Interfaith Advocacy to Promote Children's Safety in the Philippines

This July Andy Alegre, 2021 Goldin Global Fellow from the Philippines, engaged in the Regional G20 Interfaith Meeting in Manila (the capital city of the Philippines), moderating a session focused on the online sexual exploitation of children. In this piece, he speaks to Goldin Institute about his experience at the meeting and lessons learned. He also shares a few tips on communicating and working with people from diverse backgrounds while respecting differences to solve issues affecting the community.

Interfaith leaders gathered at the Regional G20 Interfaith Meeting.

Andy, a people person, emphasizes how being a Global Fellow and offered him global perspectives from his peers during weekly roundtable discussions and connections and during monthly Alumni network roundtables.

He starts our conversation with the Regional G20 Interfaith Meeting in Metro Manila. The five issues highlighted in the meeting were: 1. the interacting demands of climate reform and humanitarian action, 2. emerging challenges of online sexual exploitation, 3. trafficking and modern forms of slavery, 4. children’s education concerning their rights, especially in conflict and abuse situations, 5. protection of freedom of religion and belief.

“It was an excellent opportunity for me to actively know, engage, share, and learn from faith leaders and experts from the government, non-government organizations, and communities on issues that affect most Filipinos.” -

Andy Alegre

The engagement and meeting were significant for Andy, his advocacy, and his community because, according to him, they amplified the issue to various leaders and promoted collaborative recommendations and action.

The Importance of Embracing Differences in Interfaith Settings

After the plenary session of experts sharing the five topics, almost 90 meeting participants were divided into five groups based on the thematic areas. Andy moderated one of the breakout sessions, focused on the online sexual exploitation of children, with 29 attendees which he states did not go without its challenges.

“The breakout session was designed to elicit recommendations from attending representatives from various government agencies, non-government organizations, faith-based communities, and networks. I started by calling in some discussion starters to share challenges, best practices, and initial recommendations on the issue.”

Andy recalls that one of the challenges moderating the session was balancing the time for all breakout attendees to elicit valuable input and stay on the course of the discussion quickly: “Some participants wanted to share much input, but the session had a limited period, and I had to gently remind them to wrap up so as not to take the time reserved for others.”

Another challenge, Andy adds, was summarizing the main points shared and ensuring that all recommendations were captured when wrapping up the discussion. Since he engaged with representatives from the government, church institutions, academia, and faith-based organizations, he also shared some advice on how to best work with people from different backgrounds. He reminds us of the importance of valuing anyone with a unique way of expressing, responding, and contributing to solving an issue that affects us.

“Embracing differences and respectful acceptance are approaches I use when working with people from various backgrounds. I also ensure to address them with the title that they want to be addressed. It is also helpful for me to engage these various representatives because of my experience serving in these institutions and knowing the system and culture.”

- Andy Alegre

Andy believes that being respectful and open are valuable traits that allowed him to be successful in his engagements.

Meeting with International Advocates in the GATHER Platform

Andy met grassroots leaders from around the world two years ago to learn and work together, as a Community of Practice, through the Goldin Global Fellows program, which he cherishes today. “My experience as a Goldin Fellow has been excellent as I learned valuable lessons, methods, tools, and approaches in my community development and engagement work.” he says.

While discussing influential resources, Andy mentions the GATHER platform:

“The GATHER platform tremendously contributed to my learning as a professional and community activist. The platform was easy to navigate and use and facilitated intuitive and practical learning by providing useful concepts and examples for community leaders like me."

- Andy Alegre

In addition to the content on the platform, what enriched Andy's learning was his fellow cohort members' meaningful and valuable reflections and contributions. “I also appreciate that the program is so inclusive – multi-generation, multi-faith - with fellows from all over the world with diverse backgrounds and identities” he says in a conclusive note. 

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Preventing Human Trafficking in the Philippines

By Andy Alegre, Global Fellow from the Philippines

In the Philippines, we commemorated the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking through a nationwide campaign that included a series of actions. The Philippine Interfaith Movement Against Human Trafficking (PIMAHT) together with Talitha Kum Philippines (TKP) usually promote and observe this day on February 8th in the Philippines every year. This day is also known in the Catholic faith tradition as the Feast Day or Memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita, a victim and survivor of slavery, freed later on and found faith.

