Bridging troubled waters: Forging cohesion in divided societies

In an era of social tension and conflict, building bridges to foster cohesion has become critical. As the classic song Bridge Over Troubled Water reminds us, we should not ignore the troubled waters under the bridges we are building.

Abortion rights activists clash with a group of anti-abortion activist street preachers, in Los Angeles, on May 14, 2022. PHOTO: AFP
New: Gift this subscriber-only story to your friends and family

At the inaugural International Conference on Cohesive Societies (ICCS) in Singapore in June 2019, President Halimah Yacob called on countries and societies to build bridges, not walls, across increasingly identitarian divides. At the same event, Dr Ali Al Nuaimi from the United Arab Emirates' Hedayah International Centre of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism reinforced this message by pointing out that we are in "an era of building bridges, not wars".

When building bridges in the context of deeply divided societies, it is important to understand the troubled water under them. Three guiding questions could help elucidate the kind of "troubled water" challenging bridge builders as they try to foster social cohesion today:

Already a subscriber? 

Read the full story and more at $9.90/month

Get exclusive reports and insights with more than 500 subscriber-only articles every month

Unlock these benefits

  • All subscriber-only content on ST app and

  • Easy access any time via ST app on 1 mobile device

  • E-paper with 2-week archive so you won't miss out on content that matters to you

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.