Asian Cultural Dialogues

  • 5th Asia Future Conference Asian Cultural Dialogue Report

    SGRA Report Special Issue AFC5 Round TableThe 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) 2020Venue:Alabang Bellevue Hotel and University of the Philippines, Los BanosOrganizer:Atsumi International Foundation Sekiguchi Global Research Association (SGRA) AbstractTo 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
  • Hirakawa Hitoshi The 5th Asia Future Conference Roundtable Discussion “South-East Asian Culture and Religious Dialogues”

    We had two days roundtable discussions under the title “The South-East Asian Culture and Religious Dialogues” at the 5th Asia Future Conference at Bellevue Hotel Alabang, Metro Manila on January 10 and at University of the Philippines Los Banos on January 11, 2020.    As I have been interested in Asian economy and recent development of economies in newly developing area, I made a speech under the title “Social ethics and global economy”. So, I would like to comment on what I thought and felt at the roundtable discussions.    My understanding was very limited because of my English language skills and lack of knowledge about religion and societies in the South-East Asia. Therefore, the contents of the meeting are not introduced here. So you are requested to confirm the contents with the report by the chairman of the discussion session, Professor OGAWA Tadashi from Atomi University. I myself would like to know more deeply about economics, religions and social ethics once the reports will be issued officially.  I myself have found that economics today has a great impact on developing societies, yet their attention to them is extremely inadequate. The 2001 Nobel Prize winner in economics, Professor Joseph Stiglitz, describes the experience of his colleague, Professor Richard H. Thaler from the University of Chicago, that the perception of justice about economic behavior among students studying economics is far from the ordinary people.  According to his survey on pricing of shovels for shoveling after a storm, 82% of the general population answered that price increases were unfair, compared to just 24% of MBA students attending the University. The understanding of fairs in economics students is very different from that of social understanding. In fact, such cases are happening around us as a high-priced mask sale due to ongoing COVID 19. Professor Stiglitz sharply criticized that the economic affairs played a role in the collusion between wealthy people and politicians due to the widening income gap in American society.  The keynote speaker at the Roundtable, Professor Bernard M. Villegas, Vice President of Asia-Pacific University, addressed the issue that economics is less interested in social issues or selfishness. Professor Villegas, as an educator with a Ph.D. in economics along with his experience of around half a century summed up the discussion, saying that economics has expedited subdivision and quantization too much. He emphasized the elegance of mathematical formulas in the analysis of economic phenomena. He was objectively criticized for competing, emphasizing market independence, and eliminating justice, social responsibility of human beings, and consideration of national regulations. At the same time, he persuasively stated that he, himself, practiced his teaching of economics, being based on the results of various sciences, for solution of poverty in the Philippines saying economics is “social science”.    The report by Ms. Sister Mary John Mananzan of St. Scholastica University in the Philippines dealing with the feminization of poverty in the Philippines, the report by Mr. Somboon Chun Prampuri of the social participation Buddhist network reporting on the social ethics and globalization of Buddhism in Thailand, and the report by Jamhari Siswant, Dean of the Sharif Hidayatura State Islamic University, reported on the latest Islamic movements in Indonesia. These all reports addressed the current challenges of religious people in Southeast Asia.  Listening to those opinions, I wondered if economics which I know now can respond to such opinions or reports. Religious social activities are aimed at living human beings. They are directly involved in fighting various types of discrimination, including absolute poverty and gender discrimination, in various environments and conditions. Many social activities in Southeast Asia are aimed at liberation from poverty and sex discrimination.  Come to think of it, Economics sees society from a distinctly different perspective. Economics describes complex social relationships as a model of a simple abstract market, and considers that society can maximize "efficiency" through that market. The market here equates society with an unclear distinction between idea and reality. Moreover, in the current mainstream economics, the real world is captured through mathematical models, and other social sciences are excluded. Of course, economics has grown greatly now, and various models have been created to approach reality. The principle model has been modified.  But what if these economics apply to the developing world? Economists who write development prescriptions have little knowledge of developing societies, and the prescriptions thus made are policies through developed countries and international development organizations. In conclusion, such models can be said to have been founded on simple and philosophical market models. When a policy fails, its cause has been sought in the developing society itself. The response to the Asian currency crisis of 1997 is a good example.  I dare to say that there is no distinction in economics between economy and society.  In economic globalization, economics has been involved in the development of developing regions and forced developing countries to liberalize and privatize. The various contradictions which come from such enforcement have been imposed to the weak.  The story jumps a little, but the global financial crisis that hit the US subprime loan crisis in 2008, and the birth of US President Trump in 2017, are the consequences of the failure of policy promoted by liberal economics. Also, it is ironic that China, under the Communist Party's government, which seemed to be unsuccessful, achieved amazing development and growth. Is it a counterattack by actual societies against mainstream economics? Every society need rules. However, the economics of the past half century have broken down the rules of society, expanded the income gap, deepened social division, and deteriorated the economy and society by treating it as regulation. Isn't that attachment a democratic crisis both inside and outside the United States?  When I expressed my opinion, at round-table conference, saying that economics now think about welfare on the assumption of abstract “model.” Sister Mary Mananzan showed a nasty look which pierced my heart sharply.  The word "economics is science" also comes to mind. However, economics as a social science must be self-restraint regarding the application of abstract models to the real world, and policies need not be created in cooperation with various sciences. There are words “Economics is Science”. However, economics, as a social science, should be self-controlled when its abstracted models will be applied to actual societies and its policies must be decided in cooperation with various sciences. No matter how much economics claims academic superiority, it is only dogmatic and arrogant. In international development and poverty development, a restraint attitude may be required more urgently than ever before.  It is not wrong at all that economics is certainly valid for partial, local analysis and policy. However, when trying to apply it to a developing society, special caution and restraint are required. However, if we apply to developing societies, we have to be careful and self-controlled. I think it was around the Asian currency crisis, but I remember the anecdote that economists once learned of the history and societies of developing countries obscure decision-making by a former prominent American economist. I realized from this round table discussion about my relationship with society. I would like to continue my study hereafter “social ethics and global economy” and its relation with sustainable and joint development.  Lastly, I express my thanks to all the people who organized the round table discussions, Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas who made a keynote speech, Prof. T. Ogawa and Dr. Ranjana Mukopadhyaya, who chaired the discussions, Project Coordinator, Dr. Brenda Tenegra, Dr. Ferdinando C. Maquito and Dr. Sonya Dale who interpreted for me.  SGRA Kawaraban 624 in Japanese (Original)  Hitoshi Hirakawa / Professor emeritus, Nagoya University, Director of Atsumi International Foundation  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala  
  • 4th Asia Future Conference Asian Cultural Dialogue Report

