After the flood, God blessed Noah and his sons and told them "Multiply and fill the earth." (Gen.9:1) The descendants of Noah began to multiply and the whole world spoke a single language and used the same words. However, pride began to take hold of man and they began to build a tower to reach the skies as a monument to their greatness so that it will bring them together and keep them from scattering all over the world. This pride led to rebellion against God's command to fill the earth.
On seeing the construction of the city and tower of Babel, God said, "If they can accomplish this when they have just begun to take advantage of their common language and political unity, just think of what they will do later. Nothing will be impossible for them! Come let's go down and give them different languages. Then they won't be able to understand each other." (Gen. 11:6-7 NLT) By this way, God confused the people, giving them many languages, thus scattering them across the earth. This event is the start of creation of different cultures and hence, civilizations and nations. The process is the anti-thesis of globalization as we are experiencing today because it created independent nations each with its own uniqueness.
On the contrary, today, we are seeing the signs of a more integrated world with nations becoming more interdependent of each other through economic activities, more efficient communication, increasing commonality in political ideology, migration of people and universalism in technological developments and applications. Some are predicting the end of the nation state and the coming of an increasing borderless world that could threaten national sovereignty and cultural identity. We conveniently identify these phenomena as 'globalization'. But what exactly is globalization? Is it a new word for an old phenomenon that our forefathers or we have experienced in the past? The International Monetary Fund defines globalization as "the growing economic interdependence of countries worldwide through the increasing volume and variety of cross-border transactions in goods and services and of international capital flows, and also through the more rapid and wide spread diffusion of technology." Is it just confined to economics with capitalism let loosed? Or is it more than just business? What are the underlying forces pushing this process? How does it affect us as individuals and as a church? What are the challenges facing us and the possible changes that are required of us? These are some of the general intriguing questions (and there are many more specific ones) if we were to consider globalization in the context of Malaysia, taking into account the country's stage of socio-economic development, its people, its system of governance and its strengths and weaknesses.
WHEN DID IT BEGIN?
Whilst nations were created at the Tower of Babel, globalization started from the Second World War. World War II was a conflict of nationalism both in the political and economic arena. Adolf Hilter came into power on the wave of social nationalism, which he propagated to bring back German dignity after her defeat in the First World War where she saw her Prussian Empire dismantled. At that time following the deep recession of the 1930s caused by concentration of economic powers in the hands of a few and the existence of colonial empires which restricted the freedom of trade amongst nations, Japan saw herself severely constrained in her industrialization as almost all countries in Asia with essential raw materials which she needed was already colonized by the Western powers. These were the two main reasons for the start of the Second World War.
Consequently after the war, the victors saw the need to prevent another such world war. They sought to set up the necessary political structure and economic arrangement firstly, to prevent the rise of unfettered nationalism and secondly, to promote international trade. It is for these reasons that Germany was divided into two political states, the ideology of a united Europe was born and the promotion of economic freedom in world trade was also given emphasis. Arising out of these movements, the League of Nations was created and subsequently was replaced by the establishment of a supranational organization, the United Nations, to promote world peace. In the economic field, the Bretton Woods institutions namely, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank were established. The IMF's main purpose is to promote financial and exchange rate stability and the World Bank to aid developing economies. While the original intention of these multilateral institutions was limited in scope, they subsequently became ardent proponents of global freedom of capital flows including deregulation and liberalization of national economies.
In trade, the General Agreement on Tariff Talks (GATT) held regular rounds of negotiation on the reduction of tariffs with the objective of encouraging international trade. Since GATT lacked the powers to enforce agreed trade obligations, a more formalized body called the World Trade Organization (WTO) was created with powers to settle trade and investment disputes and to enforce sanctions against renegade parties. Today, the scope of the WTO has gone beyond trade in goods. It also now handles trade in services, issues related to investments, intellectual property rights and possibly, in the future; competition laws, environment and other social issues.
