in the news
Nationwide interfaith programme launched to boost Singapore's resilience and social cohesion
Elizabeth Neo, Channel NewsAsia
3 February 2018
A new interfaith initiative to boost Singapore’s resilience and ensure social cohesion was launched on Saturday (Feb 3), by Singapore’s five district mayors at the Singapore Management University’s Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium.
The nationwide programme, called Common Senses for Common Spaces (CSCS) will kick off with a Foundation of Faiths series featuring four of the major faiths in Singapore – Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. These are dialogue groups that will allow the community to engage in and have the chance to ask anything about the faith, while doing so in a safe space.
The pilot CSCS interfaith programme comprising thematic dialogues on faith practices was first run by South East Community Development Council (CDC) in 2016 at the district level. It is now jointly driven by all five CDCs island-wide.
The new programme focuses on the social aspect of the SG Secure movement. Speaking at a media briefing, Mayor of South East District and Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman noted how Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last year that CDCs can play a more pro-active role.
The five mayors are now looking at how best to strengthen the community's level of understanding in terms of religion.
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia, Dr Maliki said studies have found that Singapore is the most religiously diverse society in the world. "And in a small place like this, where the common spaces is small, there will possibly be difference," he added.
“So what we are presenting is opportunities for Singaporeans from all walks of life to be able to ask all these questions and have them answered. Across the five CDCs this year, we will be rolling out about 20 of such sessions. And for each session we hope to reach out to between 150 to 250 individuals."
Meanwhile, Mayor of South West District and Chairman of the Mayors' Committee Low Yen Ling noted that Singaporeans recognise their strengths in diversity, but said they can do more:
"I think the launch of today's programme, Common Senses in Common Spaces, is one way that we Singaporeans can collectively strengthen our harmony and peace by making a deliberate and conscious effort to understand and appreciate our neighbours' faith and also the foundation of their belief."
The launch was graced by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu and co-hosted by the mayors of the five districts, including Mayor of North East District Desmond Choo, Mayor of North West District Teo Ho Pin and Mayor of Central Singapore District Denise Phua.
Some 350 interfaith leaders, activists, community and corporate partners as well as volunteers and grassroots leaders from the districts were in attendance.
In his opening address, Dr Maliki said: “The peaceful co-existence of our people, despite being the world’s most religiously diverse nation, is one of the fundamental principles that has defined and shaped Singapore’s progress over the last 50 years.
"This is made even more significant as this great diversity is compacted into one very small island of ours. Singapore’s success thus far, and sustainable progress moving forward, have been and must continue to be anchored on this unique and priceless cohesive diversity.”
Singapore was ranked as the most diverse nation out of 232 countries in terms of religion, according to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Centre.
The launch of the CSCS programme coincides with the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week, which runs from Feb 1 to 7 annually.