Liyana’s Journey: Building Bridges at POWR
Liyana at POWR.
|by ICCS Team
|Tuesday, 5 September 2023
Interfaith work is more than just finding common ground – it is an intricate tapestry of connection woven through the diverse threads of belief. From the heart of local interfaith engagements to the global stage of the Parliament of the World’s Religions (POWR), Ustazah Liyana Rosli Asmara’s journey exemplifies the beauty of fostering unity amid this vibrant diversity.
Liyana has been leading interfaith engagements in the local scene since 2008. With a deep commitment to fostering interfaith understanding and cultural harmony, Liyana brings a wealth of experience and a passion for creating inclusive spaces where diverse communities can thrive together. As the first female head of Harmony Centre since 2021, she plays a pivotal role in shaping initiatives that bridge the gap between various faiths and cultures.
POWR stands as the foremost global assembly of civic, spiritual, and grassroots leaders from diverse backgrounds. This historic gathering aims to promote unity among religious and spiritual groups worldwide. It also strives to encourage their active involvement with both global affairs and influential institutions, addressing pressing challenges of our time.
The audience at Liyana's session.
A representative from MCCY had the privilege of speaking with Liyana, at this year’s POWR conference in Chicago. When asked about her presence at POWR, she explained, “I’m here to present the work of Harmony Centre, Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS), and Singapore’s broader approach to building inclusive sacred spaces for our multi-racial, multi-religious community.”
Reflecting on her experience at the conference, Liyana outlined two key takeaways, which she termed as the “2 Rs”: Rising and Refreshing.
1. Rising: Multifaceted Spiritual Representation
The first thing that struck Liyana at POWR was the multifaceted representation of spiritual groups outside the umbrella of mainstream organised religion. “Spiritual groups were abundant and more noticeable than representatives of structured beliefs,” Liyana noted.
Encountering the variety of religious expression outside traditional structures at the conference made Liyana contemplate on the definition of religion. “This made me think: How is religion defined in POWR’s context, and how can such diversity sustain a peaceful encounter and understanding?”
2. Refreshing: A Diverse and Inclusive Affair
The conference was not only for adults interested in interfaith dialogue, but offered a variety of activities and excursions for people of different interests and age groups. “They have POWR kids version and I find that creative,” Liyana shared. Furthermore, Liyana added that she had the chance to interact with participants from organisations and traditions she has not encountered before, including individuals like Wiccans and Native Americans.
Liyana speaking at her session, "Creating Inclusive Sacred Spaces: Interfaith Dialogue, Contemplation and Action".
Most Memorable Experience
Amidst the profound interfaith exchanges, Liyana recalled the heartwarming generosity of the interfaith community at POWR. “A Jewish lady approached my colleague and I, asking us to pick a bracelet. The bracelets were made by her friend who wanted to share them as a gift to POWR participants. That was very thoughtful!” shared Liyana.
“I also recall that we were invited to attend a dinner event by local Muslims in Chicago. A Palestinian lady who had heard about us through a Christian friend offered to give us a ride to the function. To ensure we received the invitation, she also informed other Muslims at POWR who recognised us and passed the note along. Despite the thousands of people present, my colleague and I somehow stood out as Singaporeans, prompting people to approach us to learn more about Singapore.”
Liyana R Asmara with Tessa Bielecki, Deepa Patel, Julia Walsh and Ustazah Amirah Lidiya (left to right).
The Importance of Interfaith Engagement
Liyana emphasised the relevance of interfaith engagement in our contemporary context. “Globalisation and the rise of polarised views and groups will continue to require us to negotiate and deal with differences,” she noted.
“As long as we live with a diverse community and in diverse spaces, interfaith engagement continues to remain relevant and important to bridge differences.”