Government. On the final night of the Conference, 9th January, the Police by their hand-handed action in baton-charging and tear-gassing the massive crowd that had gathered there for the final meeting created panic and confusion resulting in the death of 9 innocent persons. Repeated attempts made by Tamil jurors to hold an impartial inquiry proved futile. A citizen committee composed of Tamil citizens, two eminent retired judges and a bishop independently inquired and submitted a report.
Thereafter in 1975, the murder of Mr. Alfred Thuraiappa, one of the leading supporters of the then Sri Lanka Freedom Party Government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike took place. Those responsible for this murder have so far not been apprehended. But forty to forty-five youths were detained in prison under Emergency Regulations for a period of five to six months. Some of them seem to have been mercilessly tortured. All these youths were released in 1977. None of them were found guilty of any offence. Nevertheless, this period marks a turning point in the relations between the Tamil speaking public and the Police, especially in the North and East, the homeland of the Tamil-speaking people.
Indiscriminate arrests of Tamil youth on the flimsiest grounds became common in these two provinces. The situation has become aggravated no doubt by the murder of 14 police officers and a few other Tamil civilians. The causes for these murders were known. The Government has however declared that there is a terrorist movement responsible for these murders. In order to apprehend and punish those responsible for these murders the Prescribing of the Tigers of Tamil Eelam Law No. 16, 1978, was passed by the President Jayawardena.
The photographs of four most wanted men and 39 others were prominently displayed. Many of the 39 wanted youths were leading normal lives. Some were working in government departments and would have been approached without any effort under the normal process of law.
Most of them surrendered through the M.P.s of the respective areas. They were kept under detention, some in military confinement and were released after a month without any legal proceedings being initiated against them.
By mid-1978, the relationship
between President J.R. Jayawardena and United
Nationalist Party and the Tamil United Liberation Front had deteriorated. The
murder of Inspector Gurusamy led to a clamour among several members of Parliament for stringent
measures against the so-called "terrorists". President Jayawardena said he was under strong pressure to prescribe
the Tamil United Liberation Front on 3rd of July 1979. This was followed by the
resolution in Parliament re-demarcating the District of Vavuniya
by incorporating the 3 A.G.A.'s divisions of
This was followed by the declaration of the state of Emergency on the 11th of July in the Jaffna District of Sri Lanka. On the 13th and 14th night, the Police called at several homes around 1:00 a.m. and had taken into custody thirty-one youths. Eight of these youths' cases are well-documented.
From the middle of August .a few
villages in the
They came In 30 jeeps and heavy trucks with 8 armoured cars, 8 wireless sets and many machine guns. From 4:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. the search went on, each house being searched twice by the Army and once by the Navy. All the people were lined up outside the houses. The youths were marched to a common spot for an identification parade where three masked men identified and arrested 17.
On the 14th of August between 1:00
p.m. and 6:00 p.m. a combined force of 400 to 500 police and army men
surrounded the Kent Farm and Dollar Farm at Nedunkernoy.
They arrested four young men who had been doing volunteer service there. They
also arrested a young refugee lad who was tortured as evidenced by injuries in
his head. Another refugee was arrested when the former was returned to the
camp. Forty eight others were detained, swelling the number to a total of 118
excluding seven youths who had just arrived from
The third session of ASIAN
SECRETARIES FORMATION (ASFOR) was held in
The theme around which the participants met was "Living Religions and People's Struggles". The participants shared their own thinking and reflection on the theme through their essays. They also rendered country situationers and movements' status, problems and activities. A great deal of their collective in-puts was focussed on the plunge-ins they had: two held in between a period of days of reporting and reflecting.
