Contributing to a vibrant plural society

Dr Daniel Koh Kah Soon's commentary was thought-provoking ("Taking Singapore's multiracial, multi-religious harmony to next level"; Sept 15).

He encourages everyone to consider how we can, together, contribute to a vibrant plural society, where diversity is the norm, and friendship among people of diverse beliefs is the bond that binds us together as fellow human beings.

This requires a level of self-confidence, where one dares to examine one's own beliefs and explore those of others, without feeling threatened or compromised.

It may also imply that one is willing to adapt and change one's beliefs in the light of new understanding, without fear of repercussions or restrictions by one's own faith community.

In other words, there is true freedom of belief when one can choose what to follow according to one's understanding and conscience.

These are ideal conditions that may or may not reflect the reality of our current maturity in embracing diversity and the freedom to adopt beliefs or change our beliefs.

Dr Koh suggests setting up a standalone research centre for religious studies to facilitate the exploration of the fundamental core beliefs that are unique to each belief system, and to respect these differences without glossing over them.

The focus, however, is on the common space where there are overlaps in beliefs that would enable us to expand our mutual respect for one another.

To be inclusive and comprehensive, the scope of research and studies should also include the domain of non-religious and non-theistic belief systems.

The question that remains is: How will such research and studies trickle down to affect the common people in their ability to respect and relate to one another in harmony, not out of fear, but with deep understanding of one another's uniqueness?

Thomas Lee Hock Seng (Dr)