Parliament: New network will link religious organisations to help battle terror attack

 Leaders from various religious organisations gathered at an Interfaith Tea Reception in celebration of Hari Raya Aidilfitri 2016.
Leaders from various religious organisations gathered at an Interfaith Tea Reception in celebration of Hari Raya Aidilfitri 2016.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

SINGAPORE - A new SGSecure Community Network will be established this year to connect with all religious organisations in Singapore and help places of worship get ready in the event of a terrorist attack.

It is one of the upcoming national efforts to foster greater resilience and understanding among Singaporeans, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu in Parliament on Thursday (March 9).

The new network will complement the work of the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles (IRCCs), which promote racial and religious harmony at the constituency level, and strengthen the Government's partnership with religious organisations, Ms Fu added.

"All religious organisations should be plugged into the SGSecure movement, so that they are well-informed and can count on one another for help when the need arises,"she said. "In the hours and days after a terrorist attack, we need respected community and religious leaders to convey messages of calm and solidarity to their congregations, and to the wider community."

Earlier this year, her ministry and the Home Team held two counter-terrorism seminars for religious and community organisations. More than 500 leaders from about 180 organisations attended them, at which they were briefed on ways to keep their followers safe and how to develop crisis management plans.

Citing a session at which the Roman Catholic Archdiocese shared its crisis plan with the leaders of other faiths, Ms Fu said: "It reflected the cooperation and trust among the religious organisations". More of such seminars are in the works.

During the debate on her ministry's budget, Ms Fu also agreed with Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC) on the need for honest conversations on sensitive issues such as race and religion, especially among youths.

Her ministry has been supporting ground-up projects that do this through its Harmony Fund, she said. More plans are on the cards to deepen religious understanding.

 

"While Singaporeans support racial and religious diversity, there are still knowledge gaps around religious practices. Left unaddressed, the knowledge vacuum could be filled by irresponsible voices that seed prejudice," she said.

The ministry will work with community organisations to clarify how religions are practised in a multi-racial, multi-religious society, as well as address sensitive questions in a mutually respectful setting. Other plans include producing content such as short videos and brochures, which address common questions on the practices of different faiths, which usually go unasked.

Such efforts are crucial in these times of growing uncertainty and divisiveness around the world.

Ms Fu said: "At a time when tensions are tearing at the fabric of other countries, the bonds and bridges we build in times of peace will enable us to stand together in a crisis."