In addition, immediately after World War II, the cold war emerged. It was created by the conflict for dominance in the world between proponents of the ideology of free market capitalism and those supporting the centrally planned economy of socialism. Globalization of ideology and the political economy were accelerated by the conflicts of the cold war. War of nationalism was replaced by war of ideology at the global stage. History tells us now that with the demise of communism in the then U.S.S.R. and the adoption of market capitalism by almost all the socialist economies, the world has moved from a bi-polar world to a uni-polar one with the U.S.A. occupying the dominant role. Being the most powerful nation both economically and militarily, the U.S. together with its closest allies, the G3 nations (USA, EU and Japan) are now the prime movers of the globalization process. The G3 with the USA taking the leading role is setting the pace and extent of globalization and more often this has created asymmetrical results benefiting the more developed and industrialized nations than the developing economies. As the Asian crisis has shown, in some cases, the consequential results have been disastrous and extremely disruptive and destructive causing political and social unrest and economic deprivation.
DIFFERENT FACETS OF GLOBALIZATION
Although globalization in the economic field has been given the most prominence especially since the Asia financial crisis of 1997/98, there are other areas in which globalization is also taking place. These can be broadly categorized into areas of technology, culture, migration of people and even ecology. Here it is important to note that these different facets of globalization do not operate independently of each other but are mutually dependent. They are mutually reinforcing and this is the main reason why any attempt to manage globalization either by a nation or by a group of nations is extremely complex. Not every aspect can be managed or controlled. As the process moves, each subsequent phase brings into play changes that redefine the rules.
Globalization has so far brought uneven impact and social costs. Evidence has indicated that it often leads to fragmentation of societies, loss of cultural identity and greater job and social insecurity. It also neglects the concerns of human development, including equity, poverty alleviation and human security. This has largely happened because globalization is driven by over-emphasis on economic liberalization, the power of the market, economic efficiency and the profit imperative. Weaker nations and segments of society therefore bear a disproportionate share of costs of globalization. Globalization therefore needs to be 'managed'.
1. Economic Globalization
Today, the most tangible effect of globalization is in the economic field. This sector can be sub-divided into capital flows consisting of direct foreign investments (such as in manufacturing facilities) and portfolio investments (equities, debt securities and inter-bank loans) and the foreign currency exchange markets.
Direct Foreign Investments (DFI)
The stage was set for globalization in the manufacturing sector when GATT was established to promote freer trade among the nations. As tariffs and non-tariff barriers were gradually reduced, export-oriented industrialization became the main thrust for economic development especially for the East Asian countries, with Japan taking the lead. The need to export became an important and integrated part of industrialization of these nations and their enterprises because of the maturity of their home markets where prospect for growth for certain goods is small or declining (e.g. automobiles). There was also a need to generate external revenue to pay for imports, since most of these nations are poor in natural resources. In other cases (e.g. Switzerland, Taiwan), due to the smallness of their home market and the need to lower costs in order to increase the viability of manufacturing enterprises, exports became an effective means for market enlargement to achieve better economies of scale.
When currency rates were decoupled from the gold standard and moved into a floating rate, international trade of goods began to carry a larger currency exchange risk. In addition, measures taken by U.S.A. and Europe to manage international trade through protectionist instruments such as voluntary restraint quotas and currency exchange rate adjustment have the effect of distorting the comparative advantages of exporting enterprises. For example, the Plaza Accord significantly strengthened the Japanese yen over the U.S. dollar. Overnight, the relative cost of labour became higher for Japanese enterprises. This caused a large exodus of labour intensive manufacturing enterprises to relocate to countries (especially to S.E. Asia) which had lower labour costs. Relocation also became necessary as a means to circumvent the voluntary restrain quota by changing the country of origin of manufactured goods.
With the continuing trade dispute especially between Japan and the West, Japanese manufacturers began to see the need to set up plants in the importing countries as a strategy to be nearer to the consuming market as well as to alleviate the strong criticism that imports are replacing jobs. Furthermore, with the improving competitiveness of American and European enterprises after severe adjustments and reengineering measures especially to improve the quality of their products, the stage was set for a more intense competitive marketplace. By this time with the deregulation of foreign investment regulations, especially for the large multinational corporations (MNCs), offshore investments of manufacturing plants became an integral part of corporate growth to exploit comparative advantages of different nations. Undoubtedly, Malaysia benefited from this globalization process as is reflected by the huge surge in DFIs in the 1990s and the high export trade.
With the continuing lowering and elimination of tariffs and advances in technology especially with fast and wide diffusion of know-how throughout the world, the stage for globalization in manufacturing moved to a more dynamic phase where the traditional emphasis on costs, quality and reliability becomes inadequate. As industries become more technology driven, innovation and speed become additional key factors of competitive power. With the continuing consumer demand for customization and product differentiation and the potential created by new technological advances, the pressure to exploit knowledge has become one of the most important success factors. With the availability of the ICT infrastructure with worldwide connectivity especially the Internet, the function of innovation, marketing, procurement and other collaborative efforts can be done globally, providing simultaneous and concurrent activities to be carried out online.
