Now's the time to strengthen our unity

I had a sobering thought recently - that 2015 has been a very different year. I realised that our right to have a safe life on this earth has been taken away.

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris ("Paris lockdown after terror attacks"; Nov 15) and the gunning down of innocent people in California ("US shooting: Terror motive not ruled out"; Dec 4) have changed everything about safety during our travels, and safety at home.

The problem of extremism has grown larger since the Sept 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States.

Although Singapore is considered a safe haven, many among us recognise that the problems of extremism in the Middle East can quickly spread to our home.

More than ever, we need to preserve this safe sanctuary that we and our forefathers have built up over the past 50 years.

Many of my foreign friends want to bring up their families here because it is a safe place to live in. Parents feel at ease knowing that their children are free to venture around safely.

A safe home does not happen naturally. In the case of Singapore, we have all worked together to make this happen.

We respect one another although we live in a diverse society. We recognise the importance of preserving racial harmony.

However, we are no longer able to guarantee total protection against extremism in this Internet age that we live in. We are already plugged into the global community, and our children will undoubtedly be influenced by people elsewhere, both positively and negatively.

Given the recent development in global terrorism, I hope that our education system will start thinking about the need to teach children - in a comprehensive way - about the ill effects of extremism and terrorism.

I also hope that our Home Affairs Ministry will think about implementing an effective programme to sensitise all communities in Singapore to our moral obligation to help one another guard against extremism and terrorism as part of our total defence responsibility.

If we don't start to develop this approach to self-defence early and continually, any future terrorist attack on our country will damage our reputation as one of the safest places to live.

Albert Sim Kian Siang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2015, with the headline 'Now's the time to strengthen our unity'. Print Edition | Subscribe