Bandung Spirit lives on

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014


LAST June 2 – 5, 2014, I attended a series of seminars in three major cities in Indonesia, specifically in Jakarta, Bandung, and Jogjakarta. These activities were in line with our network and partners in the Bandung Spirit. Before I proceed, let me discuss the Bandung Spirit. What is this and what is its connection to our Southeast Asian roots.

I got involved in this group back in 2009 when I was invited to deliver a talk for a conference at Utara University, Kedah, Malaysia. The conference focused on the Rise of Religion Based Political Movements in Asia and Africa. I presented the case of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. In this event, I met Dr. Darwis Khudori. Dr. Khudori is an architect, a historian, and a professor at Le Havre University, France.

According to Dr. Khudori, “The 1955 Bandung Asian-African Conference is a turning point of world history. It is for the first time in world history that representatives of the former colonised nations of Africa and Asia united their forces and proposed alternatives to the world order dominated by the superpowers. It is the birthday of the so-called Third World countries, indicating their position outside the two blocks of superpowers”.

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Moreover, I also learned from Dr. Khudori that it has triggered solidarity movements among peoples, countries, states and nations of Africa and Asia. It has led to the representation of African and Asian countries in the UN, the recognition of the voice of colonized peoples in the world order. It has led to the complete reconquest of independence of Africa and Asia and to the formation of a Non-Aligned Movement between the two blocks of superpowers. It has allowed the development of the newly independent countries based on their national, popular and sovereign interests. It has ended however, tragically, by the overthrow of their leaders, the abortion of their projects of development and their entry into the orbit of the Western Block of superpowers. This period, which lasted approximately from 1955 to 1970, is called by some Bandung Era.

The 1955 Bandung Asian-African Conference gave birth to the idiom Bandung Spirit, which can be summarized as a call 1) for a peaceful coexistence among the nations, 2) for liberation of the world from the hegemony of any superpower, from colonialism, from imperialism, from any kind of domination of one country by another, and 3) for building solidarity towards the poor, the colonized, the exploited, the weak and those being weakened by the world order of the day and for their emancipation.

Almost 60 years later, colonization has officially disappeared, the Cold War has ended, and the Non-Aligned Movement has almost lost its raison d’être. Yet, similar systems of domination by the powerful in the world order persists, wars continue to threaten humanity, mass hunger, diseases and poverty still characterize many parts of the world, and injustice has appeared in more sophisticated forms and larger dimensions. Bandung Spirit call has transcended its original space and time boundaries and has become a universal message.

Twenty five years after the end of the Cold War, the most serious economic crisis in world history hits the heart of the former Western Block of superpowers — the “First World” of the Bandung Era, the “North” of the contemporary geo-political hemisphere, the “Centre” of world capitalism and imperialism. Academics, analysts, activists, media speak about the rise of the “South”, the “Periphery”, the “Emerging” economies. The word “emerging” is striking since it was “preached” by Soekarno in the 60s in the historical context of Bandung Era.

Put into a historical perspective, the Bandung Conference raises a question: what are the meanings seen from different points of view and different sectors of societal life (culture, economy, politics, social)?

Thus, in order to answer this question, an international seminar was organised since 2005, involving researchers, academics, activists of social movements concerned by issues such as the followings: Diverse works on the Bandung Conference; The Bandung Conference in diverse national archives; The Bandung Conference in the eyes of diverse African and Asian countries; Bandung Conference and Bandung Era in Global History; Bandung Era and the New Emerging Forces

The series of seminar that I attended recently was entitled, Business, State, Civil Society and the Role of University: In Search of Common Platform for Collaboration. This was focused on the central premise of twentieth century such as state vs market was obsolete. Government often finds itself lacks of skill, political will and budget to get everything done while private sectors are often struggling to survive themselves. Consequently, state can’t solve all problems and neither the private sector.

Meanwhile, the prevailing assumption of state and market collaboration was challenged by concerns on civil society. Rather than defining citizenship as a legal status, citizens nowadays perceived themselves in a broader view that concerned with individual or collective capacity to influence public domain. They look beyond their self interests, adopt shared values together with public and private sector to achieve public goals as common interests. Yet, the collaboration between state, business and civil society requires ‘social glue’ that sustains their engagement.

One might argue that university plays an important role to bridge the collaboration. In this activity, we aimed at answering the following questions: How best to combine public and private sector to achieve public goals? How to sustain shared values and engage civil society to achieve public goals? What are the ideals and best practices of collaboration that may involve the three stakeholders? What are the roles of university to sustain the effective collaboration among stakeholders?

I presented the story of Al Qalam Institute of the Ateneo de Davao University. For me, this is the best example so far when we try to define how to bridge the gap and define the common platform. My paper focused on two points: peace process and the effects of climate change and how interreligious and intra religious dialogue plays an important role.

Next year, we plan to do another Bandung event. But this time this will be held in Mindanao.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 11, 2014.

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