A number of national and ecumenical
thinkers/leaders were invited to provide in-puts on various topics such as
"The Socio-Economic Situation of Bangladesh", "Current Trends in
Islamic Faith and Its Role in
The following movements were
represented in this year's ASFOR: Japan - Hideki Aihara,
Philippines - Elizabeth Lacanilao, Australia
- Libby Krepp, New Zealand - Roger Palmer, Indonesia
- Alex Litaay, Singapore - Maylene
Lai, Malaysia - Jaggie Kaur,
Thailand - Pat Pangudom, Burma - Gideon
Shwe, Sri Lanka - Kumudhini
Rosa, India - Joseph Stanley, and Bangladesh - Bipul Barrel, Samir Roy, and Sangeeta Das. The South Korean
The Local Organizing Committee was
headed by the Patron of the programme. Bishop B.D. Mondal of the
There is a sense in which this
year's ASFOR benefitted much from lessons learned
from the past two programmes (
Some of such features were: 1) there was a longer period for participants to know each other, to learn and share insights about themselves and what motivated them to join the SCM and ASFOR. During this sharing period, the participants learned more about the SCMs in the region, about the situations in each country, and the problems attending the student movement in each nation represented. A great deal of sensitivity to each other's problems, such as language and cultural differences. helped in heightening the community spirit they were able to build and maintain, even in the midst of difficulties that arose during the one-month long activity. 2) A conscious effort to help the participants understanding and analysing the structural relationships of Asian societies in relation to the international economic order and power structure helped much both beginners and those who already had some tools of analysis in raising their political awareness, which is one of the avowed objectives of ASFOR. 3) Through their own essays, and the in-puts on the Bible and theology, the participants of ASFOR '79 wrestled with the "faith question". There appeared to be a consensus that while they could see from historical facts that the institutionalised Church has been a part of the entrenchment of the oppressive and exploitative systems found in all of the countries participating in ASFOR, faith for them remains a motive force in their serious involvement in the struggles for justice and for a humane social order in their own nations. 4) Because of the high community spirit of the group, participants who had talents in music and the arts "blossomed". Two songs were composed (one is ASFOR SONG); paintings/sketchings expressing the thinking of the group on the different aspects of the theme were made; ways of communicating their ideas aside from the English language were created; liturgies were made to celebrate their lif6 together.
As staff reflects on the past three
Asian Secretaries Formation programmes, he feels
confidently that a corps of committed young leaders in the region who take both
their theology/faith and political involvement seriously has-been added to the
body of much-needed Christian leaders in
Ruth and Luchie enjoying
making his presentation
Eddy Prabhakar delivering his “obra maestro” on the WSCF
ASFOR team on the go preparing for plunge-in
ASFOR participants plunge-in to understand the peasants in Cittagong
But still have none but still have none
2. We make a pledge not to ourselves, But to our people
awakening. The millions of Asian peasants and workers
A vision now they share. A world of love and justice
They shall be free, they shall be free.
3. Come S.C.M.s, Unite be one. With all our people
now arising.The millions we’ll live and dare, From
them we’ll learn to build and share A just new world,
a just new world.
By Don Boris
Genesis 1:24-28, 2:18-25
God said, 'Let us make man in our image..... so God created man in his own image..... male and female he created them.
I want to raise some questions which I don't pretend to be able to answer with full satisfaction, but, which I am convinced that those of us who are regularly identified as church people - as believers - must face, for the sake of the maturity of our faith and for the relevance of our faith to others.
As we are well aware, a decreasing
number of people in
Among the people no longer wishing to be associated with the churches are a growing number of women. These people are withdrawing from the church, not through a lack of faith but because of their faith. For these women, institutionalized Christianity, in the form of the church, is now far removed not only from their understanding of the Gospel, but also their living experience of faith today.
In drawing attention to this reality
I do go with some hesitation not because I do not wish to recognize the
phenomena, but because I am ill-equipped to comment on another person's
experience. Just as it is at best paternalistic; and often racist of me to try
to speak on behalf of Maori and
What I hope I can do is to alert us sufficiently so as to encourage us to listen to the women themselves and learn from them directly. Having heard and been challenged to change, it is then up to us to think things through and act, being open to the emotional, intellectual, spiritual and political influence of the women I refer to.
