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Faithfully ASEAN 2021 - Welcome Note by Ambassador Ong Keng Yong

Opening Ceremony & Seminar, 27 December

I am very happy to welcome you to the third edition of Faithfully ASEAN.

This year’s Faithfully ASEAN is held in conjunction with the 2nd United Nations International Day for Epidemic Preparedness. This UN Day aims for more awareness, more exchange of information, scientific knowledge and best practices, and more advocacy programmes on epidemics at the local, national, regional and global levels. The goal is to get more effective measures to prevent and respond to epidemics.

It is now two years since humanity was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments and healthcare authorities around the world have been working tirelessly to stabilise the situation through safety measures, including movement controls, mask wearing, vaccinations and proper hygiene practices.

We are more learned about the COVID-19 virus today than when it first appeared. As we strive towards the endemic phase, it is imperative to reflect on how we have fared as individuals, groups, communities, societies and countries. Given that this would not be the last and most menacing pandemic, the question is, what and how should we equip ourselves for the next major public health crisis? And even as we focus on the next pandemic, there are other prevailing deadly diseases and dangers that threaten us and test our values, readiness and resilience.

This pandemic is seeing all of us becoming more reliant on the internet and digital applications, with much greater indulgence in the social media. We are now more exposed to online misinformation and manipulation.

With the proliferation of social media, where facts, fiction, fallacies and falsehoods flow freely, there is an urgent need to ensure that technology is used to help uplift our respective societies rather than divide us. We must not unwittingly create more bigotry and hatred.

Religion is one of the main sources of motivation, inspiration and consolation. Faith institutions, leaders, and communities therefore can help garner the goodness amongst their flocks by instilling the spirit of constructive social responsibility and cooperation. We need greater cohesion, collaboration and resilience to manage unforeseen challenges and crises.

Over the next three days, 40 faith and youth participants from the region will be on this Faithfully ASEAN platform to share the experience of mutual learning and reaffirmation of common aspirations. We hope this will strengthen their resolve to work together to deal with the concerns of our respective societies and advance humanity as a whole.

We are most grateful to the Temasek Foundation; the International Multi Cultural Organization; Singapore Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth; and National Youth Council of Singapore, for the customary and concrete support towards the continuing growth of this people-initiated Faithfully ASEAN programme.

We wish everyone good health and success, and a meaningful Faithfully ASEAN 2021!


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