Getting all on board to foster racial and religious harmony

The Harmony Train, a collaboration between the Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society and the National Youth Council, has decals with messages promoting racial and religious harmony. It will run along the North-East Line throughout next month - which is both Ha
The Harmony Train, a collaboration between the Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society and the National Youth Council, has decals with messages promoting racial and religious harmony. It will run along the North-East Line throughout next month - which is both Harmony Month and Youth Month.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Heng Swee Keat highlights ways to guard against division after recent attacks abroad

Stressing the importance of harmony in the face of divisions is timely, in the light of recent terror attacks in Britain, Brussels and the Philippines, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

"When differences threaten to divide us, we have to remember our common goals," he said.

"We want our home to be a place offering good opportunities to all, to each achieve our personal aspirations and do our best for our loved ones; and a peaceful place, rich with genuine friendship and neighbourliness, where bonds of care and love help us over the bumps in the road."

Mr Heng was at the launch of the Harmony Train at HarbourFront MRT station yesterday morning.

He also noted the threat of self-radicalisation here. For instance, the case of infant care assistant Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, 22, who was detained for radicalism under the Internal Security Act earlier this month.

To guard against divisions along racial and religious lines, as well as foster harmony, Mr Heng highlighted three steps that Singaporeans can take.

First, understanding that Singaporeans, though coming from diverse backgrounds, have a common goal of ensuring a harmonious society. This includes wanting a home to be a place offering good opportunities to all, and one that is peaceful, said Mr Heng.

COMMON GOAL

We want our home to be a place offering good opportunities to all, to each achieve our personal aspirations and do our best for our loved ones; and a peaceful place, rich with genuine friendship and neighbourliness, where bonds of care and love help us over the bumps in the road.

FINANCE MINISTER HENG SWEE KEAT

Second, people should make the most of Singapore's diversity through frank and frequent communication. "Use the journey (towards harmony) to understand one another - put across our point of view, and also listen with an open mind and heart," he said.

And lastly, harmony is a continuous "work-in-progress"."We don't just reach a final point and say to ourselves, 'We're there already, no need to make any more effort'," Mr Heng said.

The Harmony Train is a collaboration between the Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society and the National Youth Council. It has been decked out in decals with messages promoting racial and religious harmony, including "Our Strength lies in Diversity" and "Stand up for Harmony".

It will run along the North-East Line throughout next month - which is both Harmony Month and Youth Month.

Last year, Mr Heng missed the launch of the Harmony Truck, a roving truck that reached out to some 45,000 people, after he suffered a stroke just days before the event.

Logos of more than 100 brands and businesses, including Eu Yan Sang and Ben & Jerry's, have been inscribed on the inside of the train cabins, as a pledge of their commitment to racial and religious harmony in Singapore.

Sales executive Keav Kho, 33, who was one of the first on the train, said promoting racial and religious harmony is particularly important amid the global threat of terrorism. "We don't want to single out or stereotype any particular race or religion that might be linked with terrorism," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2017, with the headline 'Getting all on board to foster racial and religious harmony'. Print Edition | Subscribe