S R Nathan a 'sterling stalwart' of religious harmony

The late president S R Nathan was a "sterling stalwart" who was instrumental in the development of Singapore's Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) and in encouraging interfaith understanding among youth.

IRO vice-president Ben J. Benjamin, in a citation for an award for Mr Nathan, said: "His service to promote religious harmony continued till his last days, leaving a lasting impression on many of us."

Mr Nathan was patron of the IRO from 2012 to 2016, when he died in August.

Yesterday, he was given the Honorary Posthumous IRO Award for his commitment in promoting the cause of inter-religious cohesion and harmony.

Mrs S R Nathan received the award for her husband from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during a gala dinner to commemorate the IRO's 70th anniversary. PM Lee said Mr Nathan exemplified what the IRO stood for, was passionate about its mission, and provided invaluable advice and wisdom.

In the citation, Mr Benjamin said the IRO was "close to Mr Nathan's heart" and the late president had supported IRO leaders and members in reiterating the message of peace and harmony among members of different religions.

His guidance also enabled the IRO to steer efforts to promote interfaith understanding among Singaporean youth, noted Mr Benjamin. To illustrate, he quoted from an interview Mr Nathan gave reporters at a National Day gathering in 2015: "Our young must learn how to tolerate each other - each other's religion, each other's race, each other's language, and think of ourselves as Singaporean."

The IRO's current patron is Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong presenting an award yesterday to Mrs S R Nathan for her husband, the late president S R Nathan, for his efforts in promoting religious harmony. With him was Venerable Kwang Phing (far right), president of Singapore's In
S R Nathan honoured for role in S'pore's religious harmony: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong presenting an award yesterday to Mrs S R Nathan for her husband, the late president S R Nathan, for his efforts in promoting religious harmony. With him was Venerable Kwang Phing (far right), president of Singapore's Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO). Mr Nathan, patron of the IRO from 2012 to 2016, exemplified what it stood for and provided invaluable advice and wisdom, said PM Lee at a dinner to mark the IRO's 70th anniversary. To honour his contributions, the IRO gave Mr Nathan the Honorary Posthumous IRO Award. The award recognises individuals for their contribution to the promotion of religious harmony in Singapore. Others who have received the award include former mufti Syed Isa Mohamed Semait and the late Mr Lee Bock Guan, former president of the Singapore Buddhist Lodge. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Founded in 1949, the IRO represents the 10 major religions in Singapore: the Baha'i faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, Taoism and Zoroastrianism.

Adrian Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2019, with the headline 'S R Nathan a 'sterling stalwart' of religious harmony'. Print Edition | Subscribe