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Muslim charity honors Singaporean nun for interfaith work

Canossian Sister Theresa Seow has been involved in promoting interfaith harmony since the 1990s

Canossian Sister Theresa Seow (center) pose for a photo after receiving the Exemplary Interfaith Award from Jamiyah Singapore on July 29

Canossian Sister Theresa Seow (center) pose for a photo after receiving the Exemplary Interfaith Award from Jamiyah Singapore on July 29. (Photo: Clement Lee/Catholic News)

Published: August 14, 2023 08:33 AM GMT

Updated: August 14, 2023 10:22 AM GMT

A non-profit organization working for welfare and development of Muslims in Singapore has honored a Catholic nun for her efforts to promote understanding and cooperation between religions in the city-state.

Sister Theresa Seow, a member of the Canossian Daughters of Charity was one of two recipients of the Exemplary Interfaith Award from Jamiyah Singapore, Catholic News reported on Aug. 9.

“Interreligious dialogue is not an optional extra: it is part of the evangelizing mission of the Church,” Sister Seow said during the award ceremony on July 29.

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The other recipient was Tan Thiam Lye, a leader of the Taoist Federation of Singapore hailed for promoting interfaith and racial harmony.

Former senior government minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam presented the awards.

Interfaith harmony is not just an intellectual idea or attitude of mind, but an active and concerted practice in Singapore, the Straits Times daily reported Shanmugaratnam as saying.

This is not just among religious leaders, but also in day-to-day matters of religious institutions, he added.

He said that mosques and churches in Singapore coordinate practical day-to-day matters such as traffic and the sharing of parking spaces, sometimes even inviting congregants to their respective festivities.

“Interfaith harmony is a distinctive part of our identity,” he said.

The nun, a member of the Singapore Archdiocesan Catholic Council for Interreligious Dialogue, has been involved in interreligious dialogue since the 1990s.

Singapore’s late archbishop, Gregory Yong, appointed her as the archdiocesan representative to the Inter-Religious Organization, Singapore (IRO), an interfaith forum, in 1995. She became the IRO’s first woman president in 2003.

The Vatican also honored her interfaith efforts.

Pope John Paul II appointed her as a consultor of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue from 2001 to 2004.

Sister Theresa Seow has been a Canossian nun for nearly 40 years. She is now the executive director of Canossaville, a children and community services facility run by her congregation.

“An effective way of making Jesus known and loved is to be with our sisters and brothers of other faiths so that they will know we are Christians by our love, our acceptance and our words,” she said after receiving the award.

“May all of us work quietly for interreligious peace and harmony in our everyday lives, guided by God’s Spirit of peace, because human efforts alone will not make peace happen,” she added.

Singapore is a multi-religious and multi-cultural nation with an estimated population of 5.64 million.

Buddhists account for 31.1 percent, Christians are 18.9 percent, Muslims 15.6 percent and Hindus make up five percent, according to official data from 2021.

Followers of traditional Chinese faiths such as Taoism account for 8.8 percent.

There are about 360,000 Catholics in 32 parishes in Singapore.


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