TAOIST devotees in navy blue robes, Buddhist monks in yellow robes, Catholic nuns in white, and Muslims and Sikhs in religious headgear, among others, came together at a Singapore Expo hall to mark the Taoist Federation's silver jubilee over dinner last night.
Taoist Federation chairman Tan Thiam Lye told some 2,400 guests, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, that the presence of many leaders from the various groups demonstrated the close friendship between the communities as the country marks its 50th year of nationhood.
"Through such personal interactions, we build trust and goodwill among our religious leaders, and bring our communities closer to one another," Mr Lee said.
He thanked the federation - the central body for Taoism in Singapore - for its work in nurturing religious harmony.
Such harmony, Mr Lee noted, was an unusual state of affairs. But it was important for Singapore right from the beginning, because a multiracial, multi-religious society was a key ideal on which Singapore was founded, he said.
He cited first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who had said: "This is not a country that belongs to any single community - it belongs to all of us."
PM Lee also cited Taoist scripture, the Dao De Jing, to illustrate how "in governing people and serving heaven, there is nothing like parsimony".
"That means being very careful with your resources, storing up virtue... which you can never have too much of. As you accumulate, the more you have, the stronger you can be," he said.
"And the more people cannot fathom how much you have, the less likely they are to challenge you and to put it to the test, and the more peacefully you can live."
PM Lee said this showed how, while Singapore had done well, its people's mindset should be "to keep on building, keep on saving, keep on being good stewards, to keep Singapore going for a long time to come".
"We must not think that perhaps we have done enough, or saved enough, and can afford to ease off, do less, and enjoy more.
"This is how we developed and built ourselves up steadily over the last 50 years, and this is how society should carry on," he said.
Singapore also had to keep its society open and inclusive.
"We can be of any race, any religion, but we are also, at the same time, all Singaporeans together. And we have learnt to trust and respect our different races and religions, and to live peacefully with one another," he said.
This article was first published on April 16, 2015.
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