SINGAPORE: Religious organisations play a critical role in countering the threat of terrorism, and Singapore counts on religious leaders to work with the Government to be prepared for terror threats, said Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Permanent Secretary Yeoh Chee Yan on Saturday (Feb 18).
Ms Yeoh was speaking at a counter terrorism seminar attended by more than 300 participants from around 110 religious and community organisations.
The seminar, held at Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre, was organised by MCCY, together with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Singapore Police Force (SPF). Their purpose was to raise awareness of SGSecure, the national movement which aims to prepare the public in the event of a terrorist attack.
Terrorism is a “clear and present danger”, said Ms Yeoh, citing recent incidents such as the attack at a Christmas market outside a Berlin church, as well as the shooting at a mosque in Quebec, Canada where six people were killed by a gunman.
“These two attacks were not linked, but they remind us that places of worship are vulnerable; they are 'soft targets'. Without alarming your flock, religious leaders must be alert to this threat,” Ms Yeoh said.
In the aftermath of a terror attack, religious leaders play an important role in calling for calm and solidarity both within their communities and in the wider society.
“The Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles (IRCCs) are an integral part of this effort,” said the MCCY Permanent Secretary said. “Religious leaders play a vital role, not just in keeping your congregations safe, but in ensuring that Singapore society remains united and recovers quickly from any terrorist attack.”
IRCCs were formed in 2002 by then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong against the backdrop of the September 11 terrorist attacks. It was re-positioned in 2006 to include religious organisations and the IRCCs serve as important bridges between religious, ethnic and community groups at the local level.
Added Ms Yeoh: “The plans that you prepare, and the exercises that you undertake in peacetime could help save lives in a crisis and ensure that Singapore does not allow terrorists to destroy the racial and religious harmony we hold dear.”
At the seminar, participants were guided by several expert speakers from MHA, SPF and MCCY who covered topics on the current security climate, crisis management strategies, and combating the misuse of charities for terrorist financing.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese also shared its crisis plan, emphasising the importance of ensuring the safety of congregants and standing united as a nation.