In the Philippines, Interfaith Leaders Unite to Tackle Substance Abuse

Forum discussed “the confluence of religion and public health,” organizers said.

Prakash Jacob, Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, and Adventist Review
In the Philippines, Interfaith Leaders Unite to Tackle Substance Abuse
A recent forum in the Philippines connected interfaith leaders, government officers, and health professionals to discuss the intersection of religion and public health. [Photo: AIIAS]

The International Commission for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (ICPA) recently held a forum for interfaith leaders at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) in Silang, Cavite, Philippines. General Conference health ministries director Peter Landless inaugurated the event, which sought to address the complex intersection of religion and substance abuse. 

The comprehensive range of topics discussed during the event provided a wholistic understanding of the issue, organizers said. Sessions touched on the confluence of religion and public health, analyzing and comparing religious beliefs concerning substance use and abuse across different faiths. One key point of discussion revolved around the religious stigma associated with addiction. Participants delved into understanding the stigma from an interfaith lens and explored the scientific basis of addiction. 

They also discussed the role of faith in both fueling and mitigating substance abuse, shedding light on the dual-edged nature of religious beliefs and practices in relation to addiction. The forum also provided guidance to fact-based organizations looking to collaborate with governments, emphasizing the need for evidence-based approaches to prevention and recovery. Emphasizing the potential of religious intervention, the conversation also touched on the concept of transforming addiction into salvation. 

The dialogue championed the idea of fostering interfaith collaborations, underscoring the importance of unity in the face of a pervasive societal challenge. To ensure the sustainability of efforts, organizers also discussed faith-based engagement projects, specifically in terms of forging partnerships with governments for substance use prevention. 

Notable among the attendees were leaders from different religious communities. A significant presence was that of the Balinese local Hindus. However, one of the standout moments of the forum was the involvement of a former drug peddler who expressed keen interest in supporting the ICPA chapter in Indonesia. “This unexpected alliance not only added a fresh perspective to the cause but also underscored the transformative power of redemption,” organizers said.

In the same vein, the event facilitated connections with local government leaders, exemplifying the importance of multi-stakeholder involvement in addressing substance abuse. 

Government representatives from both the Philippines and Indonesia attended, reflecting the bilateral concern and commitment to the issue. The forum did not just limit itself to discussions, organizers explained. There was a concrete planning session centered on the organization and implementation of ICPA programs, targeting expansion in major cities within the 10/40 Window, a region of the world where most people live but where Christians are a minority. 

The ICPA forum for interfaith leaders is a witness to the importance of a unified approach to addressing the global challenge of alcoholism and drug dependency, organizers said. “Through collaboration and understanding, solutions can be found that respect and harness the power of faith while ensuring the well-being of communities,” they said.The original version of this story was posted on the Southern Asia-Pacific Division news site.

Prakash Jacob, Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, and Adventist Review