As I hear women who are actively, and consciously, expressing their living faith, I hear them saying "no" to church practice and theology - which is male dominated.
Think for a moment of our churches - throughout history and even now, the churches have been controlled by men. At this time, we are seeing the ordination of women slowly being accepted, but overall our experience has been that men have always controlled the church. And because we have experienced this situation since birth, we have been accustomed to accepting it.
But now, women are saying that they will no longer tolerate a situation where men are in sole command.
Today, I, a male, will serve you with the communion meal. I, a male, am offering you my understanding of life and faith. As a person who will never have the opportunity or actual experience, of conceiving and carrying a child, of giving birth, of menstruation, of menopause, of knowing life as it is influenced and controlled by men - my message, my life, is only half of the story. To be whole people, we must hear from, be served by, all the people.
Just why is it that men dominate the church scene why men claim it to be their right to control the sacraments? Perhaps it has something to do with a very deep sense of biological and psychological insecurity. Unlike women, men never for sure know their paternity, we men can never be absolutely sure whether we have been responsible for conception. Unlike women, men never have an immediate personal experience of life - the creation of life.
Could it be that by taking control of the womb of the church, which sometimes we refer to as Mother Church, men are trying to make up for what we are not. In the distribution of the sacraments, there is a symbolic distribution of life. Could it be that men, through his control of the sacraments are attempting to substitute our inability to give life as women give birth to children?
I hear women suggesting these things and I sense I ignore these things at my own peril.
Just as church political and ritual practice is controlled by men, so inevitably then has our theology been developed by men.
And here I refer not only to contemporary or historical theology but also to the theology of the Bible. Except in isolated situations, most of the Bible has been written from a male-point-of-view - and that bias has continued to the present day.
Evidence of this limited theological perspective has been our belief in the nature of God. As Christians we accept that we came to an understanding of God through Jesus, whom we call the Christ. In the late 1960's white Americans were shaken by black American Christians affirming the Black Christ; 'the Black Madonna.
Today, women theologians such as Mary Daly, Rosemary Reuther, and an increasing number of New Zealand Christian women are affirming 'The Mother God'.
Male theologians, down the ages have often used that passage in Genesis about women being created out of Adam's rib not only to support a theory of male superiority, but also as a commentary on the maleness of God.
We have so often overlooked the other interpretation in Genesis which has God saying 'Let us make man..... male and female he created them.'
Femaleness and maleness are equally emphasized as being of the image of the plural God - and yet we may say the Lord's Prayer without question - "Our Father, who art in heaven."
If we accept God as male, what are the implications for the value and place of women and men in our lives, as families, and a society?
The political powers wielded by men over women in the abortion debate is a graphic example of how male-oriented theology can have its effect in everyday life.
The consequences of the all too common assumption of male domination in a marriage is graphically shown up in the nation's divorce courts, and battered wives' organizations.
Fortunately, within the Bible are not only signs of the influence and power of men in biblical times. Despite this experience of oppression, and perhaps even as a result of that oppression, the voice of women breaks through and is acknowledged by the biblical writers.
For Christians, the figure of Mary is dominant in the story of Jesus. While the Greek myths probably influenced the telling of who Jesus' father was - his father according to Greek mythology had to be divine if the progeny was to be divine - there is no question in the Gospel that Jesus was born of a woman. As centre stage in the cosmic story is a woman, Mary. And unlike the unpredictable behaviour of the men associated with Jesus, the women clearly display the marks of faithfulness, love and caring which are the centre of Christian discipleship.
In the Magnificat, the writer of
Luke equates Mary with
"Tell out my soul the greatness of the Lord recognize rejoice my spirit, in God my Saviour, so tenderly has he looked upon his servant."
