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JP Newsletter 2004 Issue 2 Religious Faithful and Participation of the People Print


Religious Faithful and Participation of the People


On November 19, 2004, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace organised a seminar on "Religious Faithful and People's Participation" at a conference room on the 10th floor of the Catholic Bishops' Conference Building, Nonsi Road, Bangkok, on the occasion of Human Rights Day of the Catholic Church in Thailand. The seminar aimed at raising awareness of Christians in the country on the importance of respect to dignity and rights of all human beings, and helping the participants to know, understand and reflect on their roles and duties in taking part in the political, economic and social processes.

Ass. Prof. Valai na Pombejr, interim secretary general of Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, said that the right to participation is a right that we should be aware of and recognise its importance. Christians believe that all human beings are children of God. Therefore, human beings are brothers and sisters with equal dignity and rights as human beings. We must work together to protect dignity and rights of our brothers and sisters that have been violated or discriminated against. Catholic Church believes that people's participation in political process is an expression of their respect to dignity, rights and freedom of fellow human beings. Violence originated by injustice in society is normally resulted from people being prevented from participation in decision-making on matters affecting their life. If the basic rights of the people to participation is not promoted and supported, how can our society lives in peace?

The first topic of discussion was "Four Years of the Government and People's Participation". The discussants include Mr. Pipob Thongchai, advisor to Committee for Democracy Campaign, Ms. Supinya Klangnarong, secretary general of Committee for Campaign on Media Reform, and Ms. Dawan Janrahutdee, a representative of Klongdarn villagers who protest against construction of Klongdarn waste water treatment plant in Samutprakan.

Supinya Klangnarong said, "During the beginning of the four years of the government, people's participation was good. It was full of opportunity. Yet, it led to change to the negative. There was greater violence, such as war on drugs, or problems in the South. Thai society is in a confused situation, chaotic and divisive. Media is controlled and censored. People's participation does not genuinely occur. The majority is still conservative and does not want to take part in solution of different problems."
Dawan Janrahutdee talked about struggle of Klongdarn villagers. She said that the struggle of villagers helped them to learn their rights, enabled them to analyse politics, and they did not trust state officials and did not want to submit to local politicians.

Pipob Thongchai proposed four recommendations to promote people's participation. First, religious leaders must take a lead in this matter. Second, education must be changed. Third, we must develop a culture of dialogue, which includes discussion and exchange. People need to "resist" and be "rebellious". And four, we need to be interested in alternative choices and must have faith in framework too.
In the afternoon session, representatives of 3 religions were panellists on a topic "Stand-Direction of Religious Faithful on the Role of Participation".

Venerable Kittisak Kittisophano, chairperson of Sekhiya Dharma Group said that, "As religion takes action on suffering, it is interpreting its teachings. It is a self-assessment and sustainable solution. Religiosity and citizenship cannot be separated from one another. Being concerned with the suffering is indispensable. Participation of religious faithful is not a strange matter. It is there and always there, and it will become ever more important and has greater role."

Ms. Rakawin Leechanawanitchapan, a Christian representative, said the life of Jesus was the life of participation. He had an aim for change of the world and the Church should focus more on participation of lay people. Although the Church implements several activities throughout the year, but she does not extend to participation of lay people as she should. For Christians, participation is a step out of framework. What would happen if good people dared not come out to change society? Do we want bad people to come out?

Mr. Niti Hasan, Foundation for Islamic Centre of Thailand, said Islam was a religion of peace. Islam taught a way of life that did not separate teachings from society. It was the way of life of Islam. It was the main and central institution of society or family, followed by Mosque, which was a meeting place, a place for education, welfare of the poor, and wedding. Religious practice also promotes organisation, sharing of ideas and acceptance of difference. Muslim believed that it was a duty at all levels. We were members of society and must do our best in society.
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