Panel Discussion – Bridging Different Communities

Panelists at the Asia Humanism Conference Day 1:

  • Theresa Termulo, President, Philippines Atheists and Agnostics Society (PATAS)
  • Zurairi Abd Rahman, Senior Journalist, The Malay Mail Online
  • Red Tani, President, Filipino Freethinkers
  • Uttam Niraula, President, Society for Humanism, Nepal
  • Paul Tobin, President, Humanist Society (Singapore)

The Panel Discussion for Asian Humanism Conference the panelists sharing their experiences relating to the topic of “Unity in Diversity”, followed by a question and answer session.

ahc theresa

The first speaker, Dr Theresa Termulo, began by sharing a story about building bridges, to emphasize the importance of being the first to reach out to the opposition. She said that people often saw the world as “if you are not with us, you must be against us”, when in fact it is that “you are like us, and we are like you too”.

Dr Theresa shared how the Philippines Atheists and Agnostics (PATAS) demonstrated “Unity in Diversity” by prioritising the provision of healthcare to the poor, instead of “preaching” to them about humanism. By doing good, PATAS is demonstrating that humanists are alike the religious in their morality, and makes the religious curious about their beliefs and worldview.

Her lesson for the audience was that we should not just tolerate, but we should also accept, and in that, gain understanding. She concluded by sharing a quote by Mehmet Murat Udan that says, “the wisdom of bridges is that they know both sides and both shores”.


The second speaker, Mr Zurairi Abd Rahman, co-founder of Unscientific Malaysia (now defunct), current Senior Journalist of The Malay Mail Online, briefed us on the differences between Malaysia and Singapore, and the lack of their non-religious community. He shared how religion is involved with politics to sway voters in Malaysia.

Mr Zurairi then touched on the recent news about Malaysian gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi who was vilified for wearing a leotard, despite winning 2 gold and 4 other medals. This was due to the requirement by Islam for women to cover their private parts properly. He used this example to explain the challenges journalists face in their media coverage – to consider the consequences the reporting might had in making the matter worse or not.

Mr Zurairi shared that in his opinion, there is always “bad speech around”, and that these needs to be “countered by good speech”. He shared his opinion that there should not be silent tolerance, but rather, discussion, despite the possible backlash.


The third speaker, Mr Red Tani, president of Filipino Freethinkers, shared with us the successes the group experienced in working towards a common goal, which was the passing of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act (RH Bill) in Philippines. He shared how the group took advantage of the fact that Philippines had widespread social media users, and was awarded in 2012 for being a trailblazer in this usage of social media.


The last speaker, Mr Uttam Niraula, president of Society for Humanism, Nepal, shared how Nepal is highly secular. The government, consisted mostly of cultural Hindus who do not believe in any God. As such, the Society had the benefit of working closely together with the government in creating change.

They worked to change the laws, the army, and the police, that have been religious historically, as well as against the infringement of human rights by improper cultural practises such as witchcraft.

Mr Uttam also shared how the Society for Humanism worked as a peacekeeper between the Muslims and the Hindus in his country, when they were having conflict, and mediate peace between the two groups by talking about the peaceful side of their scripture.

This was followed by the QnA segment. Please click here to read more.