August 8, 2014

Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace in Cyberspace

Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace in Cyberspace:
A Communication Perspective

Young-cheol Cheon

1.     Features of the WCC 10th Assembly

The 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches took place in Busan, Korea, from 30 October to 8 November 2013. The theme of the assembly was a prayer: “God of life, lead us to justice and peace.”

There are some features of the 10th Assembly.

First, in terms of participation, more than 90 percent delegates from 345 member churches in the world participated. In addition, many international organizations such as Vatican, World Evangelical Alliance, Lausanne Movement, World Student Christian Federation, Lutheran World Federation, World Communion of Reformed Churches, ACT Alliance, and WACC also participated. It was total 11,358 participants, 2,801 from overseas and 8,557 from local participants of Korea.

Second, the WCC assembly was held for the first time in a professional convention center. In the past, WCC assemblies often were held in a university campus. Korean churches have covered the cost for the convention center. It was also the first time that local churches partially support among total expenses of the WCC assembly.

2.     Message of the WCC 10th Assembly: Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace

The Assembly calls us to join in pilgrimage of justice and peace. The message of the Assembly reads in paragraph 6: “We intend to move together. Challenged by our experiences in Busan, we challenge all people of good will to engage their God-given gifts in transforming actions.” The WCC will develop practical programmes for the pilgrimage of justice and peace next eight years before the next assembly.

What is the meaning of pilgrimage?

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, pointed out at his report at the Executive Committee in February 2014, “A pilgrimage of justice and peace must mean that any place where justice and peace are threatened, and particularly there, be it in countries of conflicts or in relations of oppression and injustices across borders in any place of the world, we should pray that God leads us there.”

The Assembly message described that “We live in a time of global crises. Economic, ecological, socio-political and spiritual challenges confront us. In darkness and in the shadow of death, in suffering and persecution, how precious is the gift of hope from the Risen Lord!”

In fact, we live in a world where all life is threatened by the power of death. The power of death is recognized in the growth of violence against human life, destruction of nature, and political, social, economic and cultural injustice. The whole of creation on earth, not only human beings but also nature, is under crisis in the process of neoliberal globalization. Under this circumstance, WCC invites us to join in pilgrimage of justice and peace. You are invited to join this common path, traveling together towards peace and justice.

3.     Busan Communication Statement: Reclaiming communication for life, justice and peace

To reflect the theme of the WCC 10th Assembly by communication perspective, the international consultation was held in Busan, Korea, 22-25 May 2012. It organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC), World Association for Christian Communication (WACC), and the Korean Host Committee for the WCC 10th Assembly(KHC).

The consultation issued the statement called ‘Busan Communication Statement: Reclaiming communication for life, justice and peace.’ But this statement didn’t include as an Assembly document. Historically, WCC addressed the issue of communication at the Uppsala (1968) and Vancouver (1983) Assemblies.

What is relationship between the pilgrimage of justice and peace and communication?

The Busan Communication Statement notes that “Communication also plays a vital role in confronting threats to life. It affirms life by promoting truth-telling, fairness, participation, dialogue, openness, and inclusion. Communication that threatens life is characterized by censorship, misinformation, hate-speech, lies, and exclusion.”

In addition, it is called communicators to take a stand for justice: “The struggle for the dignity of all women, all men, requires that communicators become effective advocates for human rights – including the right to communicate – as well as defenders of the integrity of all creation.”

It prays that “God of life, in your grace, lead us to communicate justice and peace.”

In short, the purpose of communication has to be fullness of life and this is the criterion for discernment in communication for life, justice and peace.

4.     Communication for life, justice and peace in Cyberspace

The theme of the Pre-Assembly Seminar of WACC Asia is “On Access, Communication Rights and the Digital Divide.”

The term ‘digital divide’ here means “the gap between individuals, households, countries and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard both to their opportunities to access information and communication technologies (ICTs) and to their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities.”

At the international level, Cees Hamelink points out that “at the present time the worldwide distribution of ICT resources is enormously unequal.” For instance, one good indicator of the global digital divide is the number of Internet hosts. It supports the model of the enlarging global digital divide between rich countries and poor countries. In 1996, the United States possessed 64 percent of the Internet’s host computers, while other regions such as Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America possessed less than 6 percent.

In addition, based on the OECD’s report in October 2000, there were just over 94 million Internet hosts in the world. While some 95.6% of these hosts were in OECD countries, just 4.4% were outside the OECD area. The majority of Internet hosts in non-member countries have a relatively high GDP per capita.

What is the ethical foundation of the problematics in Cyberspace?

According to Dan Schiller, instead of “delivering us into a high-tech Eden, in fact, Cyberspace itself is being rapidly colonized by the familiar workings of the market system.” He adds that “the Internet comprises nothing less than the central production and control apparatus of an increasingly supranational market system.”

Cees Hamelink points out that “the globalization of the new world order is characterized by social Darwinism.” According to social Darwinism, he adds, “those who cannot make it in the marketplace are basically to blame themselves for their own inadequacies.”

Cyberspace communication is a key driving force of neo-liberal globalization. Although there are positive perspectives on Cyberspace communication and globalization, Cyberspace communication has played a crucial role in the domination of global markets by transnational corporations. In addition, it raises the critical issues of the digital divide and cultural homogenization.

Social Darwinism is an ethical foundation of globalization. Only the fittest people or countries can survive in this world as jungle. The others will be subjugated and cannot survive. The ideology of competition for survival as the fittest has spread all over the world in the process of neo-liberal globalization.

Thus, we need to reclaim communication for life, justice and peace to overcome the ethical problematics of Cyberspace communication. The Busan Communication Statement stats that “Communication for life, justice and peace affirms the centrality of communication rights to mass, community and social media and to restoring voice and visibility to vulnerable, disadvantaged and excluded people in a spirit of genuine solidarity, hope and love.”

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