Mary the servant is equated with the
humble, the hungry, the poor..... The very same people the Gospel writers,
record Jesus in the beatitudes as saying, "are of the
In the third stanza Mary, the
servant, is then equated with the servant
If the biblical times has experienced true male-female sexuality, it might well have been that both Jesus and Mary would have figured equally - representing co-equally the New Adam and the New Age.
For those of us who have been Christian since birth, and have become so accustomed to a particular form of Christianity, the possibility of fundamental changes in the concepts of our faith can be very threatening. This can be especially true for man for whom religious practice and theological dogma may well be an un- . conscious attempt to cope with deep experiences of threat, inadequacy and insecurity in the male psyche.
To suggest that the Gospel story may be distorted to meet man's needs can be viewed by those whose faith is .based on a form of biblical literalism - as even blasphemy .
In reply to such criticism I say - the essence of our faith is an acknowledgement of a living dynamic God who is ever before us. Our understanding of ourselves as persons "made in the image of God" is constantly opening up as we engage in the Exodus of our own lives.
The personality of God, the personality of each one of us is summed up in the "I AM WHO I AM" and that is equally true for male, female, young and old.
It may have been true that what was said by the Gospel writers satisfied the needs of men and women of their own day.
Today, we are being challenged to build on those insights of yesterday to meet the needs of today and tomorrow. The Faith for tomorrow is being built on the experiences of the past, but if it is to live, if it is to be true to the Christ, our faith today has to supersede that of yesterday - otherwise we become caught up in the oppression of the law which Jesus himself challenged with his life.
Today, I hear believing women say "no" to a form and practice of Christianity which is male-centred. God, the Christ, can never again be male-oriented. Christian communities can never again allow the domination of them by men.
Today, I hear believing women struggling to put into thought and action a form of belief which grows of humanity's femaleness and maleness.
In my attempt to be true to my conviction that the voice of women must be heard, let me conclude with this poem which was printed in the June issue of World Council of Churches' monthly journal One World entitled,
"God's Womb, Conceive in Us"
Transforming Womb of God,
Conceive in us.
Create a new life:
Faith, the confidence to hear
Hope, continuously expectant
Love, the true beginning.
Break forth your living waters, O birthing-
Streaming grace upon us. Spirit;
Waters from your belly,
Cleansing us, causing us to be whole.
Giving us this living water,
Overflowing our cup,
Thirsting no more,
Longing for your welling pool,
Healing as the juices crushed aloe.
Breaking waters,, life-giving Spirit,
Trusting in your presence through the rushing rapids.
Kind hands upon your full belly;
Expecting the yet unseen,
Anticipating the given moment,
Moving with your birthing rhythms;
Breathing with the pain.
Body suffering, shedding blood.
Dying into life from the dark
Night of t>he uniting womb.
Signs of new beginnings
Casting forth into light.
Meeting of the Creator and newly born;
O joyful morning; A jubilee;
First-born, your name upon us;
Our name engraved upon your palm.
Hearing our nightly crying -
the sick, the brokenhearted, the bound
the foolish, the weak, the unlovely-
Offering your loving breast, our banquet table,
Warm milk of sustenance
Given freely, freely flowing, flowing in abundance.
Transforming the Nurturer; our mission
In memory of your body and your blood,
Returning our cup to the thirsty;
Working together, labourers of the Body,
Lovers in our service.
Your whole creation, our field;
Your wisdom, our teacher;
Your inspiration, our vision;
Your presence, our altar.
Transforming Womb of God,
Conceive in us.
Create anew life:
Faith, the confidence to bear
Hope continuously expectant
Love, the true beginning.
Seek first the
Liberation is a continuous historical process. Yet full humanization and the attainment of a fully human world lies not only at the end of the road to liberation, because while the kingdom of God is yet to come, at the same time it has already arrived. During every moment that we are involved in this liberating process we have to experience, appreciate and praise all the beautiful things around us and not live on one's life in anguish and anxiety. The true revolution also includes the joy and fully alive spirit of the revolutionary who in himself reveals a glimpse of what it is to be fully human. And what is love? The true revolutionary is motivated by strong feelings of love: the love for the whole of humanity, the love for life, the love for a community, the love for your friends, the love for your comrades, the love for your revolutionary companion, (some of these I fully understand and some I don't). The process of self-criticism and self-realization is difficult for me. Though I might be confused and get lost at times, yet there is still a force within me to push me forward. I believe this is the force of the people, the force of my comrades, the dialectical force within me.................
