Solidarity Towards Freedom and Democracy
In line with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation’s (FNF) aim to strengthen its partnership with its network within and outside Germany, FNF Philippines held its Annual IAF Alumni Gathering not only to rekindle the good old memories with old and new members, but also to renew their commitment to sustaining freedom and democracy in the country. The International Academy for Leadership (IAF) at the Theodor Heuss Akademie in Gummersbach, Germany is the center for training of FNF.
“The Foundation's 60th Year celebration is an occasion to celebrate the contributions of our alumni and partners in strengthening, defending, and increasing freedom. We are grateful to you, our dear alumni, for working with us in advancing FNF’s advocacies beyond the walls of the Academy,” said Wolfgang Heinze, FNF Philippines Head of Office.
The gathering showcased some of IAF Alumni’s initiatives that were inspired by their participation in the IAF seminars. One of the featured alumni is Atty. Cathy Alvarez, an alumna of both the IAF and the Ateneo Human Rights Center’s (AHRC) Internship Program, a program supported by FNF since the 90s, to promote human rights protection through immersion programs for law students in rural marginalized areas.
Atty. Alvarez is an alternative lawyer who conducts paralegal training to prison inmates, particularly women, to educate them about their rights. She remains active in projects of AHRC, and is a vocal advocate of judicial reform in the Philippines.
“Atty. Alvarez’ story translates freedom into relatable messages of courage and empowerment, self-sacrifice and hope, and even love,” said Minnie Salao, FNF Southeast and East Asia’s Regional Communications Manager, as she introduced the video depicting the Freedom Journey of Atty. Alvarez. Her story is part of FNF Regional Office Southeast & East Asia’s feature series ‘60 Years Diaries’.
“The internship program and the IAF are two monumental programs that really affect the work that we do now as a lawyer. The IAF gave us the chance to learn more about Human Rights. I think the experience of not just learning about the theories but also getting ideas from our co-participants from different parts of the world helped as acquire a better perspective on different human rights cases and it helped me come up with programs to promote and defend human rights, so thank you very much, FNF,” she said.
The highlight of the event was the Kapihang Malaya (Freedom Café) session where the alumni members discussed pressing issues that disrupt freedom and the rule of law in the country.
”Kapihang Malaya is a project that aims to stimulate open, tolerant, non-dogmatic, liberal, democratic discourse in an age when aggression is normalized and the truth is often compromised. There Is no goal but to listen. The stories that we told here are ends in themselves,” Mr. Mikael Co, an IAF alumni who moderated the session, said.
The session also sparked solutions on how the alumni can contribute in rebuilding a society that values freedom, truth and justice.
“Before we focus on the current problems that the country is facing right now, I think we have to establish the thought of us being the more credible person to speak the truth, because, we are currently living in a post-truth society. The trolls and the fake news is not an isolated case, but it’s happening around the world. So it is important to bank on a strong narrative and that is only achievable if we carefully listen to the people,” Adrian Lacsamana, an IAF Alumnus mentioned.
The night was capped-off by the annual pub quiz with the theme, FNF@60, where their knowledge about FNF was tested. As usual, all the alumni members battled it out in good and competitive spirits.
The annual meet and greet was held at the German Club Manila in Makati City on 25 September 2018. The hall was decorated with the traditional Bavarian white-blue design – a perfect atmosphere to feel the Oktoberfest.
FNF is a German non-profit organization that promotes democracy, human rights, rule of law and economic freedom in over 60 countries around the world. FNF aims to provide civic education to as many citizens as possible to turn them into guarantors of democracy.