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Call for embracing diversity of S'pore society

Jolene Ang, Straits Times

19 August 2018

Greater mutual understanding is needed for different religious practices to be peacefully conducted - that was the consensus at an interfaith dialogue held at Wisma Geylang Serai yesterday.

Singaporeans should embrace diversity, said Taoist Mission (Singapore) Youth Wing's head Shiu Lixin, one of three speakers at the dialogue, which is part of a series, Common Senses for Common Spaces, seeking to identify and emphasise commonalities across faiths.

Mr Shiu said: "We have to recognise that while we are different because of our beliefs and background, we live in a common space."

Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, who moderated the dialogue, added: "I think it's very important to educate our young on the nature of our society, (which is) multi-religious and very diverse."

Dr Maliki cited the example of the Racial Harmony Youth Ambassador programme, which runs camps for students to learn more about other faiths and religious harmony. They take that knowledge back to school and initiate projects to share what they have learnt with their classmates.

Mr Shiu said devotees should, at the same time, carry out religious duties responsibly.

He said: "We are doing our part by educating our devotees to burn offerings in the right place, to burn them properly, and to be mindful of others in our community." For example, when paper notes are burned, they have to be folded slightly, so the paper can burn easily and create less smoke.

Mr David Wong, a Taoist believer, told The Sunday Times: "I think it's very important to be understanding of different religions. It's like people who smoke - you have to be tolerant of them as well." Mr Wong, who lives in Bukit Batok, said he made a suggestion to his residents' committee a couple of years ago to place the incense burner bins between blocks instead of directly in front of units, which improved conditions greatly.

The other two speakers were Mr Ramesh Subbaraman, who was speaking on matters pertaining to the Hindu faith, and Ustaz Fathurrahman Dawoed, who spoke on the Islamic faith.

Common Senses for Common Spaces is initiated by the South East Community Development Council.

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