    SGRA Report Special issue AFC4 Round TableThe 2nd Southeast Asia Inter-Religious Dialogue Tolerance and Reconciliation-Religious Responses to Conflict Resolution- August 25th 2018 (Sat) 9:00~12:30 Case Presentations & Roundtable DiscussionAugust 26th 2018 (Sun) 9:00~12:30 Sessions 1 and 2Venue: The K Hotel Conference Hall Seoul, Korea The first “AFC:Southeast Asia Inter-Religious Dialogue” was organized during the 3rd Asia Future Conference in the autumn of 2016. The theme of this roundtable session was “Religious Responses to Changing Social Environment in Southeast Asia”. In the session we discussed the religious responses towards various issues in Southeast Asian countries which have been severely impacted by the process of “globalization”. The topic “religious tolerance” emerged as an important aspect of inter-religious dialogue in Southeast Asia. For the 4th Asia Future Conference of August 2018 in Seoul, we propose to hold the 2nd Southeast Asia Inter-Religious Dialogue” focusing on “Tolerance and Reconciliation”. The Purpose of the Roundtable:Despite the fact that confrontation and dispute arise out of political and economic factors, we often misunderstand such disputes as “religious confrontation”. This is because religion is relevant to the socio-economic and cultural fabric of the community and the people who are in confrontation with each other. Especially in Southeast Asian countries which are said to be a “mosaic” of race and religion, such tendencies are even more pronounced, and confrontation sometimes turns into communal conflicts. On the other hand, there are many cases where religious communities and their leaders have succeeded in peacefully solving such confrontations and disputes. We assume such religious and civil leaders have accumulated vast experiences in reconciliation and peace-building processes. This roundtable session will also be an opportunity to share and learn from the experiences of the speakers mentioned below, some of whom have been involved in the conflict resolution and reconciliation processes in this region.  Click  here for report                   Sekiguchi Global Research Association (SGRA)Atsumi International Foundation
  • 3rd Asia Future Conference Asian Cultural Dialogue Report

    SGRA Report Special issueAFC3 Round TableThe 1st Asian Cultural Dialogue“Religious Responses to Changing Social Environments in Southeast Asia” September 30, 2016 (Fri) 9:00~12:30Venue: Kitakyushu International Conference Center, Conference Room Aim of Forum:Southeast Asia is a mosaic of different ethnicities, religions, and socio-cultural contacts. Following liberation from colonial domination, Southeast Asian countries struggled to integrate their various ethnicities and religious cultures as part of the process of nation-building. Under the increasing influence of globalization since the 1990s, these nation-states are once again confronted with profound social transformations and upheavals.While Southeast Asian countries as a whole have seen rapid economic development due to the effects of the global spread of market economies, they have simultaneously experienced an increase in social inequality, environmental degradation, violations of human rights, and religious and ethnic conflicts. This situation has raised doubts about the sustainability of the current economic, social, and economic systems. Based on their respective religious values and ethics, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, and other religious leaders have been at the forefront of voicing powerful critiques of these destructive trends and their underlying causes. However, despite the fact that these religions aim for peace, the wellbeing of society, and the happiness of mankind, many tend to see in religion a main cause of these recent conflicts and frictions.This roundtable seeks to address this one-sided perception of the role of religion. Based on case studies presented by researchers from this region, the roundtable will further engage researchers active in Japan to discuss how religions can contribute to fostering sustainable social, political, and economic development. Click here for report Click here for program                    Sekiguchi Global Research Association (SGRA)Atsumi International Foundation