The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) has conducted the Taiwan Ecumenical Forum (TEF) Youth Webinar on Tuesday, 26 April 2022, at 8:00 PM Taiwan time with the theme, “The Neo-Cold War: The Resurgence of the Geopolitics of Global Empires in (North) East Asia”. Over 80 participants from across the world have participated, collectively discerned, and engaged in conversations with four young panellists from Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand. Ms Nancy Lin, the Programme Secretary, Ecumenical Relations Committee of the PCT and Executive Secretary of the TEF, opened the webinar with the words of welcome.
In his welcoming remarks, Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum, General Secretary of the Council for World Mission (CWM) and co-convener of the TEF, stressed the role of young people in the peacebuilding efforts in Northeast Asia and beyond. Reflecting on the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia and its economic and security implications on Asian countries, he expressed, “In order to achieve peace, we can no longer depend on the powerful nations and fall prey to geopolitics. Instead, we must empower ourselves and build our future based on peace and justice.” Affirming the significant role of young people in peacebuilding, he exhorted, “It is high time for churches and organisations to engage young people in peacebuilding efforts ensuring their voices and opinions are heard.”
Rev. Dr Chris Ferguson, former General Secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and co-convener of the TEF, outlined the context of the webinar and introduced the panellists. The young panellists, in their presentations, have passionately expressed their concerns about the lack of space for their voices and opinions. Ms Nonoka KUZE, an activist from the Sapporo Centre for Gender Equality in Japan, while expressing her disappointment in the socio-cultural practices that hinder the freedom of young women in the society, she articulated her hope in young people’s potential in peacebuilding. She opined that cultural exchange among young people beyond the borders and effective use of social networks could bring them together. Challenging the popular understanding of the cold war or neo-cold war and their interpretations given by the Western/European nations, Ms A-Young Moon, a peace activist from PEACEMOMO from South Korea, raised several pertinent questions for the participants to reflect critically. Addressing a narrow understanding of security, she stressed the need to challenge the state authorities who are monopolising threat interpretations and to diversify the security discourses making people at the centre of their security.
Analysing from a different perspective, Mr Bin-Jou Liao, a PhD candidate in Political Science at National Taiwan University, presented an analytical framework that captured the origin of conflicts and asserted the importance of doing theology at the heart of people’s conflicts. He reiterated the role of the Church as a guardian of the weak and oppressed in promoting social and economic justice. The final panellist, Mr Sippachai Kunnuwong, a Communications Specialist at Fortify Rights in Thailand, spoke on the Thailand-China relations and revealed how China led the path for creating authoritarian governments. Observing the recent youth movements in several parts of Asia, he also expressed a strong hope for the youth movements in the resistance against the authoritarian governments.
The participants further engaged in a rich conversation facilitated by Ms Monica Biswas from Bangladesh, affirming the role of young people in peacebuilding efforts. The group discussion reiterated the Church’s responsibility in providing a space for young people to capitalize on their creative initiatives and efforts to stand up against authoritarian regimes and to stand for the weak and oppressed in achieving peace and justice for all.
The TEF Youth Webinar is especially significant in the context of ongoing tensions in the Taiwan-China relations aggravated by the war between Ukraine and Russia. In her closing remarks, Ms Nancy Lin thanked all the participants and encouraged everyone to continue engaging with the peacebuilding efforts in Asia.