Since 2007, the Singapore South East Community Development Council Explorations into Faiths (EiF) programme has helped participants to gain a better understanding of religions practiced in Singapore and to experience interfaith dialogue in a stimulating, supportive and respectful environment.
For religious harmony to be sustained and to thrive in Singapore, members of faith communities needed to learn about each other to understand, appreciate and foster deeper trust and social capital. At the Community Clubs, Inter-Religious talks started to be organised where religious leaders shared key tenets of their faiths to audiences of mixed ethnic and religious backgrounds. Through the IRCCs, religious, grassroots and community leaders built bonds of friendship and trust.
Senior representatives from the ten faith traditions (i.e. Baha’i, Buddhism,
Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, Taoism,
Zoroastrianism) were invited to share the basic tenets of their faiths
during the programme.
The EiF Dialogues offer a regular monthly platform for youth and
working adults to engage in authentic and meaningful dialogue. Each session
focuses on a particular theme and participants get to know one another and their respective faiths better as they share, clarify and ask about what each faith has to say about the topic being discussed.
Establishment of Explorations into Faiths
In 2006 a joint partnership between the People’s Association (inter-Ethnic Engagement Unit), National Institute of Education, Southeast CDC, Southwest CDC and Central Singapore CDC, Explorations into Faiths (EIF) was established. It was meant to facilitate and enhance people to people dialogue to complement the role of the IRCCs, the CEP and the Grassroots Organisations (GROs). The segment of the community had, thus far, not been engaged using the platform of “people to people” dialogue to build understanding, appreciation and trust specifically between members who belong to the various religious communities.
EIF was established in 2007 with the following objectives:
- a. To learn more about faith – traditions that are being practiced in Singapore
- b. To learn more about your own faith-tradition
- c. To develop deeper Trust with & Respect for people of different faith traditions
- d. To experience interfaith dialogue in a wholesome, stimulating, supportive and respectful environment
The Explorations in Faith program has worked hard to create the trust in that common space for authentic and meaningful dialogue. EIF does not purport to:
- a. Provide a definitive ‘textbook’ knowledge of other faiths
- b. Try to justify that all faiths are the same
- c. Show that one faith has a better perspective on certain issues than others
- d. Evangelize/Proselytize
Generally, EIF offers three types of programmes:
- a. Monthly Interfaith Dialogues
- b. Inter-Faith Facilitator Training Programme
- c. The EiF Conference
Since 2007, EIF has organised about 36 monthly interfaith dialogue sessions. Approximately 1,180 participants have engaged in the sessions. A large proportion of them are working adults and tertiary level students. In organising such dialogues, EIF has partnered twenty (20) faith and non-faith based organisations which host the dialogue sessions which typically lasts 2 and a half hours. Some of the organisations which have partnered EIF include:
- a. San Qing Gong Taoist Temple
- b. Taoist Federation (Singapore)
- c. Buddhist Fellowship
- d. Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Buddhist Monastery
- e. Buddhist Library
- f. CANA Catholic Centre
- g. Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour
- h. Church of St Teresa
- i. Church of St Mary of the Angels
- j. Kampong Kapor Methodist Church
- k. Church of St Peter and Paul
- l. Ba’alwie Mosque
- m. Harmony Centre
- n. An Nahdah Mosque
- o. Abdul Hamid Mosque
- p. Al Mawaddah Mosque
- q. The Hindu Centre
- r. Silat Road Sikh Centre
- s. The Sikjh Centre
- t. The Baha’I Centre
- u. AWARE
- v. The Singapore Humanist Movement
Each interfaith dialogue session will focus on particular themes which the participants share and discuss in small dialogue circles comprising 10 persons. Each dialogue circle is led/guided by a trained interfaith dialogue facilitator. Some of the themes that have been touched upon by EIF include:
- a. Faith and Wealth
- b. Faith and the Envrionment
- c. Faith and Women
- d. Faith and Racial Harmony
- e. Faith and God/s
- f. Faith and the concept of Evil
- g. Faith and Political Engagement
- h. Faith and Life/Death
- i. Faith and Music
- j. Faith and Water
- k. Faith & Service
- l. Faith and HIV/AIDS
- m. Faith and Water
EIF has also organized Youth Camp, Forums and a Practitioner’s Conference. These events range from half a day to two days (residential). An estimated 300 participants have taken part in these events.
The EIF Interfaith Dialogue Facilitators
All EIF programmes are organized and facilitated by experienced and trained Inter- Faith Facilitators. They are volunteers from all walks of life – teachers, community leaders, professionals and executives from the public and private sectors in Singapore. Together, they have a have one thing in common – to help develop deeper understanding, trust and respect among people of different faith traditions in Singapore though shared common experience and authentic, meaningful dialogue.
EIF facilitators undergo rigorous training. Each Facilitator Course will comprise about 40 trainees only. A professional, experienced trainer in this field is engaged to design and deliver this course. The course is 4 days long, held over two weekends and is residential in nature. After completing the course, new facilitators are required to be attached to a senior facilitator for at least one (monthly) dialogue session and will need to be assessed and cleared by a senior facilitator at another session before she/he is qualified to be able to facilitate interfaith dialogue session on his/her own.
Thus far, 4 EIF Interfaith Dialogue Facilitator’s Courses have been conducted since 2007. About 100 facilitators have been trained thus far and 25 continue to be active presently.
The EIF interfaith dialogue facilitators are the cornerstone of the EIF initiative. Their passion, professionalism and dedication in an area that is challenging and sensitive is nothing short of inspiring.
During August 2011, EIF Facilitators organized a retreat/meeting to plan for EIF over the next 12 months. Apart from planning the monthly dialogue events, the team also discussed Governance issues and planned for the following:
- a. EIF Interfaith Practitioner’s Conference in 2012
- b. Faith and Community Service Initiative (Moving towards Dialogue of Action)
Source: Explorations into Faith
Photo Credit: Explorations into Faith