16 World Religious Leaders Converge at KAS Interfaith Dialogue



16 World Religious Leaders converged at the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) - Centrist Democrat International (CDI) Asia-Pacific Global Interfaith Dialogue in support of Peace through Interfaith Dialogue. The event was the first of three KAS-CDI Asia Pacific policy forums held alongside the launch of CDI Asia-Pacific. Earlier, Speaker Jose De Venecia, Jr. was elected president of CDI Asia-Pacific and Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra elected as chairman. Francis Manglapus will be Executive Secretary. The New President of CDI International is Pier Ferdinando Casini, current President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. He follows outgoing President José Mária Aznar.

Jose De Venecia, Jr. began the first policy forum with an overview of CDI activities that, like the dialogue, seek to address new politico-religious tensions and ethnic conflicts in various parts of the world. KAS Country Representative, Mr. Klaus Preschle noted, in his introductory remarks, Germany’s support for activities which strengthen the capabilities of the parties involved and enable them to discuss how to translate common values into decisions and actions relevant for world peace and security. H.E. Kjell Magne Bondevik, former Primer Minister, Norway, said that government, political, and religious leaders should do their share to educate and participate in religious dialogues in order to make religion an instrument for peace and solidarity.

The sixteen religious leaders then took turns expressing their views on the essence of faith – the search for God; the meaning of peace, their respective faith’s contributions to achieving peace and love, and the impact of global interfaith activities in achieving world peace. All agreed that faith is critical to attaining lasting peace and that all religions should come together for interfaith dialogues to help resolve world issues.

Attending religious leaders were H.E. Dr. Archbishop Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal, Philippines; Dr. Mohammed Sherif, Secretary-General of the World Islamic Call Society of Libya; Rev Dr. Chung Hwan Kwak, Chairman of the Universal Peace Federation; Rabbi Itzhak Bar-Dea, former Chief Rabbi Ramat Gan of Israel, Hon. Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Secretary-General of the Pakistan Muslim League; Venerable Khy Sovanvatan, Cambodia; Dr. Mohinder Singh, Director of the Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan, India; the Secretary-General of the World Association of Non-Government Organizations (WANGO), Mr. Taj Hamad, a Sufi-Moslem from the US; Bishop Efraim Tendero, National Director of the Philippine council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC); Dr. Cheng-Fan, Confucian and Professor of History of the Chung Hwa University of Taiwan; Dr. Hamdi Mohammad Murad Murad, Islamic researcher and scholar from Jordan; Dr. Siow Kee Len, Director of I-Kuan Tao of Malaysia; Lebanon’s Mr. Abdul; Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhaby, Imam of Nakshabandi Community, East Jerusalem, Israel; and Phramaha Bhatsakorn Piyobhaso (Kota) of the Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University of Thailand.

Dennis Gonzales of the Ateneo School of Government was moderator.

World Leaders Highlight Government Headship in Economic Development at 2nd KAS-CDI Asia Pacific Policy Forum

Manila Hotel – On January 28, 2006, visiting former heads of state and current political and religious leaders highlighted the central role of governments and parliaments in finding solutions to economic development in a globalizing world at the 2nd KAS-CDI Asia Pacific Policy Forum on Global Economic Development.

H.E. Wilfried Martiens, President of the European People’s Party and former Prime Minister of Belgium, said, in his speech, that Globalization, though an effective instrument of development, poses a challenge to all countries. Solutions to this challenge, he argued, include: a) that countries adapt to new world market conditions through liberal initiatives – creating new enterprises and products and, thus, new jobs - with public authorities creating the general fiscal, financial and social conditions for these efforts; b) promoting sustainable development through equal world trade opportunities and substantial financial assistance to developing countries; and d) supporting efforts to strengthen good governance, democracy and respect for human rights.

Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai discussed his country’s dual tract approach to sustaining development which hinges on (1) going out to various areas to find out what the people need and (2) addressing these needs. Thailand, he noted, has adopted 3 principles for economic development : reducing expenses, increasing income, and expanding opportunities. Each Thai village is assisted in increasing and utilizing village funds through a committee that helps the village manage its monies. The village level program promotes the OTOP concept of “one local product” per village wherein the Thai government provides assistance in marketing, packaging, and creating markets for each village’s products. To ensure that each village is aware of what is happening in other villages through the OTOP website, as well as developments outside Thailand, the Thai government provided each village with a computer. The Thai government also put up SME banks to extend further monetary assistance to the rural areas. Deputy Prime Minister Sathirathai also discussed the north-south and south-south country-country cooperative activities Thailand has engaged in.

In his address on the work of national parliaments and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in fostering development, the President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Pier Ferdinando Casini, emphasized that Parliaments have only recently begun to promote their role in development, are the natural place to foster accountability in political leadership, and are the appropriate forums for harmonizing development issues and policies with other key national and international policies and issues, because of their members’ first-hand knowledge of the priorities of the people or entities they govern. The IPU, jointly with the European Parliament, has helped with institutionalizing the parliamentary dimension of the WTO and enhanced parliamentary presence in national delegations. Other IPU initiatives include – cooperation with the UN Institute for Training and Research on equipping parliaments to address development issues; undertaking a study of new international development financing mechanisms, i.e. the International Finance Facility and the World Bank Parliamentary Network, which provides the WB with information on the effective allocation of resources.

Professor Alex Magno, Development Bank of the Philippines, called on all parties to work towards democratizing the market and allowing market policies to drive the growth of democracy.

Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr. explained in detail his proposal for converting 50 percent of the debt owed by 100 highly indebted countries, including that of the Philippines, to equity investments in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations. Such an initiative would create equal opportunities for a new middle class and raise the standard of living of those from the rural slums of Asia and Africa living below the poverty threshold.

Dr. T.D. Singh, President of the Vedanta and Science Research Foundation, India, said that the India Institute of Management promotes the development theory “spironomics” -the theological and ethical dimensions of economic progress. He argued that for economic growth to be sustained, the spiritual dimension must not be neglected so as to balance economic development.

Dr. Federico Macaranas, Executive Director, Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Policy Center, was moderator.

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