Born: May 28. 1954
HKFCS Executive Council Member: 1974-1976
IMCS Asian Secretary: 1976-1979
New Youth Workers' Night School: 1976-1979
Center for the Progress of Peoples: 1979
Died: October 31, 1979
a heart that struggles will always beat,
the tree of life will be forever green.
Cynnyc Cheng died in a plane crash on October 31st, 1979.
After arriving at
In 1974, I was asked by the
international Movement of Catholic Students to help out on the Asian level and
in February of 1975, they asked me to visit
newspaper reporters and editors, priests, community organizers, the Archbishop of Saigon, a senator and student leader who has been held prisoner in the infamous "tiger cages". At the end of a full day, we would sit down to sum up and analyse what we had seen and heard. It was a completely new experience for Cynnyc; he had little to say and kept asking me so share my reflections. A few trips later, he had grown much and after that we equally shared our observations, analysis, insights and possible options we could take.
In the fall of 1975, he was re-elected to the executive council of HKFCS. During the Spring of 1976, he helped with preparations for the Pan Asian Assembly and at the Assembly, he was elected the Asian Secretary...
Under his direction and sustained by his long hours of work, "Interflow" and the "Document Reprint Service" became firmly established as vehicles to communicate articles on social analysis, theological reflection, human rights issues and global concerns. Initially intended for Catholic students, we soon received requests from bishops, seminaries, universities, community organizers and workers and farmers groups from around the world. Cynnyc particularly enjoyed publishing material and constantly worked to improve the content and layout of the periodicals. He helped with each step of the publication process selecting the articles, typing, doing the layout, collating the sheets, stuffing the envelopes, attaching the stamps, and delivering the piles of envelopes to the post office. He would often type and do the layout until early in the morning. In 1977, he had TB, and the doctor told him to get more rest. Some nights I had to practically force him to go to bed at midnight.
During visitations, he helped many young groups reflect on what they were doing. He offered criticisms and suggestions and shared the experience of other groups with them. He always ended by giving encouragement. He maintained contact with all those he met and continued to give encouragement in his letters.
Cynnyc was full of love and therefore an extremely generous person; the needs of others always took priority over his own. While in the third year of secondary school, shortly after he had become a Catholic, a fire completely destroyed a shack area across the street from his school. A few days later his mother discovered that the family savings - HK$400. was missing and found out that Cynnyc had taken the money. When asked why, he replied, "the people lost everything they had and needed the money more than we do:"
In 1977, Cynnyc
worked with a group to open a night school for workers. The goal of the school
was to give factory workers the kind of education that would enable them to
better understand their world and take steps to improve it. During that same
year, he was also part of the group of former HKFCS members who started the Belfran Road Community. During the initial period, and
following two years, Cynnyc did a lot of extra things
for the Community. When visitors came he would let them sleep on his bed and he
would sleep on a fold-up cot. During visitations we received requests for
various kinds of assistance and Cynnyc always offered
to help. Our days were already full, yet we always found time to do an extra
errand and as a result there are many groups around
He preached love and generosity not with words but with actions, which motivated others to do the same.
Cynnyc liked the phrase, "Freedom
lies in being bold and daring" and his actions and attitude gave witness
to how free he really was...His daring, as all he did, flowed from deep love.
