On 17 November 2020, the Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies (SRP) Programme presented their findings on “Regional Trends in Inter-Religious Relations” to an online audience. The presentation marked the culmination of a one-year project to monitor and analyse the trends pertaining to inter-religious relations and state-religion relations in Asia.
About 30 participants from the religious, public, academic and community sectors were invited to tune in to the presentation led by SRP Senior Analyst Mr Muhammad Haziq Jani. In his presentation, Mr Haziq highlighted the growing importance of religion in today’s world, and the predicted rise in the number of religious adherents, who are mostly living in Asia. Despite this, there have been worrying trends of inter-religious conflict and tensions in the region. These included the struggle for religious freedom in China; challenges of Christians in Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar; Hindu nationalism in India; Buddhist nationalism in Thailand; and Islamism in Malaysia and Indonesia.
The presentation generated robust discussion, with SRP faculty members Drs Paul Hedges, Rafal Stepien and Mohamed Ali sharing their analysis of the trends, and participants raising important questions and astute observations from the ground. The role of social media in exacerbating religious tensions, conflicts due to structural factors beyond religious reasons, and the need to create spaces for religion to make meaningful contributions in a secular system were also discussed.
The insightful sharing garnered positive feedback from the participants. The SRP Programme plans to incorporate more presentations and discussion sessions to its annual events for members of the community.