Kindness a universal trait that binds humans

I thank Mr Kwan Jin Yao and Dr Yeoh Teng Kwong for their responses (Relook how interfaith dialogues are conducted, May 8; and Focus on being human in push for harmony in society, May 8; respectively).

They provided useful suggestions and valid questions on how we can promote religious harmony among Singaporeans - including those who do not identify with a religion - while maintaining freedom of speech.

Ideally, we should all be passionate about our own faith, whatever that may be.

By faith, I include secularism, which is also faith in something non-religious.

At the same time, we ought to be compassionate in our relationship with one another and, therefore, be more sensitive to others and less quick to be offended.

I like the idea of focusing on our common humanity.

More specifically, I like the fact that all religions value kindness, as does secularism.

Empathy and humility are integral to the value of kindness.

It takes empathy and humility to engage a person of a differing religious view without feeling threatened, to be truly understanding and accepting of one another's differences and to celebrate our commonality.

It also takes maturity for a person to be secure in his identity and to be unshaken by criticism.

In an era of digitalisation, where people increasingly turn to social media to air their views, we need to be discerning, and not blindly accept views of an offensive or extremist nature.

We are a truly multi-faith society and our socio-religious harmony did not happen by chance, but through deliberate choices, policies and the collective will of our people.

It is, therefore, incumbent upon each one of us to proactively build bridges in our daily interactions.

Kindness is the universal human trait that binds us and reminds us of our common humanity.

We can be greater together when we speak with kindness, even with changing public discourse and the threat of terrorism and violence reaching our shores.

William Wan (Dr)

General Secretary

Singapore Kindness Movement

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2019, with the headline 'Kindness a universal trait that binds humans'. Print Edition | Subscribe