President Halimah Yacob has mooted the idea of a high-level dialogue focused on inter-faith harmony similar to the Shangri-La Dialogue on security issues held here every year. That parley, regarded widely as the region's most important security forum, is attended by the defence ministers and military chiefs of 28 Asia-Pacific countries, including the United States, China and Indonesia. The dialogue has helped to put Singapore on the global map of strategic discourse.
President Halimah's suggestion is a worthwhile one in that context. The unfortunate but unavoidable association of religion with extremism and terrorism has turned religion, which is intended to be a supreme source of spiritual uplift and deliverance, into a security issue. Thus, meetings such as the Shangri-La Dialogue are compelled to treat religion in terms of its deformation at the hands of suicide bombers, mass killers and such like. Indeed, terrorism has risen from being a low-level security threat to an existential one that endangers societies at their core. Yet, faiths are much greater than the nefarious efforts of some or even many people to divert common belief to the pursuit of political and personal ends. Had faiths not been so strong, none of the great global religions could have survived this long. They would have descended long ago into a continuous war of each against every other that would have destroyed their transcendental power.