Who we are
Realizing the importance of building religious unity in the Asian region, the Interfaith Cooperation Forum (ICF) was formed to facilitate the examination of different religious perspectives on the root causes of some of the threats and conflicts we experience in community today such as poverty, consumptive lifestyles, and unjust distribution of land.
Interfaith Cooperation supports regional religious partnerships in working together for the transformation of society. It is an endeavor to find alternatives through listening, learning, and discerning messages from the grassroots and the development of cooperative efforts to achieve these alternatives together through involvement and action.
Aims & Objectives
The basic goals of Interfaith Cooperation are to support a regional inter-religious Asian movement for justice and transformation that focuses on marginalized communities; confronts the roots of violence; and promotes justice in the economic, political, and social spheres.
A little background
Violence, often mislabeled as religious violence, has increasingly rocked our world since the terrorist bombings in New York and Washington DC. While such violence was a reality in much of the world long before 9/11 became a word synonymous with terrorism, the 9/11 attacks changed the nature of the violence. Now, more than ever, religious differences are, rightly or wrongly, blamed as the culprit. This serves to increase tensions and misunderstandings between people of different religious faiths. At the same time, those in power have found the war on terror to be an easy excuse to carry out repressive policies when their own people become restive due to frustration with coercive and/or manipulative government policies. This environment of division, distrust, dis-information and repression does not bode well for the future of our threatened world.
We in Asia have also felt the brunt of this "religious" violence, but at the same time we find many common elements that compel us to work together for inter-religious cooperation. Religious and ethnic conflict in many parts of Asia have existed for many generations, but external factors such as the "war on terrorism" have exacerbated this environment of conflict and will continue to do so. Such conflicts shatter patterns of communal harmony that have existed for centuries. A common factor that underlies these conflicts is when one group seeks to dominate and impose its will on others.
The lack of a functioning democratic process on both the local and global levels hinders inter-religious cooperation in many places. The concerns of marginalized people are frequently not heard and attended to by those in power. Economic disparity and the unjust control of resources often compound this lack of representation, leaving financial and intellectual resources in the hands of a few elite individuals and countries. Globalization of the market economy has widened the gap between the rich and poor, which in turn intensifies social conflict.
The increasing prevalence of violence in our world underlines the importance of cooperation across religious lines. This refers not only to communal violence, but also to everyday violence toward those sectors of society least able to defend themselves - women, children, the poor, and ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities.
Religion in itself is not the cause of conflict and violence. However, we must face the sad reality that religious identity and emotions are too often manipulated to further the self-centered goals of vested interests. Religion thus gets politicized and manipulated by powerful groups and individuals to promote political ambitions and the pursuit and maintenance of power and domination. Attitudes of superiority, whereby some religious groups consider themselves better than others, are easily exploited by the unscrupulous to foment unhealthy competition, hatred, injustice and conflict.
In this situation, the basis of inter-religious cooperation must be those religious values that we hold in common. All our religions teach peace, justice, compassion for those who suffer, equality, love, human dignity and solidarity, non-violence, sensitivity to others and the oneness of the human family. We all believe that humanity and nature are interdependent. However, we must humbly acknowledge that our own communities have often failed to be agents of peace and to live according to our shared values. Such a self-critical attitude must be accompanied by a love and renewed commitment to what is best in our own tradition, as well as genuine respect and esteem for the spiritual and humane values enshrined in all religions of the powerful.
The challenge we face is whether we can work together on the basis of these shared values to build more just, peaceful, harmonious and sustainable societies.
As people of different faiths, we should be concerned that life is not about control (of the environment, of goods, of the world) but it is about our relationship with God and our common humanity. We should realize that we are not talking about absoluteness, nor about fundamentalist views of what is right and what is wrong. We need to learn how other religions understand and live out the common values that we all share.
For more detailed background information on Interfaith Cooperation, please see our additional reading page.
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