Home Affairs Ministry launches gallery aimed at sharing importance of religious harmony

President Tony Tan officially launches the Harmony in Diversity Gallery. Joining him are Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean, and Minister for Culture, Com
President Tony Tan officially launches the Harmony in Diversity Gallery. Joining him are Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean, and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu. PHOTO: MHA
President Tony Tan interacts with a student from St. Nicholas Girls’ School at the Harmony in Diversity Gallery.
President Tony Tan interacts with a student from St. Nicholas Girls’ School at the Harmony in Diversity Gallery.PHOTO: MHA
CHIJ Saint Nicholas Girls School students watching a video about the Maria Hertogh riots at the Harmony in Diversity Gallery on Sept 2, 2016.
CHIJ Saint Nicholas Girls School students watching a video about the Maria Hertogh riots at the Harmony in Diversity Gallery on Sept 2, 2016. ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN
Displays featuring artefacts from the different religions in Singapore at the Harmony in Diversity Gallery on Aug 2, 2016.
Displays featuring artefacts from the different religions in Singapore at the Harmony in Diversity Gallery on Aug 2, 2016.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN
Christian artifacts at the exhibit include Rosary beads and a Bible.
Christian artifacts at the exhibit include Rosary beads and a Bible. ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN
Taoist artifacts at the exhibit include a Tao Te Ching.
Taoist artifacts at the exhibit include a Tao Te Ching.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN
Jewish Scriptures and a Kippah were displayed at the Harmony in Diversity Gallery.
Jewish Scriptures and a Kippah were displayed at the Harmony in Diversity Gallery.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

SINGAPORE - Meditation and taking pilgrimages to holy places, are some of the common practices among Singapore's faith communities.

For instance, beyond the more well-known haj - where Muslims travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad to perform one of the five pillars of Islam, Jains also make pilgrimages to Shatrunjaya in India which is home to nearly 1,000 temples and shrines.

These common threads are highlighted at the Ministry of Home Affairs' new Harmony in Diversity Gallery at the Ministry of National Development on Maxwell Road. It was launched today (Sept 2) by President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

Part of the SGSecure counter-terrorism movement's community cohesion pillar, it features four galleries aimed at sharing the importance of religious harmony.

In his opening speech, Dr Tan said the gallery exemplifies what the SGSecure movement is about. "It is the community identifying what is important to Singapore and developing solutions to preserve and strengthen our values and way of life."

He added that communal harmony remains a work-in progress that must be consciously tended.

The first gallery features an interactive quiz to pique the interest of visitors, and seek their opinions on the country's religious diversity and harmony.

The second features the commonalities across different religions such as values and practices. It also highlights that Singapore is not immune to religious conflict and tensions. One of the examples featured include two online petitions last year.

The first was against mass animal slaughter as part of the Korban ritual, which resulted in a counter petition which called for the banning of the Hungry Ghost Festival.

Another highlight is a multimedia exhibit on the Maria Hertogh riots featuring re-enactments based on sources such as court affidavits and oral history interviews.

The third highlights the country's common spaces and "streets of harmony". One example is Telok Ayer Street which is home to the former Nagore Dargah shrine, Thian Hock Keng temple, Al-Abrar Mosque, and the Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church.

The showcase ends by encouraging visitors to make a personal pledge to protect Singapore's religious harmony.

The gallery was produced in collaboration with community partners such as the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) which had mooted the idea last year.

The gallery's board of advisors will be chaired by Singapore Management University provost, Professor Lily Kong who had also served as advisor for the project.

Mr Noor Mohamed Marican, the legal advisor and member of the IRO council, said the gallery comes at an appropriate time.

He said: "It's a dangerous world that we live in today, people can get radicalised from the internet. The gallery targets the young, who have not been through times of crisis. We are giving them the duty to live in harmony and take possession of this duty."

Raffles Institution student Jared Foong, 16, who went on a tour of the gallery along with his classmates, as part of its soft launch, said: "The gallery covers how we can find similarities among our differences. It also deals with the issue of religious tensions in Singapore and what we can do to resolve this.

"It's a positive way to encourage people to build a first step to build a harmonious Singapore."