As DFIs spread globally and as competition becomes more intense, MNCs are now asking in WTO for the implementation framework for the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) to be signed by member nations. The MAI provides for the national treatment of foreign investment. That is, foreign-owned companies (including those with 100% equity) should not be discriminated and should have equal rights as locally owned companies in the conduct of their business. Generally, the MAI has been opposed by most developing nations on the ground that their local companies are not yet ready to compete effectively with the more established and larger foreign counterparts. Also, many governments fear that the MAI will pave the way for MNCs to dominate their domestic market and give too much control of their domestic economy in foreign hands thus allowing for " economic colonization".
Global Capital Market
The subsequent liberalization of the developed world's bond markets allowed for their integration in the global capital market. By the 1990s more than two-thirds of the world liquid financial stock was integrated. The remaining one third that consists of the equity markets is now in the process of integration as the stock exchanges and the national capital markets are further liberalized by national governments in order to attract foreign financing for economic growth. The result is greater mobility in capital.
Cross-border capital flows rose from US$536 billion in 1991 to US$1,258 billion four years later. The world's stock of liquid financial assets grew from US $10.7 trillion in 1980 to about US $80 trillion in year 2000. In search of higher rate of return, a rising proportion of these assets are also flowing to emerging markets.
The impact of these global market developments is that they are driving a convergence of economic policy across countries. Economies that fund managers and international bankers perceive as fiscally responsible and politically committed to market-based policies attract the international capital they need to finance growth and infrastructure development. Soon it became normal for capital flow (especially portfolio investments) to move in and out of a nation basing on the perception and confidence the fund managers/ international bankers have on that country. Government of economies that want to attract foreign funds as a source of capital will have to meet acceptable criteria in their management of the economy and these criteria are based on global acceptable standards.
Foreign Currency Exchange
In the past the Bretton Woods system of the fixing of a nation's currency to the gold standard gave stability to currency. This has supported the expansion of international trade. Almost all foreign currency transactions that were made were related to the buying and selling of goods and services. However in the early 1970s the system collapsed. Under the pressure of the Vietnam War, the United States inflated its currency, which became overvalued. Persistent US trade deficit led to a significant stock of currency of European nations being traded else where in the world. Those who could do so borrowed US dollars and invested in stronger currencies. Eventually the system collapsed and the foreign exchange rates were allowed to float. Suddenly, the foreign exchange became a market where currency traders could balance risk anomalies between financial instruments in different markets. They could borrow on one currency and lend at another rate in others, with minimum foreign exchange risks. Today, currency trading volume amounts to about US$2 trillion a day and foreign exchange transactions now make up about 95% of the total value transacted, a complete reversal of the past where the trading of goods and services made up the major share of 95%. Aided by the availability of electronic trading world wide, the foreign exchange markets became more integrated globally. The attacks by foreign currency traders on the currencies of most Asian countries during the early part of the Asian financial crisis in 1997/98 illustrate the ease, speed and extent in which currency could be traded globally. A currency that was originally designed as a medium of exchange has now become a commodity itself.
Today, the strength and stability of a currency rest not on collateral holding of bullion or foreign reserve but on the perceived confidence of the country that issue that currency and the convertibility of that currency to other currency. This is why today, the US dollar is the de facto global currency accounting for almost 87 % of total foreign exchange transactions, 50% of global outstanding equities holdings and 47% of outstanding bonds. As the US dollar predominates, emerging markets that maintain illiquid national currencies will incur significant higher cost of capital and this in turn, will retard their economic development. Also, experience has shown that many nations pursuing an independent monetary policy face hyperinflation, overvaluation and capital fight. Therefore, it seems that global markets are moving towards adopting a single world currency with the US dollar being the prime candidate as the global common medium of exchange. If this happens, many nations will lose their monetary sovereignty to the U.S Federal Reserve Bank.
