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Religious leaders hailed for peace efforts in Singapore

Religious harmony in Singapore is 'not by accident but by design,' says government minister
An interracial inter-religious harmony event organized by the Thye Hua Kwan society to raise awareness of religious and racial harmony in Singapore in a file photo

An interracial inter-religious harmony event organized by the Thye Hua Kwan society to raise awareness of religious and racial harmony in Singapore in a file photo. (Photo: AFP)

Published: November 11, 2023 04:33 AM GMT
Updated: November 13, 2023 03:48 AM GMT

A senior government minister has hailed religious leaders in Singapore for their efforts in maintaining peace by guiding their communities during times of global conflicts.

Singapore’s Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam has lauded the religious leaders in the country for their efforts in maintaining peace during times of conflict and has highlighted the importance of the guidance they impart in their communities.

"We can be thankful that in Singapore the situation has been quite different so far,” Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said on Nov. 8, Channel News Asia (CNA) reported.

He made the remarks while attending the screening of a short film “Technologies of the Soul" produced by the Inter-Religious Organization (IRO).

This non-governmental organization was founded by leaders of different faiths to promote religious harmony in the city-state.

The minister pointed out that the religious harmony in Singapore was “not by accident but by design” and the key reason was “guidance” from religious leaders.

He referred to more than 1,000 anti-Semitic acts in France, and a ten-fold increase in anti-Muslim sentiment in Australia following the Israel-Palestine war and pointed out “how rhetoric by religious leaders can inflame, rather than reduce tensions.”

"Events in Palestine is a political conflict. And the fact is, there are actors on all sides who are misusing religion for their particular political gain," Shanmugam said.

"Given that religion is being invoked by many around the world, in this region, religious leaders, and the IRO have a role and important duty to guide our communities,” Shanmugam added.

Harmony during the conflicts

Shanmugam praised prominent Muslim leader Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir who guided people on how to pray for those suffering, on contributing to humanitarian efforts, and on the importance of verifying information.

By exchanging letters, Singapore’s chief Jewish rabbi Mordechai Abergel and Nasir had affirmed the "longstanding trust, confidence, and friendship" between Jews and Muslims in the country.

The minister urged all to “draw a line between religion and politics,” and appealed religious leaders to give guidance to their communities - on prayer, on assisting, on how they can help others in distress,”

He cited that the then-mufti of Singapore had condemned the 9/11 attacks in the US and emphasized that suicide bombings were against Islamic teaching.

He also cited the example of Cardinal William Goh, the Archbishop of Singapore who issued guidance on how to pray for the victims, and the region, and on humanitarian financial aid following the escalation of violence in Gaza in 2014.

Shanmugam pointed out that the National Council of Churches and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) had issued more than 10 religious guidance statements concerning national and international developments in the last five years.

"It is quite usual, indeed important, for religious leaders to weigh in on matters that concern people in their communities," Shanmugam said.

Singapore stands united for Gaza

Shanmugam also lauded the ruling and opposition parties’ unity in expressing the nation’s longstanding commitment to a negotiated two-state solution in Gaza.

The stance is consistent with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, he said while urging all Singaporeans to safeguard and uphold its multiracial and multi-religious peace and harmony.

"I'm particularly glad that all the three parties in parliament agreed on a common position because some of them had meandered before [the] parliamentary session," he said.

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