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Faiths @ Work 2019
Regional Humanitarian Interfaith Programme

Interfaith activists from Southeast Asian nations gather on common ground for common good based on common values

From 5 to 15 September 2019, 20 interfaith leaders and practitioners were trained and equipped with skills, network and tools for collaborative humanitarian service across Southeast Asia in a new training programme called the Temasek Foundation ‘Faiths @ Work’ Regional Interfaith Humanitarian Programme.  It comprised seminar-based training in humanitarian affairs followed by hands-on implementation of a sustainable development service project to provide safe drinking water for the urban poor at the informal settlement of Baseco, Manila. Participants were trained in disaster management, including risk identification, mitigation, and response.

Upon completion of the programme, participants will act as primary liaisons in their respective countries, and can be mobilised to serve communities affected by natural disasters, or other crises/emergencies. Centred on the shared interfaith values of civic care and compassion, the programme seeks to establish and strengthen a team of committed interfaith leaders to provide humanitarian assistance complementing efforts by the public, private and people sectors.  The faith sector has not been consciously nor strategically engaged by the humanitarian community despite the sector’s natural and significant influence to mobilise communities and resources whether for the purposes of evacuations or relief responses.    

In its survey report released in March 2019, the Pew Research Centre shared that Climate Change as the top and greatest concern for most people interviewed including world leaders.  Additionally, many studies have indicated and substantiated that Asia is most prone to natural disasters including the consequences of climate change.  At the National Day Rally 2019 in August, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted that climate change is one of the “gravest challenges facing mankind”.

The ‘Faiths @ Work’ programme builds on the success of the ‘Faithfully ASEAN’ Regional Interfaith Exchange Programme launched last December by Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob. ‘Faiths @ Work’ is an organic development as participants of ‘Faithfully ASEAN’ move beyond the sharing of experiences and dialogue to more collaborative action to benefit the larger community.  President Halimah met with the Faiths @ Work participants in Manila at the sides of her official trip to the Philippines and highlighted that, “When we talk about interfaith harmony, and understanding, it is not just a question of talking to each other, but having such tangible projects that cut across all barriers.  This is a good example of how we can all work towards a common good, across borders and regardless of race, language or religion.  

Temasek Foundation ‘Faiths @ Work’ Interfaith Humanitarian Programme is supported by Temasek Foundation, in partnership with Humanity Matters, a Singapore humanitarian non-governmental organisation.

Chief Executive of Temasek Foundation Connects, Mr Lim Hock Chuan, officially launched the programme on 13 September, alongside the unveiling of a clean water treatment system completed by the participants as part of their service project.

Mr Lim shared, “It is inspiring to see so many young people from different faiths taking time and effort to work together to provide support and improve the lives of the needy while deepening their interfaith connections. Through supporting this programme, Temasek Foundation hopes to forge cohesiveness in the midst of diversity and religious differences and harness the positive impact of faiths and values in sustainable development and humanitarian assistance.”

Additionally, Humanity Matters provided the Baseco community with a new Centre for Cohesion & Resilience (CCR), a designated common community space (in container structures – minimising risk of collapse in the event of typhoons or earthquakes, plus upcycling of used containers) for
-    safe gathering and exchanges on interfaith matters for better acquaintance, understanding and appreciation, hence community cohesion and cooperation, and
-    sharing and training on disaster risks identification and mitigation, and community response, particularly in the area of water, hygiene & sanitation, healthcare, food security, etc.  This is to contribute towards the community resilience of Baseco residents.  

Filipino Master Thomas Leang, 53, President of Philippines Taoist Association, and a participant of both the ‘Faithfully ASEAN’ and ‘Faiths @ Work’ programmes, said: “This programme is very unique and useful as it brings together and trains people of different faiths to focus on a common purpose – humanitarian aid, but through a very practical approach and also spiritual lens. Every faith teaches compassion and helping those around us, and I am truly looking forward to build on the ‘Faiths @ Work’ network to enliven the human spirit of compassion through collective humanitarian work.”

Thai Dr Photchanat Intaramanon, 61, Founder and Chairwoman of the Sustainable Community Foundation, and the most senior participant in the programme, said: “The humanitarian training workshops were carefully structured by the organisers and delivered by an inspiring humanitarian practitioner with vast experience.  This helps us to relate to the various areas of the humanitarian sector and how to do good work in a better way. I am very grateful to be able to benefit from this programme, especially given the increasing frequency and intensity of disasters in our region, including the impact of climate change.”

Singaporean Ms Nur Qistina, 17, a junior college student who is the youngest participant, said: “The programme has been a mind-opening and soul-searching experience for me. It made me realise how blessed many of us already are, and has inspired me to do more for others. I feel the giving of love and compassion is education in itself.”


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