Skip to main content
Faith in the Times of Pandemic: Coping Mechanisms for Vulnerable Populations in Asia

The global COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time and the greatest challenge we have faced since World War Two. Since its emergence in Asia late last year, the virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica. But COVID-19 is much more than a health crisis. By stressing every one of the countries it touches, it has the potential to create devastating social, economic and political crises that will leave deep scars.

We are in uncharted territory. Many of our communities are unrecognizable from even a week ago. Dozens of the world’s greatest cities are deserted as people stay indoors, either by choice or by government order. Communities around the world have faced immense challenges – unemployment, lockdowns, restricted access to places of worship and the lack of physical contact with family members, friends and colleagues. It is not surprising that when the pandemic began to impact the world, the demand for mental health services increased noticeably.

Anxiety, fear and stress are normal when we are faced with uncertainty and the unknown. The pandemic has significantly changed our daily lives, our routines, restricted our movements and our innate coping mechanisms. The pandemic has caused intense stress and disruption for all people, and is causing pronounced mental health concerns, including suicidal thoughts and feelings, in various vulnerable groups of the population, including parents, those with existing mental illness or mental health issues, Indigenous people and those with a disability, and minorities. Yet, unfortunately, many communities have limited access to health services and mental health support, and according to a WHO Survey, the pandemic has disrupted or halted critical mental health services in 93% of 130 countries worldwide.

Our webinar follows World Suicide Prevention Day and comes ahead of the upcoming World Mental Health Day, offering a chance to gain insight on the efforts to protect vulnerable populations in Asia.  Panelists from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand will discuss various coping mechanisms, including religious and spiritual coping strategies as not just of the possible tools, but also as an essential and important mean that can be used to deal with all the negative consequences of COVID-19 effects. In partnership with the University of Malaya, this webinar will also be opened by Dr. Rosilawati Zainol, Director of the Centre for Civilizational Dialogue. 


Venerable Napan Thawornbanjob

Venerable Napan is an Assistant Abbot of the Golden Mount Temple in Bangkok and the Director of the Institute of Buddhist Management for Peace and Happiness. In 2001 he founded the For Beautiful Life (FBL) Group whose core values were Faith-oriented, Based on wisdom, and Leading change through knowledge networks. The Group aims to inspiring Buddhist monks and lay people develop themselves by helping others develop through combination of Threefold Training (Sikkhā), group counselling, activity-based learning and participatory approach. The target audiences were diverse covering youths, teachers, academic institutes, communities, as well as those who were affected by violent conflicts in Southern Thailand. His work concerning the last target group has led to collaborations with international peace-building and interfaith organizations. In June 2018, he has been invited to give a keynote speech at the fist Vesak ceremony at the EU parliament on the topic of “Buddha’s day and SDGs: from individual’s inner peace to peaceful society.” Recently, Venerable Napan has been working on promoting of tolerance and coexistence between different faiths and countering religious hate speech. He is a KAICIID fellow too.

Dr. Alizi Alias

Dr. Alizi Alias is a freelance consultant organizational psychologist with more than 20 years of working experience in academia and two years working experience in industry. Dr. Alizi’s expertise is in the areas of organizational psychology, applied psychology and Islamic psychology with vast research, teaching, consultancy, and practical experiences. He had published 14 journal articles and book chapters, and presented 26 conference papers, and also a frequent speaker on psychological issues. Dr. Alizi is also the cofounder of Psychospiritual Institute, advisor of several companies, and offers training as a freelance or via several training companies such as Human Dynamics, ABH Global Inspire, Managers’ University and Spring Foundation, London.

Dr. Alizi Alias graduated from International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) with a B.IRKH in Islamic Revealed Knowledge & Heritage, and a B.HSc in Psychology. He obtained his MSc in Applied Psychology from University of Surrey, United Kingdom, and completed his PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). He has taught at IIUM from 1997 to 2018 and spent 9 months at University of Gloucestershire, United Kingdom as an academic visitor. He had either lectured or is currently lecturing part-time at UKM, Open University Malaysia (OUM), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) UniMy, and Alif Institute, London. At IIUM, Dr. Alizi held the post of Head of the Department, Deputy Director, and coordinator of various committees. He has been invited by several universities as external assessors, external examiners, and Board of Studies for psychology programmes and at the same time, a Panel Assessor for the Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA).

