1996-05-24 00:00:00

Asia and Asian faith are the hope of "a new renaissance in the world," Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia said as he received a citation from the Jesuit Ateneo de Manila University.

"The task at hand for the global community is nothing short of the reconstruction of civilization itself," Ibrahim told a small gathering May 2 at which he was conferred an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

The award was given in connection with the centennial death anniversary this year of Philippine national hero Jose Rizal, an alumnus of the Ateneo in Quezon City, adjoining Manila.

The citation lauded Ibrahim as "an influential voice that speaks to various peoples of Southeast Asia of the burning idealism of Jose Rizal on basic human rights, social justice, (and) equality."

As he accepted the honor, Ibrahim, a Muslim, called on leaders of all religions to drop their blinders and promote a universal perspective.

"(Asia) must rekindle the flame of idealism, restore the lost balance between reason and revelation, and reinvigorate the love for learning and the passion for justice," Ibrahim said.

He said that though the "superpower-dominated Cold War" has ended, and the region has witnessed the "East Asian economic miracle," much remains to be done to prevent domination of the powerful over the weak and the persistence of poverty, disease and inhumane living conditions.

According to the statesman, the reconstruction of civilization is not possible without a renewal of faith in the divine.

"Faith and religious practice permeate not only the life of the individual Asian but also the life of the Asian community," Ibrahim said.

"If religion is to contribute to the reconstruction of civilization, it must liberate man from ignorance and intolerance, injustice and greed, domination and exploitation," the deputy prime minister said.

Ibrahim added that Asia, which has often condemned the West on moral grounds, must now be faithful to its own moral values.

"It would be easy to invoke the moral voice when we are weak, but the greater challenge is to pay heed to it when we are strong," he said.

The Malaysian official joined the Ateneo in paying tribute to Rizal, charged with subversion by the Spanish colonial government and executed Dec. 30, 1896, calling him "a Malay hero" and an "Asian renaissance man."

Ibrahim is expected to return to the Philippines for the centennial commemoration at the Ateneo in late August.

The small number of international figures who previously received honorary degrees from the Ateneo include former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir and Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, a former Vatican secretary of state.


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