The Seychelles Interfaith committee has taken a step further to better help address social issues and promote unity in the society through the launch of its council.
The Seychelles Interfaith Council (Sifco) was officially launched on Tuesday at the Le Relax Hotel, Anse Royale.
Guests at the event included former President James Mancham, Designated Minister Vincent Meriton, Chief Justice Fredrick Egonda-Ntende, Minister for Social Development and Culture Bernard Shamlaye, principal secretaries, chairperson of Campaign for Awareness, Resilience and Education against substance abuse (Care), Sarah Rene, and Sifco members.
The official launch of the council coincided with the world interfaith harmony week celebrated all over the world from February 1-7 annually.
The week was proclaimed by the UN general assembly in the resolution adopted on October 20, 2010, in which it points out that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace and established the World Interfaith Harmony Week.
The General Assembly encourages all states to support, during that week, the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship on a voluntary basis and according to their own religious traditions or convictions.
Addressing those present, Pravin Darad of the Hindu council of Seychelles said the main aim of Sifco is to bring together all the religious denominations, irrespective of their faith, to bring unity in diversity to serve the community.
During the event, Robert Moumou of the Grace and Peace Baptist Church presented the council’s proposed plan for this year. Among the activities for 2012, Sifco will commemorate several international days including the international day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking on June 6 and the international peace day on September 21.
The council is in the process of finalising its legal framework and constitution and is also engaging in discussions with the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation for an agreement that will allow the two parties to help each other mainly in educating the public.
“We have also approached the University of Seychelles on a possible chaplaincy programme. We are also looking into the possibility of organising student support strategy and the introduction of a module or course on the religions of the world,” he said.
He added that the council will continue to work on drug and other social issues including harm reduction strategies and others in Seychelles and to continue in our role as mediator between political parties if and when needed.
Bishop Denis Wiehe of the Roman Catholic church gave an overview on how the council members started in 2009 and why they decided to take a step further from being a committee to a council.
“We realised we must move forward so as to broaden and strengthen our group and its activities, so we have decided to form a council that will officially be launched, registered and recognised in society,” he said.
Bishop Wiehe also presented the members of the council and a list of activities organised from 2009 to 2012. He also thanked all who have helped Sifco from the beginning.
In an interview, Sifco co-opted member Robert Ah Weng, who is also the director of Care, said Sifco aims to bring unity, to work towards a common goal and to address social issues.
In 2009, when it started, leaders of several religious denominations met at the Care House to discuss strategies to help drug users and since Care is not affiliated with any religious group, it was seen as the ideal partner to host the meeting.
Mr Ah Weng said since then the group has met regularly at the Care House and meetings were coordinated by Care members.
“The council does not only address matters relating to substance abuse but moral and religious issues which can affect society,” he said.