Religious beliefs can be exploited for political ends

The recent call by Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman to safeguard social cohesion and religious harmony is timely and necessary in the light of the global acts of terrorismand threats of violence to our country (Safeguard interfaith cohesion: Maliki; June 11).

Dr Maliki accurately indicated that some of the fights overseas "do not necessarily bear religious causes", but are the result of local or regional politics, or tribal and sectarian strife.

This means that such conflicts are not a clash of religions, but a political battle among people of different ideologies, with religious beliefs being exploited to justify them. It is a matter of secular issues and challenges that we face in society.

It is right and proper to condemn discrimination, xenophobia, chauvinism, radicalisation and extremism, which disrupt our interfaith harmony and destroy our social cohesion.

More religious communities must step forward to declare their abhorrence for the use of violence to resolve conflicts, and proclaim their support for peace and harmony.

More should stand in solidarity with the victims of terrorism.

To be effective in maintaining harmony and cohesion, more people of faith should engage in the public sphere to address and resolve the different issues - religious and secular - that give rise to animosity.

This can be achieved when we enter into intentional and intensive study of and dialogue on our beliefs and doctrines that promote peace and harmony.

Living in the most religiously diverse nation in the world, we have a responsibility to affirm pluralism in our peaceful co-existence, with unity in diversity.

Yap Kim Hao (Rev Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2017, with the headline 'Religious beliefs can be exploited for political ends'. Print Edition | Subscribe