2. Technology - An Agent of Globalization
Towards the end of the Middle Ages, the explosion of new ideas and the challenges for reform of the Catholic Church were greatly aided by the invention of the printing press. This invention helped to disperse the power and control of the reading of the Scripture from a few (priests) to the masses (lay people). In a few years it significantly accelerated the spread of Martin Luther's teaching on Reformation. Likewise, globalization would not have grown as fast if not for the enabling support provided by the technological revolution. This provides new tools and infrastructures with which businesses could be transacted and global opportunities exploited. Evolving technologies such as the digital technology and the worldwide deregulation of the telecommunication industry has reduced marginal cost of computing and communication to almost zero. The continuing upgrading of the world economy's computing and telecommunication infrastructure such as broad bandwidth is facilitating the massive increase in the flow of cross-border information and spurring further globalization by reducing risks associated with unfamiliarity, speed up arbitrage of price anomalies, and stimulate consumer demand for world-class products, services and brands. For example, through the multimedia communication, services that traditionally require a local physical presence will be opened up to electronic delivery, thus equipping companies to reach consumers across the globe.
As technology becomes one of the major drivers of growth and competition, technological know-how and knowledge become more valuable. This drives up the relative value of all forms of intangible assets such as brands, intellectual property, software, media content and talent throughout the world. As intellectual talent comes from people, global competitiveness now requires corporations to look for talent beyond their shores to any part of the world where such talent exists abundantly and could be tapped to enhance value. This has generated international mobility of labour especially amongst professionals whose skills are in high demand.
3. Globalization and Culture
Economic globalization has brought interdependency amongst nations creating networks of globally integrated economic units serving borderless markets. Increasingly, global corporations and institutions are aggressively promoting global brands and creating consumer needs through mass marketing and advertising. The global corporations' main strategy for global reach is in replicating the success formulae geared to prevail anywhere and everywhere. Likewise, the availability of technologies in the mass communication through the television, cable network, satellite broadcasts, internet and high density storage media such as DVDs and CDs have brought entertainment and the dissemination of information worldwide and to each individual home. New ICT technologies offer perpetual contact via mobile phones, handheld computers and global positioning systems. The result of all this is the creation of worldwide connectivity with the consequential effect of erosion of national identity through changing the cultural fabric of a society, language, values and other traits of distinctiveness. This effect of global enculturation (introducing new values and behavioral norms) will be of great concern especially to societies or ethnic groups that are unable to benefit from the globalization and viewing it as not only economic colonization by foreigners, but also the destruction of their cultural heritage.
To understand the impact of globalization on culture and the fears that come from the people affected, it is necessary to understand how cultures are evolved. Here the anthropological concept is most relevant and is defined to consist of that complex whole which included knowledge, beliefs, arts, morale, laws, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of a society. In short, it is way of life. The most important thing to recognize about culture is that culture is learned. Therefore, the cultural traits of each society will evolve and change as people (especially children) learned about social patterns that become habits and will determine their behavior and how they relate within the society. In today's globalization process, influence on culture is not just confined to the interaction with people of other societies but the forces of impact come also from global institutions (including corporations such as the likes of McDonalds or Toys'R'Us), technologies and mindsets. Global institutions tend to promote a high degree of standardization, uniformity and homogeneity in their replication process. Virtual enculturisation is carried out daily through the content provided in the mass communication digital network.
Less obvious is the disquieting processes affecting our perception of what we consider progressive and modern that is sublimely defined to us through advertising, movies and video games. Local social norms are perceived especially by the younger as old fashion thus bringing a conflict between traditionalism and modernism. This conflict creates a chasm between different age groups especially between the young and the older generations. The younger generation who are usually more technologically adaptive are able to use the ICT tools that enable them to have much more access to worldwide information. For the young their attitudes and mindsets will be formed not only by local influences but by an array of alien sources that may or may not be compatible with the local culture. Increasingly this is already happening in many societies and Malaysia is no exception. Caused by the digital divide other chasms will exist within a society straddling between the rural and urban population, the haves and the have-nots, the English literate and the non-English literate and the developed and more affluent and the less developed. The backlash that comes out of this conflict is the reaction especially amongst groups that feel threatened by globalization to fervently seek preservation of their cultural traits and moving towards "tribalism". In some cases, this could mean falling back to religious fundamentalism.
