SINGAPORE: Maintaining racial and religious harmony is always a work in progress and Singapore must continue to build on its multiculturalism, especially in a time of increased polarisation around the world, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday (Aug 12).
Speaking at a dialogue session, Mr Heng hailed the progress Singapore has made over the past decades in preserving racial and religious harmony.
“We have made tremendous progress, but it is a work that we must always continue because there is no final destination. It is always a work in progress, we must always continue to build on it all the time,” he said.
“We must be deeply committed to preserving this racial and religious harmony.”
He stressed that Singapore’s racial harmony should not be taken for granted.
“Every day when you open the newspaper, you'll find conflict of one form or another in at least one of the pages, which is linked to either race, language or religion,” said Mr Heng. "So for us to maintain harmony in a society that is so multiracial, multicultural and multireligious, is always an act in progress."
Mr Heng added that Singapore can turn its diversity into “great strength” and share its experiences in building peace and harmony with others around the world.
“The fact that our people, our ancestors come from all over the world, that we are so diverse in terms of religious diversity, racial diversity, cultural diversity, we have new citizens, old citizens, permanent residents and so on, ought to be a great source of advantage,” he said.
“So we should think harder, to see how we can continue to push the envelope, to turn that diversity into a great strength, and to turn smallness into a great strength.”
NEW INTERFAITH HERITAGE PROGRAMME
The dialogue session was part of a new programme called Faithful Footprints. Organised by Temasek Foundation and non-government organisation Humanity Matters, it aims to help Singaporeans appreciate the country’s diversity and foster a sense of cohesion.
The half-day programme includes a heritage trail that covers places of worship in the historical Bencoolen area, as well as a tour through the Harmony in Diversity Gallery which focuses on religious harmony.
More than 60 residents from the South East District participated in the first run of the programme, including new citizens, permanent residents and students. Temasek Foundation said it hopes to have about 25 runs of the programme to reach out to more Singaporeans.
South East District Mayor Maliki Osman said he hopes the programme will help participants appreciate Singapore’s diversity.
“A lot of people talk about the importance of religious and racial harmony, and we cannot take it for granted, we must make sure that it continues to be in our blood, it continues to be appreciate by all Singaporeans as well as new citizens, native Singaporeans, so that in future we can continue to prosper within the backdrop of a harmonious Singapore society,” he said.