Form a pluralistic culture accepted by all

I support the call of Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean to unite and reject extremism, radicalism and violence ("S'poreans must unite against terror: DPM"; Jan 18).

This is a timely message, in the wake of the terrorist attack in Indonesia and threats to neighbouring countries. Vigilance is essential in ensuring our safety.

Being in a religiously diverse country, we are fortunate that we are able to live in comparative harmony.

But we cannot depend on luck or chance. We have to address the issues that provoke conflict and violence.

This demands determination and effort to work together to address any injustice.

We cannot just respect and tolerate our differences. No community should insist on the primacy of its race, language or practice. This applies to religion as well.

We should not seek to assimilate or integrate into the majority and dominant culture. Neither should we dismiss the minority culture altogether.

We should update and enrich our respective cultural heritage to form a pluralistic culture acceptable by all.

For far too long, faith communities have clung to their monopoly of religious truth,selfish concerns and private interests, and hesitated to search for common human values and to cooperate in the interests of our common good.

Those who seek influence and power are tempted to exploit our uneasy truce.

It is necessary for all racial and religious communities to interact frequently, for mutual survival and benefit.

Each one of us must recognise the significance and absolute necessity of multiculturalism and pluralism.

We must inculcate this plurality in our thinking, planning and organising.

We are already doing so, even though we are often unaware of it.

We are all hybrids and have abandoned some of our traditional customs and beliefs.

We can no longer identify completely with the race or religion of the lands our forefathers came from.

We are now a plural society. We must learn to flourish together in this new setting.

We must more consciously accept and mutually evolve a more multiracial and multicultural spirit. Only then can we hope to live in continuing peace and harmony.

Yap Kim Hao (Rev Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2016, with the headline 'Form a pluralistic culture accepted by all'. Print Edition | Subscribe