Crisis spurs prayers in Asia

WITH the Singapore government warning of a worsening economy, IT administrator Ismarini Ismail is praying the recession won't upset her wedding plans for December.
'I pray harder in times of economic downturn, although my job is not affected this time,' the 25-year-old Singaporean told Reuters as Singapore's unemployment rose to the highest in over three years in the first quarter of 2009. 'I'm praying for my fiance that his job is safe.'

Ismail is not alone. As companies shed jobs and governments inject funds to stimulate economies, recession-hit Asians from Taiwan to Thailand are flocking to temples, churches and mosques to seek solace in religion - and pray for a quick economic recovery.

Analysts say religion is a good refuge for people suffering from an economic downturn.

'People might experience depression and socio-psychological problems as they worry about jobs in a recession. It is through such worries that they turn to religion,' said Alexius Pereira, sociologist at the National University of Singapore.

While some may seek supranatural power for help, others look to relieve their stress through meditation, said Tay Sin Wee, a meditation course administrator.

'With the economy in such bad shape, people are finding an avenue to find peace and calm,' he said, adding he saw a 20 per cent rise in participants in classes at Singapore's Amitabha Buddhist Centre this year.

Others echo his views. 'The recession is a wake-up call to remind us to trust in God and not in money,' said Timothy Teo, a board member at Singapore's Bartley Christian church which has raised nearly S$16 million (US$11 million) to fund its new church facility in the midst of a recession. - REUTERS


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