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Thursday January 24th 2019

Hope for all, regardless of faith (Sunday Times 18 oct)

GCT pic

SM Goh speaking to some of the booth operators at the Paya Lebar Methodist Church job fair yesterday. About 1,500 jobs were on offer from 20 employers from sectors such as health care, security and property. — ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Former car mechanic Don Anil Rhuperth Kumanayake made his first-ever visit to a church yesterday – not to attend a service, but for a job fair.

The 53-year-old, who lost his job in June, was hoping to find a similar position or to sign up for a skills upgrading course to enter a new industry.

Said the Buddhist, who is married, with three children aged 14 to 24: ‘It’s my first time in a church, but it is okay. In Singapore, religion should not be an issue.’

Like him, there were many non-Christians among the 2,000 job-seekers at the Paya Lebar Methodist Church eyeing jobs offered by 20 employers from sectors such as health care, security and property.

Organised by the Trinity Annual Conference (Trac) of the Methodist Church to help Singaporeans cope amid the recession, this open and inclusive approach won praise from Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

Speaking at the opening of the fair, he said he was happy to see the Methodist Church – like other religious groups – helping all Singaporeans, regardless of race or religion.

The approach they adopted in their social welfare programmes ‘underpins the unity and harmony of our multi-racial and multi-religious society’, said Mr Goh, an MP for Marine Parade GRC where the church is located.

There were some 1,500 openings on offer – almost double the number at a similar fair held in August – as well as talks and workshops on financial planning, counselling and job searches.

Needy families could also apply for financial assistance at the event – billed as the Helping Our People or HOPE Fair.

In his speech, Mr Goh acknowledged the work of religious groups in reaching out to help all Singaporeans, whether through their own programmes or events they jointly organised with others.

They included the Al-Iman Mosque Welfare Committee, which has worked with the North West Community Development Council and Bukit Panjang Citizens’ Consultative Committee since 2006 to run the Community Kitchen project.

The initiative trains the long-term unemployed to prepare pastries and encourages them to be self-reliant.

Another example is the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, which will be sponsoring the cost of building and running the National Kidney Foundation’s 25th dialysis centre in the western part of Singapore.

‘It is good that our religious bodies deliver such services beyond their followers and without imposing their religious beliefs on the beneficiaries,’ Mr Goh said.

‘This way, they help to strengthen the sinews and spirit of our multi-racial and multi-religious society.’

He also used the occasion to wish Hindus at the fair a happy Deepavali.

Trac president Wee Boon Hup said its fairs were open to everyone regardless of race or religion because ‘we realise that everybody was affected by the crisis’.

‘This is a social need that we want to respond to, and not only the religious aspect of our work.’

kianbeng@sph.com.sg

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