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Asia Pacific Augistinian Conference

Convention Address by William Chang OFMCap


This is an abridged version of one of the main addresses given at the APAC Convention at Ketapang, Indonesia on 22 October 2014. The guest speaker was Br William Chang OFM Cap. One of his publications is called The Dignity of the Human Person in Pancasila and the Church’s Social Doctrine: An Ethical Comparative Study (Quezon City, Philippines: Claretian Publications, 1997). For a full copy of this address and its footnotes, contact the APAC Secretariat, as explained on another page in this website.

William Chang OFMCap: Diversity Management as a Method of Doing Mission in a Multicultural Society

As a multicultural society, Indonesia consists of more than 13,466 islands situated in the South East Asia zone. There are at least 450 different ethnic groups in Indonesia. The majority of Indonesians live in Java and Bali; the others live in Sumatera, Sulawesi, Papua and Kalimantan. Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism are recognized by the Government as official religions.

In 1945, when proclaiming Indonesia’s independence, the first President of Indonesia, Ir. Soekarno, announced that Pancasila was the foundation and way of life of Indonesians. It consists of five fundamental pillars of the country. This political foundation guarantees the realization of each Indonesian citizen’s basic rights. Basic ethical values are found in this philosophy of life. How can we arrange diversity management in a multicultural and multiethnic society in order to solve a potential social conflicting situation? How can we do our mission in such a colorful society? The answers to this basic question will be the main aim of the following essay.

 

  1. Living in diversity in Indonesia

Diversity is God’s gift. Every creature, human and non-human, is unique. Each human person has his or her natural characteristics. Each ethnic group in Indonesia also has its own typical way of living, behaving, working and socializing. These groups can help one another when they face complicated problems.

How have these ethnically diverse Indonesian groups been able to live in harmony with one another? There are at least three significant reasons. Firstly, there is a natural desire for all these different ethnic groups to form a united nation. Although they come from different socio-cultural backgrounds, they want to be recognized by the rest of the world as a single nation. Despite ethnic differences, they bond together as one big family in the spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.

Secondly, Indonesians live Bhinekka Tunggal Ika, meaning unity in diversity, as their traditional philosophy of life. The different ethnic minorities of Indonesia have all shared the same history of suffering and humiliation during the occupation of colonizers. Human solidarity urges them to live today in a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood. They consciously endeavor to live and work together to promote Indonesia as a multicultural nation.

Thirdly, a more profound motivation for creating a harmonious society belongs to the spirit of brotherhood and friendship cultivated by a traditional family system which historically has emphasized the principle of mutual understanding and mutual collaboration in a multiethnic society. Each member of an ethnic group has an innate sense of brotherhood and sisterhood with all other ethnic groups. This is clearly demonstrated by the reciprocal solidarity with which they respond to social disasters, such as floods, landslides or other cosmic catastrophes affecting all the people.

            The realization of unity in a harmonious society has at least six fundamental values. These are (1) respect for the dignity of each human person as being created in God’s image; (2) the exercise of good will in order to live together as a harmonious society; (3) a patriotic love of Indonesia as a nation; (4) democracy;  (5) solidarity; (6) a just and prosperous society. These values motivate Indonesians to create a more human community based on religious background. Religious values from different religions will sustain a harmonious society.

 

  1. Diversity is a blessing and a curse

On the one hand diversity is seen to be a blessing, for it has enabled Indonesians of various ethnic groups to live and work together for more than six decades. There is merit in the different ethnicities being subsumed into a common melting pot. Solidarity among the Indonesians influences much the socio-economic and political development of the country. Despite the huge diversity of ethnic cultures among the peoples of Indonesia, there are remarkably few dissenting voices. These include the people of Papua and Aceh.

