The Social Mission Conference in 2010. The Social Mission Conference in 2010.September conference aims to deepen awareness of the poor

A vulnerable teen is approached by a gang. A child eats plain rice for a meal. A low-wage earner faces the last of his salary before the month is up.

These are part of the real-life scenarios in Singapore, which will be presented at an upcoming conference asking participants: How do Catholics respond to the poor in their midst?

The Social Mission Conference 2012, to be held on Saturday, Sept 1, aims to help Catholics live out their faith by working with the poor in a different way.

The conference hopes to provide some food for thought: Society’s general mindset towards helping the poor needs to change and people need to go beyond giving to charity, and move towards partnering the poor.

While donating money to aid the poor is good, perhaps people could give of themselves by volunteering time and energy.

The biennial series of Social Mission Conferences, which started in 2008, is organised by Caritas Singapore Community Council (CSCC), better known as Caritas Singapore. This flagship project of the organisation aims to deepen awareness of Catholic social teaching, which includes the principle of the dignity of each and every human person, a key theme that resonates in this year’s conference, where Archbishop Nicholas Chia will give an address as guest-of-honour.

For the first time in the series, the conference will introduce an element of reflection in the form of a mini-retreat, featuring silence, reflection and facilitated discussion in small groups.

To optimise these group discussions, the number of conference participants will be capped at 400 persons.

Topics to be examined include the perhaps unrecognised, invisible struggles that ex-offenders and other marginalised persons might face, the root causes of entrapment in the poverty cycle, and what kind of concerted efforts there are in addressing poverty in Singapore.

Jesuit Fr Mark Raper, an Australian who is the president of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific and the superior of Jesuit Missions in Timor Leste and Myanmar, will deliver the theological reflection component of the conference.

Another section of the conference, titled Find Your Own Calcutta, takes its inspiration from a saying by Blessed Mother Teresa, who left her homeland of Albania to work with the poorest of the poor in India.

Conference speakers include Ms Cecilia Chua, chairperson of HopeHouse, a residential shelter for at-risk youths; Nominated Member of Parliament Laurence Lien, the CEO of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre; and Ms Leona Leong, founder of the social enterprise, Aii, which employs hearing-impaired persons.

There will also be sharing on Caritas Singapore’s “holistic, integrated and upstream” strategy in helping the poor by Mr Kwek Mean Luck, chairman of its Community Strategy Committee.

Here, “upstream” connotes a preventive approach to social issues such as how to ensure there are sufficient social enterprises to provide jobs for the disadvantaged in the coming years.

Conference details

When: Saturday, Sept 1
Time: 8.30 am to 5 pm
Who should attend: All who are interested in Catholic social teachings, church community leaders, people involved in church ministries and/or engaged in social mission work
Rate: $40 per person (discounted rate of $20 per person for students, senior citizens and Caritas’ member organisations)
How: Registration forms are available from parish offices or visit www.caritas-singapore.org

For more information, call Ms Gail Ng on 6337 3711.


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