4. Globalization and Religion
If globalization impacts culture in such a significant way and if culture defines a way of life, then similarly, global enculturation will also impact religion since religion also defines a way of living and beliefs. Because the most tangible results of globalization are economic, worldly values emphasizing on materialism and individualism will become more pervasive. This why in Romans 12:2 we are warned: "Don't copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think". (NLT) This will bring into conflict between what the world believes and what it defines as individual success, against the tenets of religious values. Who determines our thought life or the "renewing of our mind"? The world, especially through television? Or God? Of course this conflict has always been there even in the days of the Old Testament but globalization brings this into sharper focus. Already followers of the mainstream religions are considered to be 'old fashion' and 'new religions' that are more accommodative to values of modernism are sprouting. Religious pluralism including the adoption of eastern mysticism and beliefs as defined by man to fit the modern world is being promoted by reactionary sections of the world community. Religious pluralism will become more justifiable if increase in tribalism does lead to increase conflicts between ethnic and religious groups and if it threatens world peace. To deal with this, global effort to promote a universal religious order would be seen as necessary. This has already taken with the First Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders held by the United Nations in August 2000. Of course, there is nothing wrong to promote world peace through interfaith cooperation as long as the freedom of belief is safeguarded. How this inter-religion collaboration will develop remains to be seen. But already under the sponsorship of the UN the agenda for the United Religion Initiative has been made. This Initiative is based on the belief that all religions are equal, that claims of absolute truth must be dealt with, and that all attempts to persuade people from one religion to believe another should be outlawed. Ultimately, globalization will create a global citizenry of free thinkers.
5. Globalization and Christianity
When Jesus Christ said " Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere." (Mark 16:15) He had initiated the command to globalize the gospel bringing the good news to the world. The spread of the gospel starting from Jerusalem going to Asia Minor, then to Europe and the rest of the world. The zeal to spread the gospel has resulted in the missionary movement. In many instances the gospel was spread to the Far East and Africa was made on the back of colonization where political and economic purposes were the prime driving forces. In the past, the state and religion were closely inter-wined. Today, the main proponents of globalization are the western industrialized nations, which include all the ex-colonial powers. It is no wonder that some see the globalization as backdoor colonization by Western powers and may be seen by some especially those in an Islamic state as promoting the Christian agenda. To the ordinary people, Western nations and Christianity are the same. This is perhaps why reaction against globalization is also a reaction against Christians on the ground. This probably explains the religious strife that had taken place in Indonesia. Admittedly there are other reasons, such as political manipulation and the wide disparity of income amongst groups that cause the social strife. But the perception of the ordinary people that the crisis is caused by the West who are mainly Christian may have made them easy converts to a particular cause.
Of course, there is no linkage between globalization as promoted by the world and Christianity. It is erroneous to assume that this globalization has a Christian agenda. It is ironical that while the spread of Christianity to Asia came from the West, Christianity in the West is on the decline. In place of proclaiming the gospel, the West is now the strongest advocate of unfettered globalization with its tag of liberal prosperity of consumerism and materialism. The majority of proponents of globalization are motivated by profit and globalization provides a new capitalism that gives more opportunities to add shareholders' net worth. In fact many aspects and attributes of globalization such as the exploitation of economic supremacy, greed, self-centeredness, materialism and consumerism are anti-thesis of Christian teachings of holiness, love, humility and contentment. Furthermore, globalization and advances in science and technology will bring about unprecedented prosperity to individuals, societies and nations that are in the position to benefit from the new economy. As man gains more confidence in himself, the existence of God will become less relevant to him. Even if he thinks there is a god, a great majority would want to be approved by God on the basis of their own works and righteousness and would not submit to the righteousness that comes by faith in Christ. Here, it is befitting to be forewarned of the curse that will come upon man as stated in Jeremiah 17:5 "Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans and turn their hearts away from the Lord." This is why societies, civilizations and empires decline after a period of affluence when the clutches of moral decadence set in. In the church, absolute truth as expounded in the Word of God will be replaced by the theology of liberalism and relative truth. This reminds us about what Jesus said in Luke18: 8: " When the son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?". Likewise, Peter wrote of the last days, " there will be false teachers among you [who] will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them…… Many will follow their shameful ways…." (2Peter2: 1-2). Jude also warned us that " in the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires," adding "These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit" (Jude 18-19). Similarly, Paul also wrote "…in the later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons"(1Tim4: 1). Clearly, these passages warn us of unbelief, apostasy, and false teaching before Christ's return. This is not meant to say that Christianity will perish from the earth because God will preserve His remnant. But Christians should not be arrogant on the current phenomenal growth in the Asia churches but should be vigilant about the attacks from the world system that is gathering momentum through globalization.
