On a tour to boost inter-faith activities

(From left) Frenchmen Samuel Grzybowski, 21, Josselin Rieth, 21, Victor Grezes, 22, and Ismael Medjdoub, 20, with Ms Farah Maiza, 25, also from Coexister, one of the organisers of the InterFaith Tour who has come to join the men on the Singapore leg of their trip.

THEY come from different religious backgrounds, but for four French young men in Singapore as part of a round-the-world trip to meet inter-faith activists, squabbles revolve around less spiritual issues - such as who gets to use the bathroom first.

"There is tension, but about daily life, not religion," said one of them, Mr Josselin Rieth, 21, an agnostic who does not subscribe to any faith.

The other members of the team are Mr Samuel Grzybowski, a 21-year-old Catholic, Mr Ismael Medjdoub, a 20-year-old Muslim, and Mr Victor Grezes, a 22-year-old atheist.

The fifth member of the team, Mr Ilan Scialom, a 28-year-old Jew, is not in Singapore due to work commitments in France.

They are part of a French youth inter-faith movement, Coexister, which, along with journalism site Sparknews, is behind the InterFaith Tour. 

Around 80 per cent of the funding for the ¤100,000 (S$210,776) project has been secured from sources such as research institutions and the French government. 

The group hopes to raise the rest as they continue with their tour, which has already taken them to countries such as Turkey, Israel and Malaysia since kicking off in Europe last July.

Singapore marks the 43rd country on the tour.

Since Friday, when they arrived for a five-day visit to raise awareness, network and collect research data, they have visited the French Ambassador and the Toa Payoh headquarters of racial harmony advocacy group OnePeople.sg, which was set up to bring different ethnic communities together. 

They also went to Harmony Centre, a Muslim organisation that encourages inter-faith dialogue here.

Discussions there revolved around topics such as the centre's efforts in promoting a "correct understanding of Islam" to other faiths and the importance of inter-faith dialogue in maintaining peace.

Ms Liyana Rosli Asmara, an executive at the Harmony Centre, said: "As the team shared about their travel experiences, we realised that inter-faith dialogue is key to understanding, appreciating and engaging the diverse global environment that we live in."

"It's amazing how they organised their inter-faith exhibition," Mr Grezes said, adding that it was very educational.


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