Trust and understanding, the locus of unity and harmony

Trust and understanding, the locus of unity and harmony

Recently (on 22 July 2018), Christians and Muslims gathered at the Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church and spent about three hours receiving knowledge, building rapport and strengthening friendship

They listened to Habib Hassan Al-Attas, Imam of Ba’alwi Mosque, who talked about the importance of keeping close relation among people of the various races and religions in Singapore through trust and understanding. (“Imam” is a prayer leader.)

The event, the fourth in a series of Interfaith Dialogue & Networking programme, was organised by the Siglap Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC) in conjunction with the church, located at East Coast Road.

The Guest-of-Honour of the event was Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Mayor of the South East District of Singapore, Senior Minister of State for Defence & Foreign Affairs and Advisor for East Coast GRC.

Rev Song Cheng Hock, Associate Pastor of the Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church, and Dr Daniel Tan Thuan Siah, Chairman of the Siglap IRCC, and Ven Dr. K. Gunaratana of Mahakaruna Buddhist Society were among the guests in the audience.

Rev Song Cheng Hock making his welcoming remarks, while the other photo shows Dr Maliki Osman giving his opening speech in which he mentioned that many Singaporeans are still ignorant of the nuances of the Singapore society, hence the need for information-sharing programmes such as this “In conversation with Habib Hassan” event.  

Imam Hassan explaining the importance of having trust in promoting mutual understanding and appreciation and strengthening relationship among all Singaporeans.

Listening to prominent speakers in a gathering such as in this event is a good way to get people understand and appreciate our diverse cultural and religious practices.

Imam Hassan even passed round some photos on the subject of his talk for the audience to see, two of which are of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In his talk, the Imam mentioned that right to this day the main door key of the Holy Sepulchre is in the hands of a Muslim family. The other photo-shot shows a man in the Muslim family opening the door in the morning as people waited to go in.

The IRCC aims to deepen the residents’ understanding of the various faiths, beliefs, cultures and practices through inter-faith and inter-ethnic activities such as talks, forums, heritage trails and visits to places of worships.

Imam Hassan’s focus advice about the importance of keeping good relationship among all Singaporeans is “trust”. We must trust people to enjoy harmony, he reiterated.

He delved into the history of Islam from Islamic sources as well as his own research to explain “trust” by giving examples of how Muslims and non-Muslims as well as Christians enjoyed peace among them by trusting each other. He mentioned a few examples, such as:

(1) When Muslims were persecuted by the pagan Meccans, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) sent his followers to Ethopia where its Christian King gave refuge to them. Later, he himself, upon being invited by Medina (Madinah), left Mecca, the place of his birth, and migrated to Medina.

(2) The Prophet, after 10 years in Medina, re-entered Mecca with 10,000 of his followers. He instructed his followers not to take revenge on the pagans by abusing them and not to enter their homes and destroy their idols. He only removed all the idols that were displayed on the Ka’aba by the pagans because the Ka’aba, by God’s Revelation, is the point towards which Muslims face when doing their daily solat (5-times a day prayers).

(3) The door-key of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is kept by Muslims for centuries. (“The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is one of the most important shrines in Christianity. Many Christians believe that it marks the place where Jesus was crucified and buried, and where he rose again from the dead. It has been a special place of pilgrimage since it was founded in AD 326.” – Google.) (See also article and CNN video, “Two Muslim families entrusted with care of holy Christian site for centuries” – https://edition.cnn.com/2016/03/26/middleeast/easter-muslim-keyholder/index.html )

Question-answer time: The microphone being handed over to a man sitting among the audience who wanted to ask a question.

More questions being asked. The questions included:   (1) Why do Muslims avoid touching dogs or take them as pets?
(2) Can Muslims eat vegetarian food (cooked) in Chinese restaurants?
(3) Can non-Muslims greet their Muslim friends with the phrase “Assalamu-alaikum” (Peace be upon you)? 

Dr Maliki presenting a memento to Imam Hassan. A photo was then eagerly taken with the speaker: (From left) are Dr Daniel Tan, Ven Dr K Gunaratana, the Imam, Dr Maliki and Rev Song.

Another eager pose with the Imam.

At the end of the fruitful knowledge-sharing session, a fruit fiesta followed with the King of the Fruit (Durian), Singaporeans’ favourite, taking the main attention.
While enjoying the durians as well as the other fruits like bananas and rambutans, those who attended the function mingled and chit-chatted.

“Durian, oh our glorious Durian! If it’s not for our love of you we would have gone home by now,” they seem to say, with Mdm Noorliah Howdi (in the second photo) looking so happy for having chosen one that smells so very tempting.

Is Dr Maliki’s happy wife, Mdm Sadiah Shahal, signalling to say that she has eaten four durians or just four fleshy seeds?

The cheerful faces show that the fruit fiesta is superb; however, it is ending soon. But the knowledge, friendship, understanding and trust acquired in the event ought to remain for us to further build and maintain a happy, peaceful and harmonious Singapore.

Indeed by mingling together and understanding each other we can move in unity and harmony, a good effort which we Singaporeans have been cherishing and which we have to maintain for our happiness and survival together as “One People, One Nation, One Singapore”.

Shaik Kadir 

[Thanks to Mdm Noorliah Howdi (3 photos) and Dr Daniel Tan (4 photos) for their photo contribution.]

1 August 2018

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