Another line that he liked from
He had a deep faith which he felt
called him to make a commitment to people in this world. Love for him implied
working to bring about a radical change of the present unjust economic and
political order.. And as is reflected in the excerpt from a letter to a
friend(which appears before this article), he believed that we should try to
sum up and live a life of love in his relations with others. He studied hard to
better understand reality , and reflected often on Scriptures or theological
articles. He looked forward to going to
Cynnyc was a person of dialogue in search of the truth. In debates and discussions he spoke with conviction and precision and sometimes very sharply. With a very intense manner he would challenge a person's position, dissect someone's argument and point flaws in logic or points of fact. Then with an astonishing openness he would again listen to replies or counter-arguments in case he might have misunderstood a point, or the person originally was not articulate enough. Many times, hours or days later, he would suddenly refer to a debate and admit the correctness of someone's argument. The next time he saw the person again he would discuss the issue. He was considered as one genuinely seeking the truth - in theory and through action - and thus he shared with and worked with Christians of many denominations, marxists of all points of view, and people without faith or an ideology, but who possessed goodwill and worked for justice.
Cynnyc looked forward to the day when he
could begin working in
To me, Cynnyc was more than a student leader; he was like another younger brother. We worked well together and had developed a division of work what we planned to continue using in the future. He was one of my language teachers and a tutor in science. We both enjoyed photography and chess (the rare occasions that I beat him in Chinese chess were treated as major historical events). Two or three times a week, we played basketball in the local playground and over the years had worked out several good plays and kept opponents off-balance. The well-played games helped to put the problems of the day and the pile of work that always awaited us in proper perspective for we always walked home re-invigorated and full of energy.
There are so many 'little' things I remember. He liked to eat "new dishes" and I was introduced to many exotic foods at road-side stalls by Cynnyc. He also liked to cook and when he was feeling "high" or a little "low" he would go into the kitchen and cook something we had never eaten before. He liked to sing but could'nt carry a tune, yet that never stopped him from singing. Among his favorite songs were the "Internationale", the national anthem of China, a student song - "March Forward to Build a New World", the song written for the workers' night school, and "Guard the Yellow River". Cynnyc had a great sense of humor and enjoyed jokes. When he laughed hard he would shrug his shoulders, repeatedly slap his thigh and his whole body would shake.
The verse at the top of the first page is a translation of Cynnyc's contribution on the birthday card our community gave me this year. As long as my heart beats and my life remains, I will remember my youthful comrade.
One of Cynnyc's favorite parables was that of the sower. He liked to see himself as one whose vocation it was to sow seeds. The second poem which refers to the necessity of the sower's task was written by Chou En-lai in his youth. It was another favorite of Cynnyc's.
Cynnyc was also the good ground of the parable, for he produced at least a hundredfold. I already miss Cynnyc very much. He will be missed by many others. The world, especially the poor and workers he sought to serve, will miss his creativity and hard work. However, the seeds he sowed during his short life will take root and produce more seeds. Cynnyc would request that we turn our sorrow to strength, continue sowing seeds, commit ourselves to building a radically new world and live our lives in such a way that we can give witness to the fact that the Kingdom has already come.
By: Fr. Jack Clancey, MM
By Kumudhini Rosa
In the Asian context our commitment to the task of political, social and economic liberation is undergirded by a new factor, which is possibly not so evident in the case of the Western world, the contribution that religion could make to the struggle for liberation.
Religion may be compared to the traditional lamp that most of us, Asians are familiar with. A lamp by it — self has no value until it is lit. The light is the faith, the adherence to its principles or doctrines, and even more its application to life. A lamp shining in the darkness dispels that darkness. Living Religions are thus comparable to lamps that have been lit and continue to shine, dispelling darkness and shedding light. Thus, they are, or should be, part of the liberating process in our continent.
But the role of living faiths cannot
be taken for granted. As we look round Asia, if such a thing is possible, or
specific countries in
But, it is evident to any impartial observer, that Buddhism has not always been on the side of liberation, that often Buddhist forces have vitiated the struggle for justice, many Buddhist people have given their blessing to racist and chauvinistic elements have defused the class struggle, have sided with powers that be, and allowed their religion to be used as an opiate.
