Peacebuilding and Religion in Asia
10:30 – 17:30, Saturday, 20 December, 2014
International Conference Room, Kiyoshi Togasaki Memorial Dialogue House, ICU
Social Science Research Institute (SSRI – ICU)
Institute of Global Concern (IGC – Sophia University)
Peace Research Institute (PRI – ICU)
The centenary commemorations of the First World War serve as a stark reminder of the perils of nationalism which have as yet remained unheeded throughout Asia. In a lecture given in Japan as the war unfolded, the Bengali poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore criticized the nation-state and offered a vision of a society independent of it. This symposium seeks to pose the question of what has happened to that vision with special reference to Asia and Europe. Although the spectacular rise of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and India, along with other members of the BRICS, has constituted a powerful challenge to the hegemony of the West in world politics, the dominant form of political community in contemporary international relations (IR) remains the nation-state. A product of European political history, the nation-state model has been globalized, first coercively through the colonization of much of Asia by European powers, and then subsequently through decolonization.
In Japan, however, the nation-state was adopted after the Meiji Restoration and is widely accepted as a ‘natural’ political community built upon pre-existing ethnic foundations. In recent years, the revival of Japanese ‘ethno-nationalism’ which has remain dormant since the Second World War, and the increasing use of nationalist rhetoric by the PRC has threatened peace and stability in the region. These have come to a head with the territorial disputes over the Senkaku islands which are also claimed by Taiwan. In many ways, the rise of ethno-nationalism in East Asia mirrors the prior emergence of religious nationalism in South Asia with the added danger posed by the possession of nuclear weapons by both India and Pakistan. It remains to be seen what the impact of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and their controversial leader, Narendra Modi, will be on peace and stability in the region.
This symposium, the 34th joint symposium held by SSRI and the Institute for Global Concern (Sophia University), will critically interrogate the prospects for peace in Asia by posing the following question: What can be done to counter the rise of nationalism within Asia and what role, if any, can inter-faith dialogue play in peacebuilding in the region?