Singapore (Fides Service) – Religions in Singapore aim to build harmony to contribute to building peaceful co-existence in the social life of the country. This was the intention of a Meeting of the Interreligious Harmony Circle IHC which issued a declaration of religious harmony.
We the people in Singapore declare that religious harmony is vital for peace, progress and prosperity in our multi-racial and multi-religious nation. We resolve to strengthen religious harmony through mutual tolerance, confidence and understanding. We shall always: recognise the secular nature of our state; promote cohesion within our society; respect each other’s freedom of religion; grow in common space while respecting our diversity; foster inter-religious communications and thereby ensure that religion will not be abused to create conflict and disharmony in Singapore”.
The idea of creating an interreligious commission came from the government in the 1960s when Singapore was afflicted by religious disorder. Now, after September11, Prime Minster Goh Chok Tong suggested strengthening the original Interreligious Harmony Circle and the drafting of a common declaration on the relations between religions in Singapore to increase dialogue.
Catholic Archbishop of Singapore Nicholas Chia, a member of IHC, encouraged Catholics to “be conscious of the responsibility that is placed on everyone…that the living our of our faith demands that we conduct ourselves well among our neighbours and if possible, be at peace with all”.
Speaking to Fides Service Father Robert Baletchet, for many years editor of the official diocesan newspaper The Catholic News, said: “The Interreligious Harmony Circle helps overcome rejudice and misunderstanding and to build bonds of firendship. This sort of initaitive is very important and useful in South east Asia, especially since September 11. Although it should be said that in Singapore we have no difficulty with interreligious relations. People of all religions live side by side in society, schools, work”.
Singapore has a population of 4 million: 32% Buddhist, 22% Taoist, 15% Muslim, 13% Christian and 3.3% Hindu and minority groups of Bahais, Jews, Sikhs and Zoroastrians. PA (Fides Service 12/9/2003 EM lines 40 Words: 543)