As part of the European Union Funded SEA-AIR consortium project, 60 action-oriented interfaith individuals were selected to participate in a fellowship to advance interfaith peacebuilding work in South and Southeast Asia. During the first week of August, Network staff conducted the first Interfaith Fellowship Workshop at the serene Wongsanit Ashram located outside Bangkok. Fellows participated in training and activities focused on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) and the role of religion in conflict, mediation, communication, peer learning, analysis and process design.
As part of the European Union -funded SEA-AIR consortium project, 60 action-oriented interfaith individuals were selected to participate in a fellowship to advance interfaith peacebuilding work in South and Southeast Asia. This fellowship builds on the capacity and skills of local change makers to challenge discrimination and oppression within both minority and majority religions in their own communities and methods to implement projects contributing to inclusive societies. The Fellows derive from a diverse range of South and South East Asian nations, including: Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
During the first week of August, Network staff conducted the first Interfaith Fellowship Workshop. Fellows were divided into two cohorts and convened at the serene Wongsanit Ashram located outside Bangkok. Fellows participated in four and a half days of training and activities with a focus on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) and the role of religion in conflict, mediation, communication, peer learning, analysis and process design. Fellows shared their personal and professional experiences working in inter – and intra-faith harmony and FoRB activism. Within each cohort, small groups of Fellows analysed specific case studies to identify challenges to FoRB and actors involved. Case studies presented during the fellowship included the Easter Sunday attack in Sri Lanka, the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and attacks on minority faith communities in Bangladesh, among other issues. In addition, Fellows designed activities in response to the advancement of FoRB and social cohesion within South and Southeast Asia.
“This fellowship is of urgent need. I am living in a conflict area in Southern Thailand. We need to learn more about these skills…and how we can apply this knowledge and skill,” stated Kriya Langputeh, an Interfaith Fellow from Thailand. “In my case, I can apply this knowledge to my students, society and communities at-large, especially as I work with Muslims, Buddhist and Christian communities.”
Fellows were provided with the opportunity engage with, and learn from, experts in the field. Dr. Suphatmet (Tum) Yunyasit from Mahidol University and Religions for Peace led the session on FoRB and religion’s role in conflict in South and SE Asia. Ven. Napan Thawornbanjob led sessions on amplifying voices through communication, and SNF International Coordinator Jessica Armour and Academic Coordinator Petra Carman led trust building and listening exercises.
Network staff gathered further information on Fellows’ areas of expertise, interests and goals for the Fellowship program. This will formally begin the process to identify areas of collaboration between Fellows within their regions. Fellows will be assigned a mentor from the Network who will provide recommendations on ways to expand their work and networks within the Fellowship program.
For further questions regarding the SEA-AIR Consortium Program or Fellowship, please contact Mr. Philip Gassert, Project Manager, email@example.com
27 August 2019