On the other hand diversity can be a curse. Since 1945 a series of socio-political, religious, and ethnic conflicts have appeared in different regions. In 1948 a religious movement fought against Indonesia’s army in an attempt to build an Indonesian Moslem country. From 30 September 1965 to the end of 1967 many thousands of Indonesians were killed when Suharto’s regime cleansed rural areas of the so called “communists”. Undoubtedly, a human tragedy took place. Before the end of Suharto’s regime in May 1998, anti-Chinese riots happened in several big cities, such as Jakarta, Solo, and Medan. Ethnic conflicts occurred in Western and Central Kalimantan, Java and Sumatra. Hundreds of thousands of people had to flee from their hometowns. Thousands of people were murdered. A chaotic and tragic situation appeared in Indonesia.

In fact, the very diversity of ethnicity in Indonesia has created the possibility of conflict between groups of different socio-political, religious, ethnic and ideological backgrounds. Hence, it is necessary to foresee a possible dangerous situation arising in the future where the different people of a multicultural society may be in conflict with each other. As far as possible it is necessary to take steps to prevent this from happening. A deep analysis of the causes of such a potential conflict should be made systematically. All members of society have the responsibility to avoid social conflict because such conflict may destroy their very civilization. ‘Early Warning System’ plays a key role in preventing social conflict in a multicultural society.

It is clear that diversity is not always a blessing, and it has the potential to turn into a curse, if there is no mutual respect and mutual understanding in a multicultural society. A heart to heart communication will help to bring people to reach a harmonious community. When people of different backgrounds think consider their problems with their hearts, a peaceful solution becomes possible. Only then will conflicts among people be reduced. A non-violent way of thinking will play a key role in solving socio-political, ethnic and cultural problems.

 

  1. Diversity management

Diversity mismanagement creates chaos and a fragmenting of a peaceful social atmosphere. Conflicts occur in daily life. If we cannot manage conflicts and resolve them in a peaceful way, people will live in a continuing stressful situation. There will not be a peaceful environment. The largest conflicts in the world in the 20th century, which have resulted in genocides and massacres on a previously unheard-of scale, appear to have all been connected with ideologies rooted in secular values.

A good diversity management develops an appreciation of the richness of different elements in social life. The richness is experienced in recognizing the dignity of all human beings’ lives. The differences observed in the way various cultures engage socially with each other are not the result of logic. People simply grow so accustomed to a set of customs that they assume that these customs are the only way of being polite or gentle with others. Sometimes it is quite hard to open ourselves to others’ manners because of our different socio-cultural backgrounds.

            Human beings’ consciousness of other different cultures, customs, religions and traditions will influence much this management. An honest, fair and open dialogue with others can be a good way to realize diversity management. The real truth of the diversity can be traced in every aspect of social life. Without true and honest communication with others, there will be no good understanding and collaboration. A peaceful society can exist only if people can communicate and share their lives in the spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. Anthropological aspects, such as the natural characteristics of diversity and multiethnic situations, are to be wisely considered. The perennial values of local wisdom are essential elements of this management.

            Diversity management should respond to the contextual needs of the people. Its effectiveness depends much on its real application to social life. Diversity managers should know the real socio-cultural, economic and political activities of daily life. A diversity management needs to be updated from time to time so that this management will be able to solve conflicting problems in a multicultural society. This management should be promoted first of all in every social entity, such as in a family, school, religious environment, offices, market and working places.

 

  1. Conflict management

            Diversity management cannot be separated from conflict management, which will help people to solve their daily conflicting problems. Conflict management facilitates meetings, negotiations and dialogs that will bring peace in diversity. One of the main goals of this management is to avoid violence in conflict resolution. Basic human values, such as humanity, justice, sisterhood and brotherhood, interdependence and solidarity, are promoted in this management. Normally this management is applied by those who have the good will to be peace makers. Sometimes good intentions are not sufficient to realize peace in daily life. A mutual understanding of the concrete details of the situation and mutual collaboration in solving the problem are needed to manage a conflicting atmosphere.

            Before analyzing this style of management it is necessary to know about various types of conflicts in daily life, such as latent conflict, open conflict, direct and indirect conflicts.

