Asian Cultural Dialogues

5th Asia Future Conference Asian Cultural Dialogue Report

SGRA Report Special Issue


AFC5 Round Table

The 3rd Southeast Asia Inter-cultural/Religious Dialogue


Social Ethics and Global Economy

“Can Religion Stop the Tyranny of the Market Economy?”


Date:January 10 (Friday), January 11 (Saturday) 2020

Venue:Alabang Bellevue Hotel and University of the Philippines, Los Banos

Organizer:Atsumi International Foundation Sekiguchi Global Research Association (SGRA)



To date, the Southeast Asia Inter-Cultural/Religious Dialogue has been held twice at the Asia Future Conference. The first session was at the 2016 conference (AFC 3) in Kita Kyushu, in which the impact of globalization on Southeast Asian countries and contemporary religious responses to the issue were discussed. The second session took place in 2018 in Seoul (AFC 4), and the focus was on peace and the role of religion in conflict and crisis resolution in Southeast Asia. In the third Southeast Asia Inter-Cultural/Religious Dialogue, the focus will be on ethical theory borne from religion (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism) and the economy. Despite the economic progress and reduction in poverty in Southeast Asian countries achieved under the current global economy (the globalization of the economy), there continues to be a spread in inequality and with it a growing social division. The distribution of fortune and power has become polarized, and while megacities are built in these countries there is a sense offatigue amongst local communities who seek to reject the knowledge of their elders which sustained their past lifestyles. Southeast Asia consists of diversity of ethnicities, religions and cultures, and through the trials and errors of the past have built up awealth of wisdom. In this roundtable we gather theologians, philosophers and economists, and through focusing on the wisdom and knowledge of Christianity’s third world theology, Islam economics and Buddhist philosophy explore the perspectives given on the economy in an increasingly complex world.


The Problem From an Economist’s Perspective (by Hitoshi Hirakawa)

The globalization of the economy has eradicated absolutely poverty in Asia, but even in this global society inequality in wealth and property continues to be on the rise domestically. Democratic systems have spread in form around the world, but a closer look reveals that authoritarian systems are shooting up even in developed countries. At the root of these social problems is the rapidly growing inequality in wealth distribution.


How can an economist make sense of the current situation? After the collapse of the Eastern bloc, the form of economics which privileged above all else liberal competition (neoliberalism) gained overwhelming influence and pushed for the globalization of the economy. Unfortunately, mainstream economists were not interested in how property and wealth were distributed and stood by the privileged in society who increased the gap in wealth distribution. It can be said that they played a role in assisting the spread of the insatiable capitalism that pervades society today. There are rules in society, and limitations. In the history of humanity, freedom and equality have been developed through the concept of human rights. However, to what extent do economists today incorporate this history into their research and outlooks? We are seeing a phenomenon in which the antithesis of democracy is being produced by democratic processes, and this is a crucial issue that needs to be examined.


The countries of Southeast Asia have seen tremendous growth over the past ten years. As one of the core regions of global growth, it has also seen a reduction in the number of people experiencing absolute poverty. With this economic development many people also find themselves ever more entwined and caught up in the processes of global capitalism, and embedded in the hierarchical structure of consumer capitalism. The inequality in wealth distribution increases and the social gap grows wider, as does destruction of the environment.


Many new tasks and challenges await the future of Southeast Asia. At the same time, there is a “wisdom” that has driven and supported these established cultures, such as the sufficiency economics of Thai Buddhism, local community mutual economy aid in Indonesia, Islam in Malaysia, and the anti-globalist economic theory of Christianity that is the basis of poverty aid relief to the slums of the Philippines.


There is now a calling to integrate the knowledge gained from religions and intellectual thought and to allow them to fulfill a new role in the current market economy. This is not restricted to Asian societies, but rather can provide us with insights for the potential of development in this increasingly global world. This roundtable was put together with the above problems in mind. Through the presentations given by the presenters, I hope that we can learn from each other and have a fruitful exchange.


Click here for the report.


Sekiguchi Global Research Association (SGRA)

Atsumi International Foundation