SINGAPORE - Love. Peace. Hope. These were some of the messages hand-sewn on cloth by 800 people at a gathering yesterday, to show their support for refugees affected by the Syrian conflict.
These words of encouragement will also be sewn on 5,000 blankets to be distributed by a team from Singapore to Syrian refugees in Turkey next month.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who attended the event at The Star Theatre in Buona Vista, said the blankets will bring warmth to the Syrian refugees in the depths of winter.
"More importantly, they represent the warmth of kind-hearted Singaporeans who have stepped forward in an act of common humanity to help those in need."
Temperatures can reach -5 deg C during the harsh winter months in Syria. The inter-communal conflict there has resulted in 2.5 million refugees and displaced 6.5 million Syrians internally as at the end of last year, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Mr Teo said he is heartened to see Singaporeans of different races and religions coming together for the meaningful cause because the actions of extremist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are a security concern for many countries, including Singapore.
ISIS has been using the Internet and social media to spread its radical ideology, recruit foreign fighters to join in the conflict in the Middle East, and carry out terrorist operations elsewhere.
Several Singaporeans are among 12,000 foreigners taking part in the armed conflict in Syria, including a couple of parents who had taken along their children.
"If this terrorism threat is allowed to grow and spread, innocent people here and elsewhere could be injured and killed. This is why Singapore has decided to support international actions to contain ISIS," said Mr Teo.
Two weeks ago, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said that Singapore will contribute military personnel and equipment to the multinational coalition battling ISIS, making the country the first South-east Asian nation to join the international campaign against the group.
The event yesterday was mainly organised by Qiswah, a newly formed organisation which promotes character development in the Malay/Muslim community. It was also part of efforts to raise funds for humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza.
Ms Suhaili Rahmat, a shipping officer who came for the event, said it was a good platform to raise awareness about the violent actions of ISIS. "They are not Islamic so it is important to fight against the spread of extremist ideology," said the 47-year-old.
Another participant, Ms Zubaidah, 53, an administrator, said: "It is refreshing to see people from different races and religions come together for a common cause instead of it being just a Malay/Muslim event."
This article was first published on Nov 16, 2014.
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