SGI Joins Workshop on Faith-Based Organizations and Development in Southeast Asia
From December 14-15, 2009, a representative from the SGI Office of Public Information attended a workshop on "Global Development and Institutions Inspired by Faith in Southeast Asia" co-organized by the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University, Washington D.C., and the World Faiths Development Dialogue (WFDD), held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
The workshop, the latest in a series of six regional meetings aimed at "mapping" the involvement of faith-based organizations in development work, was attended by 20 individuals from different countries in Southeast Asia representing a wide range of organizations from Muslim, Christian and Buddhist traditions.
Participants shared insights gained and challenges faced in tackling development and humanitarian projects as faith-based organizations. They questioned what unique elements such groups bring, whether they have a particular ability to reach the poor by often already having a local presence and discussed how to ensure greater recognition of their contributions. The importance of providing unconditional assistance with no link to proselytizing was repeatedly stressed, as was the need to move away from institutional solutions such as the setting up of orphanages. The particular challenges caused by current levels of suspicion towards, and discrimination against Muslim organizations was a recurrent theme.
The need for dialogue and some kind of coordination among religious groups, with government and other actors was discussed, with a focus on the key next step of strengthening interfaith action to tackle social justice.
Specific areas discussed included conflict resolution and issues relating to the needs and rights of children.
The meeting was chaired by Dr. Katherine Marshall, executive director of WFDD, Senior Fellow at the Berkeley Center and Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Government at Georgetown University. While working at the World Bank, she was involved with the establishment of WFDD in 1998 by James D. Wolfensohn, then president of the World Bank, and Lord George Carey, then Archbishop of Canterbury.
WFDD aims to provide a bridge between the worlds of faith and secular development.
Next steps include one more regional workshop, followed by a global workshop in Washington D.C. in 2010 and publication of the findings in book form.
[Adapted from a report from the SGI Office of Public Information, Soka Gakkai, Japan; photos courtesy of SGI Office of Public Information]