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News & Topics
September 1, 2017

MOMRI Director Speaks at Asia-Pacific Peace Research Association (APPRA) Conference

Report by Dr. Olivier Urbain, Director

Dr. Urbain delivering his lecture at the Universiti Sains Malaysia.

The theme of the 2017 APPRA conference (August 23-25) was “Promoting Peace and Upholding the Transcendent Dignity of the Human Person in the Asia-Pacific Region.” The main topics of the panels and presentations dealt with challenges related to respect for human life, nonviolence and nonkilling, and the roles of religion, education, development, politics and economics, and gender equality. Several lectures also addressed the rising populism and violence that is affecting the USA as well as several countries in the Asia-Pacific Region nowadays.


My own presentation was titled “Musicking for Human Dignity in the Asia-Pacific Region: the Min-On Music Research Institute (MOMRI) for ‘Music in Peacebuilding.’” As a case study, I focused on Min-On’s contribution to good relations between Japan and Malaysia, through the organization of concerts in 1986 (in Japan) and 1988 (in Malaysia), and the upcoming concerts organized by Min-On in Malaysia in October this year. This was an example of how music and cultural exchanges can lead to deepening trust and friendship between various people.


View of the audience

At the same time, I clarified that in order to understand and evaluate the impact of such activities, three popular ideas regarding the application of music in peacebuilding need to be challenged. Music is ambivalent (it can be used for peacebuilding or for violence and destruction), it’s about action (musicking), not only sounds, and it can be used as a booster for most activities, while not very effective by itself.


Among some of the important scholars in attendance were Prof. Dr. Datuk Asma Ismail, Vice-Chancellor of the University Sains Malaysia; Professor Dr. Dato Anwar Fazal, Director, Right Livelihood College, Malaysia; Prof. Dr. Chaiwat Satha-Anand, Director, Peace Information Center, Thammasat University, and Vice President of the Center for Global Nonkilling; and Prof. Kevin Clements, director, Toda Peace Institute. Particularly useful for the development of MOMRI were in-depth discussions with Dr. Yutaka Hayashi and Dr. Patrick Hiller.


Dr. Yutaka Hayashi is Assistant Professor at the School of Human Welfare Studies, Kwansei Gakuin University, Nishinomiya, Japan. Dr. Hayashi spent more than 10 years doing fieldwork in Afghanistan, and is an expert on the challenges faced by people in rural areas to have their voices heard locally and globally. We are considering doing research on the ways musicking can provide some answers.


Dr. Patrick Hiller is the Executive Director of the War Prevention Initiative; he is Adjunct Faculty of the Conflict Resolution Program, Portland State University, USA. He is also the Vice-President of the IPRA Foundation. We started discussions on the position and roles of research on Music in Peacebuilding within the field of Peace Research, and started to explore the unique contributions it can make. We both look forward to continuing this dialogue.


After the conference, a visit to the recently opened Penang House of Music provided an overview of the very rich and diverse musical heritage of this part of Malaysia and South-East Asia. The current exhibition is based on the book Just for the Love of It: Popular Music In Penang, 1930s-1960s (2015). Among the many ways in which Malaysians could overcome the challenges of a diverse society, musicking holds a privileged position that MOMRI is keen on researching further.


With Dr. Jeffrey Kenney, Professor of Religious Studies, Depauw University, Greencastle, Indiana, USA.

With Dr. Aslam Khan and Dr. Manish Sharma, new co-Secretary General of APPRA (India)

With Dr. Vydia Jain (India) and Dr. Sri Nuryanti new co-Secretary General of APPRA (Indonesia)




Just for the Love of It: Popular Music In Penang, 1930s-1960s: the book on which the current exhibition at the Penang House of Music is based.


The APPRA 2017 conference was an excellent opportunity to clarify and share MOMRI’s current work, and to start new explorations in collaboration with scholars and activists.