Singapore's religious harmony may amaze foreigners, but it was "hard-won", and deepening the understanding between religions through dialogue is increasingly critical today.
This was the message from Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Sam Tan Chin Siong yesterday morning at an event to find common ground between Islam and Buddhism.
Speaking at the Building Bridges seminar at the Singapore Islamic Hub, he said Singapore "has been a trailblazer in fostering religious harmony".
Singapore is "a place where we can house a Jewish synagogue, a Hindu temple and a Buddhist temple on the same street", he said.
"This may seem very normal to all of us. However, when I travel to other countries for government work, my counterparts often tell me how amazed they are at this and that it isn't even imaginable in their own communities."
But it should not be taken for granted.
Mr Tan recalled how his family lived in a small Chinese kampung in Jurong which was next to a Malay kampung. The latter's leader came over to personally assure the Chinese that his kampung would defend theirs in the event of danger.
"But in other parts of Singapore, people did not have the good fortune of encountering an enlightened man like him, and some lost their lives in the riots," he said.
Yesterday's event was organised by the Harmony Centre of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore and the Singapore Buddhist Federation (SBF).
It was opened by the Mufti of Singapore, Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, and the SBF's president, Venerable Seck Kwang Phing.
Leaders from 10 faith communities here attended the seminar, along with about 300 participants across religions.
Mr Tan stressed the importance of involving more young people in interfaith dialogue and noted that more than 200 youth ambassadors attended the Ignite Faiths Youth Camp, an interfaith retreat for youth leaders, in March.
"I am very happy to see many youth leaders at this event as well," he said, referring to the seminar.
This article was first published on May 17, 2015.
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