Everything was set for the February 11-15, 2020 ICF thematic workshop in North East India in cooperation with the Tribal Study Centre of Eastern Theological College in Jorhat, Assam. But COVID- 19 came with a travel ban and quarantine issues, preventing the ICF Coordinator and Program Officer to fly to India. The thematic workshop pulled through with Dr. Wati Longchar, who had to take the helm and responsibility of seeing to it that the activity will be a success. Longchar had been among the resource persons for the past School of Peace. The workshop seminars discussions revolved around the theme “Just-Peace in Globalized Context: North East India Focus.”
According to W. Longchar, the workshop brought together 40 prominent people – young and the not-so-young – from various religious traditions (Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, and a Heraka follower), disciplines, NGOs, activists, and scholars from various North East Indian region comprising seven states. The first day was set aside for an interactive and exposure trip to Majuli Island, the world’s largest river-island. This river-island is home to Assamese neo-Vaishnava culture that was started in the 15th century by a revered Assamese saint Srimanta Sankardeva, who also established several satras or monasteries.
During the visit, participants were able to interact with the Auniati Satra and its monks. The participants also visited and interacted with the Christians whose church building was partially destroyed by a group of Vaishnavite Hindus. At the end of the dialogue, the participants were unanimous that Christian and Vaishnavas believe in love, equality, and diversity of God’s creation, and so they decided to stand together in solidarity to protect the Constitution of India.
The second day focused on the Analysis of Global and National Unjust Structures. Under this theme, various resource persons and panelists made a presentation on various related sub-themes. Wati Longchar gave the keynote address on “Just-Peace in Today’s World,” in which he raised a number of issues critical to world peace and reiterated the need for interfaith dialogue for peace and harmonious co-existence. Following this, panelists representing various religious leaders and scholars deliberated on the contentious agenda of the existing Government of India, “One nation, One language, and One religion,” Wati Longchar gave another presentation on “Liberation or Assimilation: An Indigenous People’s Perspective.” The day ended with a presentation and deliberation on another burning issue of the “Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and its Implications on Indigenous communities in North East India (NEI).”
The third day focused on “Religio-Cultural Structures and Peace Initiative Processes.” Various resource persons spoke on issues such as (a) Patriarchy and Marginalization of Women; (b) Tribals and Land Issues in North East India; (c) Achievement of World Peace through Inter-religious Harmony: A Buddhist Perspective; (d) Racial Discrimination in Major Cities in India: A Search for Solution. The day ended with panelists representing various NE states presenting and shared People’s Movements for Justice in the various North East States.
The fourth and final day saw the participants deliberating on the broad theme “Mobilizing Just-Peace Resources.” The topics for presentations and panel discussions include Civil Society for Peace; Religious Resources for Just-Peace; and Mobilizing Collective People’s Solidarity Movement for Just Peace in NEI. The resource persons and panelists representing various religious and ideological traditions, as well as activists associated with various people’s movements in the region engaged in tapping into resources for just-peace and for forging united efforts to work together for just-peace in the society.
This workshop calls for joint efforts to combat any forms of exploitation, oppression, and discrimination on the basis of caste, tribe, gender, religion, and community. It also helped the participants in analyzing the contemporary reality of forces that perpetuate violence and discrimination and to explore ways for building peace and harmonious society.- Wati Longchar, India with Muriel Orevillo-Montenegro, ICF Coordinator