Don't just depend on 'staged' events to grow cohesion

It was reassuring to read about Singaporeans from different cultures and religions walking in unison to visit religious and community organisations to promote greater understanding and trust among various communities ("Walking on the side of religious harmony"; Sept 19).

The Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles Walk-In-Harmony organisers are to be congratulated for such a community gathering.

Events organised by government agencies, organisations, community centres, schools and other groups help to reinforce the need for greater cohesiveness and empathy among the diverse community groups.

However, we should be mindful that these are "staged" and do not accurately reflect the way various communities interact on a daily basis.

We have to accept our racial, cultural, social and religious differences as transparent and real, otherwise stereotyping will continue.

The single most important ingredient for racial cohesiveness and harmony is educating people to not merely tolerate, but more importantly, understand, appreciate, embrace and respect differences in cultural practices, social customs, religious ceremonies, living styles and mannerisms.

These qualities should evolve naturally and publicly, so that the differences, though present, would not be accentuated.

In addition, the settings of public life, where people can mingle and become comfortable in one another's presence, should be expanded in such a way that cohesiveness will evolve naturally.

We should embrace the fact that we are dependent upon and accountable to one another, now that the world is getting more globalised and boundaries are blurred.

Ultimately, the soul of Singapore rests on its citizens. All of us have to work together hand in hand and accept our differences. Racial and religious tolerance cannot evolve by chance.

V. Subramaniam (Dr)