The account of my own faith, Christianity, is so much worse - in that its' alien, colonialist, and now neo-colonialist complexion has prevented it from becoming a liberating force. In its institutional form, it has been an obstacle to much that goes to make up liberation and in most of its expression, it conforms to Karl Marx's castigation of religion as an aspect of man's lack of freedom - the antithesis of liberation. It is often found to be 'the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world...it is the opium of the people."
The same thing could be said of Hinduism and of Islam,. In their institutional form, they are part of the establishment, and have all the trappings of a capitalist system, so that the process of liberation might well include the emancipation of our people from that kind of religion.
But our concept of Living Faiths rules out this kind of religion. The lamp must shine, and not be a mere ornament. We have to search for these elements in our religions that make them instruments of liberation. We have to discard the negative elements and make religious life and practice subserve the task of liberation. We Christians must discern the liberation thrust of the Gospel so luridly proclaimed by our Lord in the Nazareth manifesto as recorded in Luke 4; 18-19.
I will not presume to refer authoritatively to other religions, but I see in Buddhism the basics of human liberation, the conquest of craving (tanha), the renunciation of self (anatta) and the concern for others (metta and keruna). In the Sangha, the order of monks, we have the concept of a new community, based on socialist principles.
Finally, in my understanding of the positive role that religions can play in the liberation struggle, one tremendous disability springs from religious triumphalism and arrogance. Each one claims to possess the finality of the Truth, a monopoly of salvation-power, and in this respect, we, Christians, arid especially our fervent evangelical brethren are the most ardent. In my view, religions have to be liberated from such exclusivism if they are to be agents of liberation.
leave this chanting and singing
and telling beads!
Whom does thou worship in this
lonely dark corner of a temple
with doors all shut?
Open thine eyes and see thy God
is not before thee!
he is there
where the tiller is tilling the
and where the path maker is
he is with them in the sun
and in shower ,
and his garment I cover with dust.
put off thy holy mantle and even
like him come down on the
deliverance? where is the deliverance
to be found ?
our master himself has joyfully
taken upon him the bonds of creation;
he is bound with us all for ever.
come out of they meditations
and leave aside thy flowers and icense!
what harm is there if thy clothes become
tattared and stained ?
MEET HIM AND STAND BY HIM
IN TOIL AND IN SWEAT OF THY BROW.
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standing committee meets
The Chairperson of the Asia Pacific
Committee of WSCF, Dave Rodriguez, has called a meeting of the Standing
japan scm (student ymca) hold summer seminar
In a communiqué reaching the
regional office, Japan SCM shared a First Appeal addressed to their units and
(the late) President Park of Korea on
"Political prisoners in
The most apparent evidence of the
collusion between the two governments is the social and political condition
under which Koreans in
news from scm of
Though a bit belated, we greet the appointment of Rev. Dr. Satish Gyan to the General Secretaryship of the SCM of India, a Methodist pastor, replacing M E Prabhakar, WSCF Honorary Treasurer.
SCM of India has come out lately with a monthly newsletter and has retained an old name - REFLECTIONS. To quote the paper itself, "This newsletter will carry mainly news items regarding various regions and also with reference to the World Student Christian Federation and the World Council of Churches,"
They carried a news report of an
activity of interest on inter-movement solidarity: "A two-day discussion
meeting was held at the SCM Programme Centre in
September on Philippine situation and what we in 1'ftdia can do to show our
solidarity with the SCM there. We also looked at the Philippine situation in
light of our situation here in
Mid-August last, our 6th WSCF ASIA
PACIFIC Book came out bearing the papers of the 1978 ASFOR programme
which was held in both Salatiga and
SAMUEL L. PARMAR. Since PRAXIS is
appearing only twice this year, it is only now that we can report the death of
Professor Dr. Samuel L. Parmar of
CYNNYC CHENG. Immediate past Asian
Coordinator of the International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS), died in
an airplane crash in