New space to foster religious amity

An exhibit at the Harmony in Diversity Gallery.
An exhibit at the Harmony in Diversity Gallery. ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

It is part of SGSecure push to preserve and strengthen community's values, way of life

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

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

These rituals are highlighted at the Ministry of Home Affairs' new Harmony in Diversity Gallery at the Ministry of National Development Building in Maxwell Road. It was launched yesterday by President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

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

The first features an interactive quiz that seeks 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. Among the examples featured are two online petitions last year. The first was against mass animal slaughter as part of the Korban ritual, which resulted in a counter-petition calling 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 common spaces and "streets of harmony". One example is Telok Ayer Street, home to the former Nagore Dargah shrine, Thian Hock Keng temple, Al-Abrar Mosque and Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church.

The showcase ends in the fourth, with visitors being encouraged to make a personal pledge to protect Singapore's religious harmony.

The new space was created in collaboration with community partners such as the Inter-Religious Organisation, which mooted the idea last year. The facility's board of advisers will be chaired by Singapore Management University provost Lily Kong, who also served as adviser for the project.

The S. Rajaratnam Endowment will sponsor and support outreach and engagement programmes.

Dr Tan said theHarmony in Diversity 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."

Raffles Institution student Jared Foong, 16, who toured the gallery with his classmates, said: "The gallery covers how we can find similarities among our differences."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2016, with the headline 'New space to foster religious amity'. Print Edition | Subscribe