Forum: Shared values a good starting point for race, religion dialogues

Several useful suggestions to ensure positive, unprejudiced and gracious conversation were made by Islamic Religious Council of Singapore president Mohammad Alami Musa (How to engage the young in race and religion dialogues, Aug 8).

Singapore has enjoyed religious harmony for decades but this should not be taken for granted.

The proliferation of fake news and hate speech on social media makes it necessary for us to be more vigilant to ensure our differences do not divide us.

In recent incidents of offensive speech, the acts were born not so much out of hatred as out of ignorance. Hence, it is not enough to be tolerant. We need to take an active approach to bridge the gap through dialogue based on shared values.

I agree with Mr Alami's point that a conversation - not a debate - on emotive subjects like race or religion involves talking about both commonalities and authentic differences. I would add that there is enough common ground for people of diverse faith traditions to begin a meaningful conversation.

Kindness, for instance, is a shared value embraced by all races and religions.

Meaningful dialogue that starts with shared values fosters a more harmonious society where values of kindness and empathy are affirmed and strengthened.

At a national level, we can have a conversation based on the common thread of kindness in all religions.

Parents can use everyday moments and opportunities to teach their children to practise empathy and understanding, fostering a more inclusive home.

Encouraging our children to have friends of all races and teaching them about different cultures will help dispel misconceptions that we hold about others.

When we can have open, honest and meaningful conversations about race and religion, we are more likely to be bonded by our shared values, while respecting our differences, as we practise our own faith passionately and yet be compassionate to all.

William Wan

General Secretary

Singapore Kindness Movement

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