Even as Hindus in Singapore celebrated Deepavali on Oct 22, the ominous winds of intolerance and prejudice were blowing around the world, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
That is why people everywhere, especially in Singapore, must learn to fight those dark forces and forge societies based on mutual understanding and openness, he said.
Wishing all Hindus a happy Deepavali in a Facebook post, Mr Tharman, who was in Beijing at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Finance Ministers' Meeting, took the chance to reflect on the deeper meaning of the occasion.
He said Deepavali, or the Festival of Lights, celebrates the "triumph of the light of learning and understanding over the darkness of ignorance and bigotry".
Unfortunately, the winds are blowing the other way today, with a rise in religious and ethnic tensions and conflicts around the world, he said.
Mr Tharman noted events in the Middle East, including the growth of Islamist aggression against the Kurds, Christians and Yazidis and "the denial of Palestinian rights to co-existence". He urged Singaporeans to keep Singapore a place where tolerance is a part of everyday life. More than that, there should also be give and take, so people can live easily with one another and children can grow up with friends of other races and religion, he said.
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