Learning journeys crucial to integration

Participants in the "You're Prejudiced. And You Are Biased. Admit it." workshop.
Participants in the "You're Prejudiced. And You Are Biased. Admit it." workshop.PHOTO: ONEPEOPLE.SG

I must commend Onepeople.sg for organising activities that promote racial and religious harmony (Non-Sikhs get crash course on community's culture and religion, June 23).

The role of religion in people's daily lives and interactions is a crucial factor to keep in mind. This is because religion can be an explosive issue, more so than race, as it is a form of spiritual belief that exists on a higher plane of emotion.

Therefore, issues on race and religion have to be carefully nurtured and cultivated by the state and citizens working in concert so that mutual understanding and trust become second nature to residents.

Learning journeys like the ones highlighted in the report are an excellent avenue that help to wipe out ignorant fixed notions and negative perceptions people have.

There is a real need to learn to appreciate the intricacies of diversity. With more of such opportunities, people of different ethnic groups, cultures, creeds and origins learn to not only tolerate one another's beliefs, lifestyles, social norms and religious practices, but also understand, appreciate and celebrate them.

Few Singaporeans, for example, know why Hindu women wear a "pottu" (dot on the forehead), why Sikhs keep long hair, wear bangles and keep daggers, why Muslims bring their hands to their hearts when meeting someone, why wine is sometimes served at Eurasian funerals, and why Buddhists abstain from meat on certain days of the lunar month.

Such learning journeys should be introduced early in homes and in schools so that young people learn to appreciate conflicting viewpoints in a way that opens them to a larger worldview.

It should never be forgotten that all it takes is just one insensitive racist or religious remark from a member of the public to upset the racial and religious harmony and peace that have been the hallmarks of our nation.

V. Subramaniam (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2019, with the headline 'Learning journeys crucial to integration'. Print Edition | Subscribe