Theme 1998: Fragmentation of society
Conclusions and recommendations as result of the international Christian Artists symposium.
August 15-21 1998, Doorn Holland
- On the one hand, fragmentation is a negative process, as when it splits families or tribal units, causing damage to the relational structures which contribute to human values: village life, conditions in the workplace, etc.
- When this happens, we need to take a stand against secularization and the liberal market economic forces which encourage this fragmentation of society.
- We need to mobilize individuals and public opinion in industries and organizations. We need to create general awareness. We need to bring about concerted action on the part of trade-unions at national and international levels. Priority goals should be stopping such extremes as child labor and some forms of women's labor which amount to modern slavery.
- Legislation needs to be changed through political lobbying at national, European and international levels in order to halt the negative process of fragmentation.
- On the other hand, fragmentation can be a positive force when it contributes to individuality, the development of individual gifts and where it stimulates creativity and diversity; but we need to maintain unity in pluriformity.
- The answer to the negative aspects of fragmentation lies in good education. This symposium calls for better training in the various spheres of life, including a harsher evaluation of the contents of education. We need to refocus on the norms and values of our humanistic-Christian his-tory and our social-democratic political views.
- Real poverty is loneliness, said Mother Theresa. She demonstrated how positive action can give new dignity to outcasts. In the same way, everybody, groups of people, churches, artists, can bridge the gap between the fragmented pieces. We are all called to positive action when we meet outcasts. They can have many different faces: school drop-outs, refugees, women with insufficient education, etc.
- Labor is important as a human activity to earn a living, but the contribution to civil society of volunteer work and unpaid labor is equally important.
- We may all find encouragement in the example of Jesus who did not remain in the comfort zone, but walked and acted in the margins of society Acting like him, we too can become role-models in our community.
- People are called, wherever they are, to build a new social cohesion, especially in the poor neighborhoods of big cities where poverty and fragmentation are most prevalent. But the “upper classes” also need to be alert.
- Where fragmentation gets so bad that it gives rise to nationalism, fanaticism, fascism, and racism, we need to understand that the answer lies, not in fear and violence, but in grace, forgiveness, acceptance, tolerance and positive action to support integration, solidarity and compassion.
- Personal awareness: We can very easily be trapped in an “us-against them” feeling. Emotions and rationalism must go hand in hand. We need to live in response to the questions: “Is my life an example to others ? Am I a positive inspiration ?”
- Art is a universal language. It builds bridges and enriches people's lives. Art can help us see clearer in the chaos of experience. And those who are not artists should remember that life itself is an important form of art. Even the most fragmented piece has its own unique message and value.