"No to trafficking! We promote an economy of care, which breaks down inequalities. We invite the global network to join us in raising awareness and taking action. Please raise your vioce and share on social media using the hashtag #PrayAgainstTrafficking and #thePowerOfCare." -- Andy Alegre

To commemorate this day, we held an online prayer session together with churches and various organizations using a special vigil of prayer prepared specifically for this year’s event. Together, we prayed for freedom, healing and restoration of human trafficking victims and survivors and the protection of advocates.

We also had an opportunity to participate in a global, live-streamed youtube conversation and dialogue about Human Dignity and Human Rights. In this virtual setting, we interacted with speakers and participants on key topics as they related to the issue of Human Trafficking. This online event series had also included creative ways such as a live global marathon of prayer and reflection against human trafficking. It was a great honor to be joined by the PIMAHT secretariat members and other organizations.

Between 8:30 pm and 9:30 pm Philippine Time, we also participated in the global storm of awareness messaging via Twitter! Using the hashtag #PrayAgainstTrafficking, we spent the full hour tweeting and re-tweeting messages to raise awareness and inspire actions from churches and faith communities. Below is one example of the tweets we shared:

"On Bakhita's Day, we participate in the global online prayer marathon against trafficking. The theme: “The power of care. Women, the economy, human trafficking."

I would always participate every year in this campaign through prayer, awareness, and prevention sessions against human trafficking either in churches or in vulnerable communities. I also utilize my social media in the Twitter storm which just started two years ago.

Hopefully that next year, PIMAHT can do another campaign that is wider in scope. I will share next year's plan with Goldin Fellows so that we can participate together.

*Andy Alegre also serves as a Secretariat member of PIMAHT, a national faith-based movement formed in 2013 that is composed of representatives from the 3 largest Christian church councils together with other partner organizations united in the fight against all forms of human trafficking.

Fellows Lead Relief Operations for Typhoon Odette Victims

By Andy Alegre, Global Fellow from the Philippines

With support from Goldin Institute board member Nathan Shapiro, I joined forces with Goldin Institute associate Susana Anayatin to deliver critical food and supplies to 482 families who were impacted by Typhoon Odette in the Philippines.

Leveraging our local contacts and connections with the Humanitarian Order of Sierra Falcones, Inc. (SF), Eastern Samar Chapter, we were able to distribute 482 relief packages filled with food, supplies, clothes and toys to targeted households affected by Typhoon Odette (International name, Rai) in Barangay Lunas, Maasin City, in Southern Leyte.

Barangay Lunas is a small community affected by Odette within the overall area of Maasin, which has a population of 87,446. The city is one of the hardest hit by the typhoon in the disaster-hit region in the Visayas with power yet to be restored and intermittent communication service.

The SF members and volunteers were assisted by barangay officials in the distribution of relief supplies. The food and non-food items were prepared and repacked over a few days in Borongan City, Eastern Samar through the support and donation of various partners, organizations, individuals, and volunteers. These critical supplies were then loaded in a truck and sent to Maasin City. Coordination efforts were made by SF volunteer, Mr. Ariel Mendez of the Lunas Elementary School to the barangay council for the relief efforts.

The area remains in need of support even though the Typhoon made landfall back on 16 December 2021. It brought torrential rains, violent winds, landslides, and storm surges. UN OCHA reported on December 30, that over 6.2 million people were affected across 10 regions. About 580,000 remain internally displaced with 356,000 people staying in evacuation centres while 227,000 people staying with host families or friends. The total death count is 397.

SF continues to plan and coordinate relief operations to different areas through its members and volunteers located in various chapters. Apart from the ongoing relief operations, SF strengthens its education programs through book drives, provision of education materials and radio-based instructions to remote communities at this time of pandemic.

Again, thank you to the board and staff of the Goldin Institute, especially Nathan Shapiro, for standing with us in this time of crisis and rebuilding.