Foster racial harmony in 'natural settings'

The celebrations that took place in schools last month to mark Racial Harmony Day, coupled with calls by our leaders for racial and religious harmony, hold greater significance than ever before, coming after several terrorist attacks that have rocked the world ("Safeguard our cohesion amid a divided world" by Mr Dhevarajan Devadas and "'Need to build on racial harmony'"; both published on July 22).

However, while such events are well intentioned, it should not be forgotten that they also formalise ethnic differences.

At this stage of our development, it is crucial that racial harmony be heard and not merely seen in the form of "staged" performances and activities on Racial Harmony Day.

Interaction among students in school is not enough to foster social cohesion and racial harmony, as it does not reflect the "natural setting" in which these ethnic groups interact on a daily basis.

In the July 22 report, junior college student Lim Yan Zhi rightly pointed out the importance of public spaces in neighbourhoods for people of different cultures to mix and mingle.

It is imperative that avenues, opportunities and resources be strengthened and expanded so that people of different ethnic groups, cultures, creeds and origins can meet and become comfortable in one another's presence.

By so doing, they learn to not only tolerate one another's lifestyles, religious beliefs, and social and cultural norms, but also understand, appreciate and celebrate them.

V. Subramaniam (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2016, with the headline 'Foster racial harmony in 'natural settings''. Print Edition | Subscribe