Towards unity as one people of Singapore Understanding and appreciating religious practices via interfaith dialogues

Towards unity as one people of Singapore

Understanding and appreciating religious practices via interfaith dialogues

More than 50 Singaporeans of multi-racial, multi-religious composition attended a talk on marriage from the perspectives of the Sikh and Ba’hai religions at the Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church on Sunday, 28 July 2019.

This is the fifth annual Interfaith Dialogue presentation organised by the Siglap Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC).  The previous four assemblies, first organised in 2015, were also held in this church.

The speakers in this session were Ms Harjit Kaur who spoke on Sikh marriages and Ms Ang Ing Ing talked on Ba’hai marriages.

Though the approaches and rituals of marriages in each religion might be different, the objective and direction is the same – the marriage ought to last with love and happiness. Each married couple needs to be responsible in developing the family and seeing that understanding, love and compassion dominate the family unit.

Earlier in his introductory remark, the Guest-of-Honour Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman cited the importance of being aware of false posts which is rampant in modern time with the widespread use of social media. Fake news, misinformation, wild opinions and untruth and even rude and uncalled for rhetoric are flooding the social media, and these could create tension and hatred among the various races living in a country.

Unlike the print media, social media posts spread across the world in matters of seconds, and if the subject matter has taints of anti-racial issues or/and presented in vulgar and abusive language, it can generate mistrust, even discord, among the people in the communities.

At the Fifth Interfaith Dialogue: Dr Daniel Tan (left) opening the session with his welcome address, while Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman made his introductory remarks on the importance of maintaining peace and harmony in Singapore.

Praising Singapore and Singaporeans, Dr Maliki, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Mayor South East District and Advisor East Coast Group Representation Constituency (ECGRC), mentioned that although Singapore is a small island, and indeed a red dot, its multi-racial, multi-religious people have shown resilience in the onslaught of fake posts and remained peaceful and harmonious but this peace and harmony should not be taken for granted.

Hence, everyone has a very important role to play in making Singapore a unique nation where its multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious people live together as one united people of Singapore, and that such interfaith dialogues are held with the aim of uniting people together by understanding and appreciating each other’s cultures and religious practices.

Ms Harjit Kaur talking about the rituals in a Sikh marriage.

Ms Ang Ing Ing elaborating on marriage from the Ba’hai perspectives.

Two people agreed that such educational and social gathering is good for people to know and understand the various cultures and religions practised in Singapore and, at the same time, come close together in lasting friendship. Their comments are as follows:

Ms Suryani Nasiruddin.

“From this interfaith talk at the Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church on 28 July, I now understand more about the practices of other faiths, especially, in this case, about marriages in the Sikh and Ba’hai communities.  Understanding about other religions is important to live together peacefully.  I shall definitely attend future interfaith dialogues to gain more knowledge about other religions in Singapore.”  – Ms Suryani Nasiruddin

Rev Song Choon Hock.

“Our ongoing interfaith talks and dialogues provide a useful platform for meaningful conversations, exchanges of information and clarifications. More significantly, they open us to perspectives outside of our own circles and help us gain a greater appreciation and understanding of each other’s beliefs. In this digital age, unfriendly rhetoric, offhand opinions and sometimes careless conclusions surface in the media, so this makes our interfaith dialogues extremely useful in countering provocative inferences and presumptions.” – Rev Song Choon Hock

 The interfaith dialogue session at the church ended with a fruit fiesta. The guests really enjoyed the local fruit treat and chatted away making new friends and renewing friendship.

Fruit fiesta: Food and fruit bring people closer together in friendship and that the King, Princes and Princesses of fruit give the multi-racial, multi-religious gathering an opportunity to come together to chat and enjoy the treat.

Ms Harjit Kaur is perhaps chatting about the smell of the King of Fruit – the durian, a fruit which you either love (Ooooh!) it or hate (Yek!) it because of its soft flesh and strong smell.

Ooooh, so shiok lah…and closing the eyes will give you an even better feeling of the taste of the region’s cherries, longans, mangosteens, durians, and rambutans, all available at the fiesta. Ooooh! Nice lah…one more durian, please.

Standing from left are Mr Yacob Hussain, Chairman of the Siglap Community Centre’s Malay Activity Executive Committee; Mr Shaik Kadir, retired teacher and writer of this article; Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Guest-of-Honour; Rev Song Choon Hock of the Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church; and Dr Daniel Tan, Chairman of the Siglap Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC). Seated are Ms Ang Ing Ing and Ms Harjit Kaur, speakers of the Interfaith Dialogue session.

In recent time, there have been cases of colour supremacy and racial slurs in some countries, causing tension and fear to the residents.  With globalisation, as people work and even live in other countries, racism and colour supremacy should no longer exist or tolerated. We need to forget race and colour and work together as one humankind.

More than 1400 years ago, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), in his famous long and last sermon, apart from reminding Muslims on their religious obligations and social responsibilities, advised all humanity to keep away from racism and colour supremacy.

The Prophet said: “All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also, a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white except by piety and good action…Remember, one day you will appear before Allah and answer your deeds. So, be aware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.”

Shaik Kadir
1 August 2019

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