Several important steps need to be taken to solve a situation of conflict. Firstly, there is the need to map the real problem in a holistic way. What kind of conflict is it? Who is involved in it? What is the main root of the conflict? It is necessary to analyze objectively the internal structure of a conflict. Secondly, an interdisciplinary approach to a conflict resolution will provide more information about the real root of the conflict. Thirdly, law enforcement plays an important role when solving problems arising from conflict. Justice is an essential value that human beings look for nowadays. There will be no peace without justice. Fourthly, a win-win solution is one of the best ways to resolve a conflict in daily life. It is important that those who are in conflict feel that they are being treated in a just way.

Conflict management principally builds a bridge of an honest, open and transparent dialogue between those who are in conflict. This bridge is the means of communication in truth by which people can share their hearts’ contents with others honestly and safely. There should be a good system to protect the dialogical bridge so that each member of a multiethnic society can take part actively in the process of creating a more harmonious social community. An organized networking of concerned parties can advance the principal mission of this dialogical bridge, and so help to create a more human society. Sometimes not all members of a multiethnic society may support the aim of promoting a peaceful social atmosphere. Therefore, good collaboration and social interdependence need to be strengthened in the midst of a multiethnic society. In this situation people can live and work together for a better world.

 

  1. Multicultural formation

In 2002 the Bournemouth Education System was the best multicultural and multiethnic education system in England. An inclusive method of education system introduced to the young people in Bournemouth created a new atmosphere in this region. People around the schools also supported this education system because it influenced the social system in the society.

Multiculturalism came to be really appreciated by the community. Through it, the basic value of humanity was enhanced. A mutual respect between human beings became one of the most important attitudes of the students. They learnt to understand each other’s differences. They communicated in a very polite way. They tried to know each other better. Socio-economic, cultural and religious differences are very precious resources to build a more human society. All social elements in the society pay attention to this system of education.

The basic values of justice and equality are applied in this system of education. In it, everybody possesses equal rights and the same responsibilities, although they have different socio-economic, political and religious background. The dignity of the human person is the basis of living, working and learning together. In the very colorful communities of Bournemouth, differences are celebrated among the students. They enrich and share one another in their daily lives.

When having problems they gather and discuss the best solutions in a peaceful way. A non-violent approach is emphasized. Being peace makers is their fundamental option as students who are preparing themselves for the future. Misunderstanding and conflict need to be avoided as far as possible, because they will bring about a chaotic atmosphere. Hence, good and honest communications are to be developed in daily life. Communication media skills can be used to advance a dialogical situation. Trinitarian spirituality of dialogue, which is based on true love, is introduced at the beginning of multicultural formation.

 

  1. Theological reflection

Understanding of the local cultures is an important key to enter the area of doing mission in Indonesia (Western Kalimantan, Java, Papua) and in all other parts of the world (Philippines, Southern Korea, Japan, India, Australia, and Western Europe), because contextualization of mission is one of the major issues in this area. The whole process of contextualization is based on God’s incarnation (John 1, 14). Therefore a global research of the concrete socio-cultural-economic and political situation in this island is important in doing a contextual mission.

“What is in fact happening in West Kalimantan?”, for instance, is a key question. The concrete socio-economic and political situation in this island has an intimate link with Christian daily life. What positive contributions can Augustinians deliver to the people in a pluralistic society? Basic consciousness of the real situation in this third largest island in the world becomes a primary motivation to do mission.

Contextualization of doing mission needs to consider at least three important elements. First, we need to marry biblical and Christian teaching with the concrete socio-economic and cultural situation. Secondly, what kind of language(s) will we use in doing mission? The answer to this question depends much on with and to whom are we going to speak about God? Simple and illiterate people need to be considered wisely. Thirdly, our mission in Kalimantan presupposes a good collaboration with lay people in the process of responding to the socio-cultural, economic and political situation where the seeds of the Good News will be planted. What people need is a more peaceful and harmonious religious life. How can we translate the value of Gospel into practice, and proclaim its beliefs in a language that makes sense even to those who are no longer interested in its views?

