Religious leaders make commitment to safeguard harmony in Singapore

Senior religious leaders of Singapore present a framed copy of the commitment to safeguard religious harmony to President Halimah Yacob at the International Conference on Cohesive Societies at Raffles City Convention Centre on 19 June 2019. (PHOTO: International Conference on Cohesive Societies)

SINGAPORE — Senior leaders representing some 250 religious organisations in Singapore made a renewed commitment to safeguard religious harmony on the opening day of the International Conference on Cohesive Societies (ICCS) at Raffles City Convention Centre on Wednesday (19 June).

They presented a framed copy of a pledge, which outlines practical things Singaporeans can do to build inter-religious bridges, to President Halimah Yacob during the welcome dinner ahead of the conference.

The pledge contains seven key points, and is a result of a ground-up initiative spearheaded by various religious groups, building on the 2003 Declaration of Religious Harmony.

The seven points are:

  • Upholding freedom of religion

  • Building stronger bonds

  • Fostering a culture of consideration and mutual understanding

  • Sharing and propagating beliefs respectfully and sensitively

  • Maintaining solidarity in crisis

  • Supporting institutional efforts

  • Safeguarding religious harmony for a better Singapore for all

The full commitment text can be found on the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle website.

ICCS to tackle challenges facing social cohesion

The ICCS brings together more than 1,000 delegates from close to 40 countries to tackle challenges facing social cohesion, and strengthen inter-religious and inter-cultural understanding globally.

According to ICCS’ media statement on Wednesday, the conference “comes at an especially urgent time for dialogue and collaboration, as greater interconnectedness makes societies more vulnerable to misinformation and extremist views”.

In her opening address, President Halimah said that the ease in flow of ideas with modernisation has inadvertently accelerated the spread of extremist ideologies. She cited that, in the past 10 years alone, there have been nearly 20,000 terror-related fatalities worldwide annually.

She said, “The colour of one’s skin, the beliefs one holds, the customs one cherishes, are markers of identity, and can sometimes also become the fault-lines of mistrust and conflict. Indeed, there is growing urgency to our work in our respective countries and communities, to build bridges across such divides.”

Singapore President Halimah Yacob giving her opening address at the International Conference on Cohesive Societies at Raffles City Convention Centre. (PHOTO: International Conference on Cohesive Societies)

Discussions, workshops, Young Leaders’ Programme

The ICCS, which ends on Friday, is organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, with the support of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

Participants include academics, government officials and members of religious and civil society groups, who will discuss broader issues surrounding faith, identity, and cohesion. They will also take part in workshops to discuss topics such as overcoming hate, faith and technology, and global peace-building efforts.

A separate Young Leaders' Programme, to harness the ideas of young people working to address challenges relating to social cohesion in their communities, was also held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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