Urban and religious aspirations and the global city
Urban and religious aspirations and the global city: The participation of young people in faith-based initiatives in Singapore
Although Singapore is highly advanced as an economy, the presence of a number of nongovernment organisations in the city-state indicates that certain local needs are present yet not fully addressed by the government. Some of these organisations are religiously inspired (or faith-based) and involve young people in their programmes and activities in such areas as education, healthcare, and the elderly. This postdoctoral project approaches the Institute’s interest in urban and religious aspirations through the motivations and experiences of young people involved in faith-based initiatives in Singapore. Their participation in faith-based initiatives may reveal motivations occurring at two levels: religious and political. In terms of the religious dimension, I am interested in whether their motivations reveal underlying views concerning morality and tolerance in a context of multiculturalism. These ideas, in the end, may point to contemporary youth spirituality taking shape in Singapore. In terms of the political dimension, I have mentioned above that faith-based initiatives, like any NGO, are often seen as addressing the shortfall of the government. However, it is important to note that faith-based initiatives, by virtue of their religious inclinations, may in fact be offering alternative “visions of development”, calling into question both limitations and excesses of State programmes. Hence, it will be interesting to see how young people in faith-based initiatives in highly developed Singapore imagine their society’s ills and future. Put differently, I ask whether their religious and urban aspirations contest state visions of further progress which broadly include a touted “Asian” version of democracy, multiculturalism and religious harmony (or tolerance?), global capitalism, and even cutting-edge knowledge economy. Pursuing this research will necessitate extended fieldwork with various faith-based organisations. I anticipate carrying out interviews and ethnographic work with Singaporean youth of various religious persuasions. Several faith-based initiatives among Methodists, Catholics, Buddhists, and Muslims have been identified. My informants will most likely be those in the postsecondary stage or those enrolled in technical courses, junior colleges, polytechnic institutes, and universities.