In this context, working together with the lay people is also a living witness of Christian faith that will help us to overcome difficulties when doing mission in a multicultural society. We are called to read and respond to the signs of the times in West Kalimantan. What are the real needs of the people that we have to respond to from time to time? How far can our presence influence and improve their social lives? An active participation in environmental movements and humanitarian works is a concrete response to the real needs of the society. Besides, our society is waiting for our presence as peace makers, environment protectors, and justice promoters.

 

  1. What can we do in the future?

A new paradigm of doing mission in West Kalimantan (and other parts of the world) is to proclaim the word of God as a primary place of encountering God, of discovering the mystery of God’s love and action in our world. The new paradigm of love is shown by Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. Jesus is the love of God in human form for our sake, seeking and saving the lost. Love demands true sacrifice and forgiveness. Doing mission also means to exercise love in daily life among us and those we meet and collaborate with every day. As Jesus’ disciples we are called to realize the love commandment in a conflicting situation.

Augustinians are called to live in communion. We are called to live in such a way that we will come to know God’s presence and love. We are called to introduce forgiveness, as a religious virtue, to the people who have experienced social conflict. At the heart of the concept of forgiveness is the very idea of love, which is real love and not abstract love. Love distinguishes between the person and the deed. Wrongdoing will damage the world and create social injustice. Augustinians are called to contribute to the promotion of justice. Augustine wrote: “You give bread to a hungry person, but it would be better if no one were hungry.” St. Augustine returned home to Africa, gave his material goods to the poor and turned to his home in Tagaste into a monastery for himself and a group of friends who joined him there.

As the followers of St. Augustine we have a specific mission to live and proclaim peace among those who are in conflicting situations. God is merciful. It is very clear that the responsibility to foster peace is not limited to local government, however, but must also start within each human heart. Education in schools and at all levels of formal learning is a key but practical ingredient for changing hearts and opening minds. People can live in a peaceful atmosphere if we also struggle for the realization of social justice in the midst of the sick, the poor, and the marginalized. It is uneasy to reach a peaceful atmosphere without justice. How can we change dormitories, offices and working places into schools for justice and peace? We are called to be missionaries of universal love.

 

Concluding Remarks

            Discourse of diversity management is an essential element for a better world in the context of doing our mission. The socio-economic, ethnic, cultural, religious and political differences within a society need to be recognized, cultivated and transformed into a powerful energy to develop the whole world. This management will help people to avoid chaotic and disharmonious relationships within the communities of a multicultural and multiethnic society.

            Sometimes it is not so easy to apply the principles of diversity management to daily life, because of the many people of different social backgrounds. But, this does not mean that we cannot realize this management in a contextual situation.

Good collaboration between parties and mutual understanding will help people to manage the diversity in social life. The spirituality of creating a more harmonious society plays an important role in today’s society.

            Before managing social diversity, it is very important for us to manage ourselves in daily life. Personal management is a constituent element in diversity management in a multicultural society. If one cannot manage herself or himself personally, how come he or she can manage social diversity? A harmonious way of life in social diversity is an integral part of diversity management. When each person and each community really struggles for a peaceful society, diversity management has already begun to influence the contemporary world.

 

What does love look like?

It has the hands to help others.

It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.

It has eyes to see misery and want.

It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.

That is what love looks like.

(Saint Augustine)

 

Br. William Chang, O.F.M Cap
Ketapang, 22 October 2014

 

Bibliography
 

Chang, William (1997). The Dignity of the Human Person in Pancasila and the Church’s Social Doctrine. Quezon City, Philippines: Claretian Publications.

Chang, William. (2012). Manajemen Konflik (Conflict Management). Pontianak: STIE Widya Dharma.

Häring, Bernard. (1979). Free and Faithful in Christ. The Truth will set you free: Moral Theology for Priests and Laity. Middlegreen, Slough: St. Paul Publications.

ter Haar, Gerrie & Busuttil, James J. (2005). Bridge or Barrier: Religion, Violence and Visions for Peace. Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2005.

Sacks, Jonathan. (2003). The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations. London-New York: Continuum.

Wirawan. (2010). Konflik dan Manajemen Konflik: Teori Aplikasi, dan Penelitian. Jakarta: Penerbit Salemba Humanika.

 

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