International KAAD Convention 2018 – Building Nations and Sustaining Peace Amidst Diversity: Responding to these Challenges Beyond KAAD´s Sixth Decade

Some 23 participants from various countries from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Near and Middle East and Latin America, 11 participants from the island Mindanao, situated in the south of the Philippines, and 20 participants from the main island Luzon in the north followed KAAD’s invitation to an International Convention in the Philippines. They all took part in an event which aimed at promoting the networking within and between the alumni groups around the world and whose topic – in the tension between “nation”, “diversity” and “peace” – shaped their actions. It was a good experience for all participants that the “school” of KAAD (a term coined by a participant from Latin America) proved to be sustainable for the conceptual and pragmatic challenges of the future.

“Building nations”: Social cohesion is even found in non-democratic and authoritarian regimes. Even though political and social instability is a predominant factor, corruption is widespread and state institutions struggle with failure, they have their own mechanisms for cohesion. Both in the Small Group Discussions and in the Plenary Discussions which brought the results together, the participants raised the question what kind of education would be required in that context. In the spirit of the “school of KAAD” this was answered with the demand that education did not have to be one-sidely national. The participants concluded that education must be able to create the balance between local and global aims. Furthermore, they agreed that education had to be autonomous and based on values and on that basis, start a process which first shaped the thinking and personality of the individual and then of the entire nation.

At this point, Prof. Schockenhoff introduced the concept of „human security“ which means that national sovereignty shall no longer be the highest virtue. Rather, the right to lead a good life for which education, health care and a sound environment are decisive factors are the focus of this concept. The concept of “human security” confronted all states of this world with the challenge to reach their set goals in a peaceful way, Prof. Schockenhoff continued. With regard to the role of KAAD as an institution of the Universal Church, Father Jun Mercado described the potential of conflict which was the result of the prevailing poverty, exclusion and injustice and therefore, of a life which was not “secure”. “Sustaining Peace”: He linked the question of keeping peace with the question of building relations and building bridges within the frame of the Universal Church which is a central aspect of KAAD’s work and made the sense of community the focus of the discussion both in the Small Group Discussions and the Plenary Discussion.

KAAD’s theme for the jubilee year of 2018 is “Global Justice – Common Future”. Interestingly, the course of the discussion in Tagaytay was not at all impacted by the ambiguity which the German word for “future” (“Zukunft”) carries: On the one hand, future is futurum, that which will be and at the same time, adventus, that which is to come. However, the mysterious unknown of the future was not addressed. Futurology, which works through scientific and sociological findings and then draws often optimistic overestimated predictions from it, did not play any role at all during the convention. Rather, the focus was quite specifically on the awareness of the ambiguities which cut through individual societies and on the possibilities of reacting to them which are a result of the fact that society is a construction which requires the deliberate participation of the individual. In this way, even the concept of culture was brought into a pragmatic context. A Philippine philosopher once said that if one was not capable of managing their own culture, there was a danger of then being managed by that very culture.

Right at the beginning of the convention which was located high above the volcano Taal, the participants talked about future as that dimension of time and history which is imminent and therefore also impacts the present. With their contributions the participants ensured that the question concerning the future – following the leading theme of the 60th anniversary year of KAAD- was not treated as something purely speculative but raised out of a certainty of being a member of a global KAAD community. Out of the plurality of viewpoints a process of clarifying and deepening individual analyses emerged which in the first place impacted the own local community, but in the context and light of the topic of globalisation also had an overall view. The spirit of community was noticeable during the entire event which helped the participants to escape the “war of times” for three days. This spirit also proved to be very helpful for the last part of the event, the workshop on future issues on „Responding to Challenges beyond KAAD´s Sixth Decade“ moderated by the General Secretary of KAAD, Dr. Hermann Weber.

Diversity in Unity: This concept which is already reflected in the event’s title leads us to KAAD as an institution founded in the 1950s by German Catholics as a response to the increasing number of foreign students and, more generally, migrants. As became clear during the workshop on future issues, the focal points as well as countries of focus changed in the course of the past 60 years: new forms of cooperation and, in this context, “a unique instrument of “communion” in the Global Catholic Church” emerged as the speech „Global Justice, Common Future – Our responsibility for integral Human Development“ by Peter Kodwo Appiah Cardinal Turkson clearly read. This speech given by Cardinal Turkson at the KAAD Jubilee Convention 2018 in Bonn had been made available to the participants in Tagaytay in advance. Also in its 60th anniversary year the unique instrument of KAAD points at the Universal Church as space for encounter and dialogue especially for researchers and professors – certainly, this became apparent in Tagaytay.

It was unmistakably clear from the contributions of the participants of the International Convention in Tagaytay that KAAD is an individually tailored support programme for personality development and community building for whose future they are all willing to stand up and work together. In this light, it was no coincidence that the title of the concert evening to celebrate the KAAD anniversary was “Beyond Borders” by soprano Ena Maria Aldecoa, during which Philippine and Western music was performed. Well suited to the context of a Universal Church, the international Holy Mass was celebrated by four celebrants from four different nations. The view through the high stained glass windows of the chapel fell into the wide landscape that lies at the feet of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary’s house in Tagaytay City, Philippines. The institutional mind of KAAD, which Dr. Weber mentioned at the beginning of the workshop on future issues, will certainly sink not only deeply into the intellectual part of the memory, but also into the visual one. The hospitality of our alumni and Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in the Philippines will never be forgotten.