Young Humanist SG Meeting #4: Setting up a resource centre

We held a lunch networking session today to discuss the Humanist Society’s plans of setting up a resource centre. The resource centre aims to provide support for non-religious people in distress. We opened the meeting to people from all ages and all walks of life. About 20 people attended the discussions, held at Safra Toa Payoh.

In February, the Humanist Society placed an advertised Facebook post calling for resource centre suggestions. Many of those who responded wanted the centre to provide support in the form of counselling, meditation, temporary shelters and conflict resolution. They were also looking for a space to provide learning opportunities, such as establishing a small library with a dedicated list of books, holding workshops / classes and providing free tuition for low-income families. Others even suggested holding celebrant services, other interest group activities, and sharing a physical place with other NGOs,

Following the Facebook post, the Humanist Society held internal discussions with educators, psychologists and social workers within our network. We concluded that the Society should not replicate existing professional services. We should instead complement professional services by providing informal support in the form of first responders. Some have pointed to existing practices in religious institutions and NGOs. For example, a trained professional can provide basic training to first responders who could then escalate a serious case to professional help when needed. This is an existing model the Society can take up. These first responders do not provide solutions. They only act as a listening ear.

At today’s discussion, the 20 participants broke up into 3 separate discussion groups to discuss the next steps. The first group proposed that the resource centre could start with a tighter list of items, instead of trying to fulfill all requests gathered from the Facebook post at once. It can start with establishing a small team of first-responders and provide a listening ear to anyone who feels troubled.

The first group felt that great care must be taken to explain the resource centre’s purpose, striking a balance between being specific (and searchable in Google) and what is acceptable to the general public. It should not be discreet because we are not doing anything illegal. At the same time, it cannot be antagonistic because it could attract the wrong type of volunteers and draw public backlash in a conservative country. There was also some debate about whether to keep the resource centre religion-neutral, or whether the Humanist Society — as a civil society and not a public service — should stay true to its original purpose and focus on helping the non-religious. One way to frame the resource centre, the first group concluded, was to describe it as a place for people “exploring non-religious alternatives to meaning in life.”

The second group discussed methods to seek funding. Establishing a resource centre would require some money and a good fundraiser is needed to drive the Society’s fundraising efforts. Once the funds are secured, the Society could look at temporary places to stay, such as hostels and backpacker hostels. The second group said it is important to present ourselves as a diverse community with different beliefs.

The third group noted that the Humanist Society currently lacks the expertise to provide such support. It suggested that in the meantime, it can rely on support in online forums. Although such forums already exist, they are very scattered and perhaps one dedicated forum could be set up to address people seeking psychological and social support. The third group also said that information for people seeking help should be made easily available online.

The first group also argued that online counselling could form the bulk of support efforts. A physical face-to-face meetup can be held, “friendship bench” style (see more above), at a central location such as the Hanis Cafe at NLB in town. After the initial contact has been made, the first responder can follow up with a mixture of online and physical engagement. Such an arrangement can ease the workload of first-responders who are unpaid volunteers with day jobs.

At the end of our discussion, a total of 10 people signed up to be first responders for our resource centre. We will be continuing more discussions in the months ahead, refining our purpose and generating more action items. If you have any suggestions for us, please contact us at info@humanist.org.sg

Our concerns regarding ‘Beauty and the Beast’

Beauty and the Beast text

Beauty and the Beast text taken from commons.wikimedia.org

The society’s current President, Mr Tan Tatt Si, wrote to key figures regarding the negative reactions to the film ‘Beauty and the Beast’.

The Humanist Society (Singapore) expresses concerns over calls by some segments of the public to censor the upcoming film, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, over the depiction of a gay character in the film.

Our Society is a non-profit organisation gazetted in 2010. We are a community of humanists, atheists, agnostics, and other like-minded people in Singapore. Over the past 7 years, we have organised many public talks reaching hundreds of people, partnered with universities and public agencies for several projects, taken part in more than 10 interfaith dialogues, and worked with VWOs to engage in community service. We have also written to the press to contribute to public debates over key national issues.

Our Society recognises that many people in Singapore are still uncomfortable with the LGBT community and a delicate balance has to be achieved between those who want change, and those preferring the status quo. Our national laws and media regulations take into account these existing sensitivities. We understand that the mainstream media, such as national TV programmes, newspapers, and radio channels play an important role in nation-building and maintaining our social fabric. While the portrayals of LGBT individuals on visual mediums such as television programmes are carefully calibrated, a ‘light touch’ has been adopted for online content, and LGBT communities have found some space for expression on blogs and YouTube. LGBT communities also celebrate the annual Pink Dot event.

