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30 Asean participants of different faiths in S'pore for 2nd inter-faith exchange programme

Hariz Baharudin | The Straits Times | 14 December 2020

photo: st/demond wee

SINGAPORE - The second edition of a regional inter-faith exchange programme, which brings together 30 participants of different faiths from Asean nations, was launched on Monday (Dec 14) by President Halimah Yacob.

Over three days, the participants will attend dialogues to exchange insights and take part in workshops on topics - such as climate change, radicalism and terrorism, and the spread of infectious diseases - as part of the Faithfully Asean programme, which was first held in 2018.

Speaking at the launch of the programme at Furama Riverfront Hotel, Madam Halimah pointed out that the threats faced by the region, like the Covid-19 pandemic or natural disasters, are not insurmountable as long as religious leaders commit to fighting them together.

"As religious leaders, you can guide your faith communities to live in harmony with our environment, so that we can pass on a sustainable legacy to generations after us," she said.

"Our religious leaders also play a crucial role in helping your communities navigate through the uncertainties of this pandemic and cope with its impact on our economies and social life."

The programme is presented by local non-governmental organisation Humanity Matters and supported by Singapore investment company Temasek. It had 40 participants in 2018.

On Monday, participants were joined by leaders from the faith, youth, community and corporate sectors, as well as dignitaries from more than 20 countries, at the programme's opening event.

It was hosted by Ambassador-at-Large Ong Keng Yong, who is also chairman of Humanity Matters.

In his opening address, Mr Ong said that the participants of the programme will be discussing a variety of issues.

"Given the multifaceted challenges facing the world today, especially the disruption and harm caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, there is an urgency for us to cooperate in a concerted manner and deliver practical and positive results for our respective communities," he said.

At Monday's opening, Madam Halimah also launched a digital public exhibition on different faiths.

In her speech, Madam Halimah underscored the importance of collaboration between faith communities and the governments and corporations, stressing that the region cannot move forward together "if there is no mutual trust".

Also speaking at the event, the chief executive of Temasek Foundation Connects, Mr Benedict Cheong, said the organisation hopes that the programme will allow for more intercultural and interfaith collaboration.

"We also hope that participants will, through a spirit of openness and generosity, acquire a deeper understanding of the different faiths and cultures and the common threads that bind us together," he said.

"This common understanding will be a key factor in the promotion of harmony and prosperity in the region."


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