Mr. K V Soon

Mr. K V, Soon is an entrepreneur, social activist and management strategist with over 25 years of experience in strategic planning, business development, technology management, programme implementation corporations, nonprofits and governments. He has been an active member of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) and is currently a member of the Executive Committee. In 2013 K V organized the first INEB Conference in Malaysia, the first in the non Buddhist majority country. The theme was centred on interfaith relations, particularly Buddhist-Muslim Relations. The conference was attended by over 200 participants from around the world exposing the Buddhist communities to the Muslim communities through dialogues and joint activities. Prior, K V help initiated the International Forum on Buddhist Muslim Relations (BMF) and was its interim-Secretary until 2018. He had been working on strategic engagement on the inter-governmental level to bring awareness and action to address interfaith conflicts in the region. He continues to be engaged and support such initiatives. Professionally, K V Soon is leader in the digital strategy and implementation. He currently works with various governments to advise and implement strategic digital strategies and programs across the region where is experience ranged from successful technology start-ups, developing and managing large scale national-level projects across Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Sudan, Mauritius and Fiji. He continues to dwell into innovations and disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data and to bring technology and innovation to help build better and inclusive societies. K V frequently speaks in conferences, seminars and workshops sharing his experiences locally and regionally.

Ms. Arshinta Soemarsono

Arshinta has more than 20 years of field experiences in humanitarian works and community development. Being former director of YAKKUM Emergency Unit (YEU) for 10 years, she led YEU and managed more than 50 disasters responses in Indonesia including the mega disaster of Aceh tsunami  in 2005, as well as supporting disaster responses by YAKKUM’s network in Timor Lester, Philippines, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Started in 2015, she was assigned to be the director of YAKKUM Rehab Center in which she steered it to be more engaged in national and global advocacy of disability inclusion. She served the global alliance of ACT (Action by Churches Together) in various roles of capacity building advisory group, Humanitarian advisory group, member of governing board representing Asia for 2 terms and now as Membership Committee.  Started in 2019, she was promoted to lead all YAKKUM’s humanitarian and development units as the Director of YAKKUM extramural (Community Outreach Units including disability, disaster management and primary health care)

Background: Arshinta finished her bachelor degree on Biology and master in public health from Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta Indonesia. Besides, she was trained Incident Command System, member of ASEAN ERAT (Emergency Response Team) till present and was former member of UNDAC Team (UN disaster and coordination team) till 2012. In governing skill, she was former member of ACT Alliance governing board for 2 terms representing Asia, member of RedR Indonesia board, former chair of Community based Rehabilitation network in Indonesia, board member of Humanitarian Forum Indonesia and chair of board of Christian communities for disaster risk reduction in Indonesia.

Ms.Aghalya Darmalingam

Ms.Aghalya Darmalingam is a young rising Youtuber and a full time online based tutor, precisely coaching the young and old about Tamil language and religion. She has students internationally from countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, India, Switzerland, South Africa etc. Aghalya created these platforms with the notion to teach masses to self explore the sacred texts found in Hinduism and to inspire others to canvas the knowledge found in this huge school of thought especially to the English speaking society as many young Tamils are not Tamil literates. Being born to both renowned Hinduism scholars Dr. Darmalingam and Ms. Nirmala Devi, Aghalya was exposed and raised with strong scholarly erudition of Hinduism school of thoughts.

She successfully completed her undergraduate programme at the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology with a Bachelors of Arts (Hons) in Broadcasting and Journalism. Later,with the desire to establish her passion towards Hinduism, Aghalya pursued her Masters degree in the University of Malaya under the department of Indian studies. The postgraduate degree was also completed in Sept 2021, not to mention the area of study was the Concept Of Wisdom In Saivism. Besides venturing into the academic world, Aghalya has also begun to write research articles. An article exploring the concept of bhakthi has been published in the Peraivu Journal by the Indian Studies dept. University Malaya. Furthermore, Aghalya also holds the National secretary position for a renowned and well established Hindu association known as Association of Saiva Narpani Malaysia. Through this platform Agalya has regularly provided talks and seminars nationwide. Besides, she also frequently appears as a panelist representing Hinduism in Malaysian TV channels such as RTM 2 and Astro Vaanavil. In addition, she also recently worked with Astro and conducted programmes such as daily morning shows on religious education. Ms. Aghalya Darmalingam has also been a columnist in the Tamil newspaper 'Dhinakural',Malaysia for a short while.


Reverend Father Renan Obregon

Father Renan was ordained in 2015, and given the task of being the Vice President of Academic Affairs of Tabor Hill College, a position which he still holds to this day. He was also elected Formator/Master of the professed brothers who are undergoing formation for religious life and priesthood. He is also a faculty member of Tabor Hill College where he teaches philosophy. His Interests include dialogue with others beliefs and cultures which leads to understanding of the different daily expressions of faith.  Father Renan is experienced in Interreligious Dialogue and is a member of the Focolare Movement. He finished his Bachelor's degree in Philosophy at the University of San Jose Recoletos, Cebu City, Philippines in 2009 and recieved a Masters Degree from San Agustine University, Iloilo City. Father Renan is currently finishing his doctoral degree in Education at the Unversity of San Jose Recoletos, Cebu City.

Where Online Zoom Application
Time Europe/Lisbon
Dr. Alizi Alias
Mr. K V Soon
Ms. Arshinta Soemarsono
Ms.Aghalya Darmalingam
Venerable Napan Thawornbanjob
Language English
Interpretation English