That said, the Humanist Society urges the government to allow our media regulations to evolve further with changing mindsets. An increasing number of younger Singaporeans are becoming more accepting and understanding of the LGBT community. Scores of global professionals, investors, as well as academics who live, work, and play in our city also look forward to contributing to a nation that is accommodating of different viewpoints. This includes highly-skilled human capital crucial for our ongoing economic restructuring.

We hope that the IMDA will not censor or rate ‘Beauty and the Beast’ excessively, over the depiction of one gay character in the film. Educating the public about inclusiveness towards sexual minorities and raising awareness about the discrimination they face will facilitate the maturing of views regarding the LGBT community. Censoring or banning the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ also deprives the chance for the majority of families who have no issues with the depiction of homosexual characters to appreciate the movie in the theatres as the filmmakers intended. This includes many humanists and freethinkers, many of whom have no issues with the LGBT community.

Best regards,

Mr Tan Tatt Si
President

On behalf of the Executive Committee
Humanist Society (Singapore)

Humanists at CRIX Interfaith dialogue

Photo above: Two of our representatives (far left) at the ‘Roadmap for Interfaith Action’ interfaith dialogue’ organized by Critical Xchange (CRIX) last week. Photo by CRIX.

On Feb 12, 2017, the Humanist Society (Singapore) sent two representatives (far left) to a dialogue called ‘Roadmap to Interfaith Action’, organised by Critical Xchange (CRIX). The dialogue engaged faith leaders from various faith organisations and communities in Singapore and selected youth faith leaders. [Read more…]

Our Darwin Day 2017: In the Footsteps of Wallace

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The Wallace Trail at Bukit Timah is named in honour of Alfred Russel Wallace, the British naturalist who independently conceived the theory of evolution through natural selection. He visited Singapore many times from 1854 – 1862 as part of his eight-year stay in the Malay archipelago. To get closer to the remaining primary forests, Wallace stayed with a French Roman Catholic missionary at St Joseph’s in Bukit Timah district. During his time in Singapore, Wallace trekked daily into the hilltops and collected thousands of insects and birds. [Read more…]

Superhero no more

Alvin Phua joined the Jehovah Witness (JW) denomination as a child. Many years after, he left the faith and eventually became an atheist. He also started a bar called the Public House and it became a popular gathering place for the local sceptic and humanist movement. In 2013, Alvin spoke about his experience at a Humanist Society event. Here is his story:

[Read more…]

Young Humanists SG meeting #3: Providing pastoral care

Feb 18, 2017

After Darwin Day, Young Humanist SG organised another meeting to discuss about the need to develop pastoral care services for students on school campuses. The main points discussed:

[Read more…]

Darwin Day reflections: Why ignorance of evolution can kill

This is a Darwin Day column co-written by Dan Dan Thio and Xue Jianyue. Picture above: The Spanish Flu of 1918-1919, which killed millions and happened before the discovery of antibiotics. [Read more…]

Humans of HumanistSG

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Who is behind the Humanist Society? What kind of people are they?  What are their respective roles in keeping the humanist movement alive? Our executive committee members share some of their thoughts here!

If you are inspired to contribute to the HumanistSG like we did, you can easily do so! Membership is free for students and retirees gets 50% discount! Join us today!

If you are already a member, you should nominate an existing member for office before the Annual General Meeting, which happens every year around March.

 

 

The Assistant Secretary and handyman

Chee Hoew here. I’m Assistant Secretary at HumanistSG, and also the resident handyman.

Let me explain. Despite being among the older members, I’m actually fairly young within the Society. The passion and commitment of the active members moved me to step up to an Exco position. As the new guy, I go where I’m needed. [Read more…]

The graduate and the mascot

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Hi I’m Pearl and I’m a committee member of the HumanistSG. I am a Global Studies graduate from NUS. I joined the HumanistSG Exco because I believe in the importance of harmony in our multicultural society. To achieve this harmony, it’s crucial to achieve better understanding between people of different cultures and communities. That’s why it’s important for the non-religious/ humanist/ atheist people in Singapore to have a voice in HumanistSG. [Read more…]