On the other hand, the opportunity to participate in the global economy will bring about tremendous opportunity for wealth creation and hence increase standard of living and affluence. Inevitably this will bring about the demand for a more open society and democratic rights. This is already happening in many of the former socialist nations. At the same time, technology especially in the ICT with worldwide connectivity will redefine relationship between individuals and the state. People's knowledge will increase. The more autocratic state apparatus will find it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to quell dissent and in time there will be tremendous pressure for autocratic government to become open to participation by the community at large. This has to a certain extent opened the doors for evangelism in these countries. The doors will continue to open even wider as global trade becomes a more significant determinant of the well being of that nation. Religious freedom, that was restricted, will increase as the socialist state ideology becomes less relevant in a more democratic, more internationalized and capitalist society. The worldwide telecommunication infrastructure and the existence of global watchdog NGOs now can bring into awareness to the world of abuses in human rights including religious persecution. There is already a strong lobby for trade sanctions to be used against nations that violate fundamental human rights. In this sense, globalization does bring about religious freedom especially in the former socialist states. In time to come, the right to use trade sanction as a means to seek compliance to an acceptable level of human rights will be considered as appropriate in international trade negotiations.
MALAYSIA'S TWIN DILEMMA
Albeit short periods of instability, Malaysia has since its independence in 1957, has so far achieve prosperity and a level of standard of living that is the envy of many developing as well as developed nations. The nation has enjoyed relative peace and political stability, which has allowed for more substantial long-term commitment in plans to ensure sustainability in growth in the longer term. The most important thing is that this growth had been achieved in the context of a wider distribution of wealth. Relative to similar developing nation, Malaysia has larger strata of middle-income population. The main strategic thrusts used have been the promotion of direct foreign investments, export-oriented industrialization, and the use of affirmative action to restructure society so as to reduce ethnic disparity in the economic function. The use of affirmative measures requires a large degree of intervention by the State in terms of protection, subsidy, quotas and special support to the disadvantaged groups. While such affirmative measures are helpful it has also created rent seeking, political patronage, subsidy mentality and a lack of competitive spirit. In the early stages of Malaysia's economic development where globalization was less, the impact of such weaknesses can be absorbed through tariff and other regulatory protection such as licensing. However, as the effect of globalization becomes progressively more pervasive and in the new knowledge-based economy where individual competency is the key to competitiveness, Malaysia faces a serious dilemma. On one hand she has to make herself more competitive in relation to global competition and this means moving to a more laissez-faire environment including creating a more meritocracy society. While on other hand, she has to ensure that a large majority of its people who are receiving affirmative support are able to cope with a more liberalized and internationalized environment without or with lesser affirmative supports. As Malaysia's growth depends largely on international trade and investment, the most appropriate choice is not more protection and isolation but finding a way to gainfully engage in globalization ensuring that no segment of the society is marginalized.
Also since independence Malaysia like all new nations, embarked on the process of nation building. Underpinning this noble process is the promotion of national unity among the different races while at the same time Malay nationalism took center stage. This is reflected in the emphasis on reclamation of Malay heritage as evidenced by such things as the introduction of Bahasa Malaysia (recently unofficially referred to as 'Bahasa Melayu'), renaming of places and streets and the increasing Islamization in all facets of society and culture. As mentioned previously, globalization does have the effect of enculturation of a society to values of the world system and this will continue to put pressure on traditional practices and beliefs. For example, as the English has today become the most widely use language for global commerce and the Internet, Malaysia has reemphasized on the learning of English. This policy is in conflict with Malay nationalists who feel that the existence of their culture will be undermined. Similarly, Malaysia will have to implement her Islamization in a practical way that will allow her to benefit from participating in the global economy. This puts Malaysia in a dilemma to balance between the western worldview as propagated through globalization and the Islamic worldview. This is a delicate exercise and must be carried out to ensure that Malaysia do not fall into over zealously practicing a type of nationalism that obstruct her participation in the global economy. The freedom of Christian worship will be affected by the outcome of this exercise—certainly a matter of prayer for all Malaysian Christians.
THE REMAKING OF BABEL?
