As Singapore celebrates its 50th birthday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called on its people to reflect on the values of unity and inclusiveness that have brought the country this far and will keep it going.
These values are not dissimilar from Buddhist values such as kindness, tolerance, compassion, selflessness and moral integrity, he said at a concert yesterday organised by the Singapore Buddhist Federation (SBF) to celebrate Vesak Day next month and SG50.
Elaborating on the values important to Singapore, Mr Lee said inclusiveness involves the strong and the better off stepping forward to help the weak and less fortunate, "so that all enjoy the fruits of progress".
He also said it is crucial to stay "one united people, where different races and religions can work together for the common good".
"We must uphold these important values, because if we stay together and stay harmonious, we will build a stronger and a better Singapore for all of us," he added.
Mr Lee said he was grateful that the Buddhist community, as the largest religious group here, has set the tone of "tolerance and acceptance of other faiths".
"We have shown, over the last half century, that with mutual respect and understanding, different religions can come together to build trust and harmony," he said.
"That people from different religions share common values that inspire us to look beyond ourselves and care for the others who are around us."
The Buddhist community has done good works to help Singaporeans regardless of their race, language or religion, he told the more than 6,000 concertgoers.
Citing the Singapore Buddhist Free Clinic, he noted that its seven branches give free medical services to sick and needy people.
The Metta Welfare Association also runs nine welfare centres that provide care and education for the elderly, students and children.
This year, the SBF worked with the Muis Harmony Centre - set up to explain Islam to members of the public - on the Building Bridges Programme, which promotes interfaith understanding.
The Buddhist community has spared no effort in education too, setting up Maha Bodhi School, Mee Toh School and Manjusri Secondary School, Mr Lee added.
The three schools' combined choir of students were among the 600 performers who took to the stage at last night's concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Other acts included South Korea's award-winning Didim Dance Company, in its first performance here, and the thousand-arm Bodhisattva by the Beijing Soul Inspiring Art Troupe.
SBF's president, the Venerable Seck Kwang Phing, said the foundations for Singaporeans to co- exist in peace and harmony are aligned with the teachings of the Dharma.
"We hope all Singaporeans will always treasure the ideal of maintenance of harmony, and feel duty-bound to uphold this ideal in order to ensure everlasting stability and happiness."
This article was first published on May 16, 2015.
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