Is globalization bringing us into conditions that are similar to those that existed during the days of the Tower of Babel? One of political and economic unity with a common language? Judging from the impact of globalization on nations and societies it seems to be so from the following trends:
- Nations have become more interdependent of each other in terms of investments, capital, technology and even people. Global institutions are established to deal with global issues. A high degree of economic integration is already in place judging by the domino effect that a single event such as the recession in the USA has on the rest of the world.
- We have already one international language of communication through the computing and telecommunication infrastructure. That is, the digital language of bits and bytes. Moreover, English has become the de facto international language.
- Communism is dead and most nations have adopted capitalism and political democracy. The standards of human rights are now being defined by the world and in future countries that fail to meet such standards are targeted for sanctions.
- A large number of regional economic communities are formed to promote free trade and, economic, monetary and possibly political integration. The communities are required to promote open regionalism with the ultimate object of bringing its participating member nations to free market capitalism.
- Some key local societal values are being shaped by the world system and becoming more homogeneous throughout the world.
Are the conditions which existed in the days of Babel a foreshadow of today's society? If it were so, what would be the attitude of man towards God in future? Will man be building the modern day 'Tower of Babel' in defiance against God?
CONCLUSION: A REDEMPTIVE APPROACH
In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus said, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations...... Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you". This Great Commission is basically the globalization of the gospel which gives the zeal for evangelism throughout the world. Although the process of globalization is in itself neutral and it does bring about benefits especially through the sharing and diffusion of knowledge, technology and economic development, it can be exploited for selfish gains without due regard to its consequences. The unfettered globalization that is taking place today, tends to put more power in the hands of the richer and stronger nations at the expense of the weaker and poorer ones.
Furthermore, the globalization that is promoted by the world system has the effect of sowing the "thorns and thistles"(Math: 13:22) where the recipients of the message are crowded out by the cares of this life and the lure of materialism. Undoubtedly the best defense against such negative impacts of globalization is for us to have a close relationship with God and be well grounded in His Word so that we will always know the truth and the truth will set us free. We will see the light against the darkness and deception.
Nevertheless, the Church can deal with the impact of globalization effectively if there were unity and clarity in effort taken. Some key areas that faithful Christians can respond to are as follows:
Use of technology: The use of technology especially in ICT for the global spread of the gospel. If ICT allows the gospel to reach to individual homes world wide, the Great Commission can be carried out through using ICT to reach individual homes.
Education: The setting up of schools and tertiary education institutions that teach biblical values in conjunction with the normal curriculum. This is to ensure that the younger generation is guided by biblical values.
Wealth Creation: Globalization also creates tremendous opportunities for wealth creation. Christians who are in the position to use this process of acquiring more wealth must do so for the sole purpose of promoting and expanding the Kingdom of God. Christians who understand the biblical purpose of wealth will not be enslaved to the mammon but instead, be master of it.
More Proactive roles: In a world of increasing materialism and emphasis on self, more than ever before, Christians are required to be the light and salt to the world by their lives. We must assume more proactive roles in promoting Christian values in our community and society at large. We must stand boldly and intelligently for righteousness, justice and fairness. We must show compassion for the weak, the poor and the oppressed and help them. In a globalized world there will be segments of the society that will be marginalized and has no means to cope with the changes. Churches could respond in many effective ways to bring those marginalized back into the mainstream of activities for example, by assisting those without access to IT to be provided with opportunities to acquire such capabilities. Old but usable computers could be collected and donated to the poor. Furthermore Churches could respond in many effective ways to bring those marginalized back into the mainstream of activities for example, by assisting those without access to IT to be provided with opportunities to acquire such capabilities. Old but usable computers could be collected and donated to the poor; Christians in positions to influence policy decisions should call and rally for the effective management of the process of globalization to ensure that the goals of human development are not sacrificed. We must engage more with the socio-economic, cultural and even political arenas in order to redeem whatever 'spoils of Egypt (the world)' for the Kingdom of God.
Aaron Bernstein, " Backlash- Behind the Anxiety over Globalization" Business Week, April 24, 2000
Bhagirath Lal Das, " An Introduction to Globalization and Its Impacts" Paper presented at the International Conference on Globalization, Kuala Lumpur, 26-27 February, 2001
Lowell L. Bryan And Diana Farell, " Buy Stocks, Shun Bonds," The Mckinsey Quarterly 1996 Number 2 Pp166-177
Lowell L. Bryan and Jane N. Fraser, "Getting to Global," The Mckinsey Quarterly 1999 Number 4, pp 28-37
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