SGSecure network to link religious groups

Mr Andre Ahchak (right), from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, with Mr Abdul Wahab, Al-Khair Mosque's vice-chairman.
Mr Andre Ahchak (right), from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, with Mr Abdul Wahab, Al-Khair Mosque's vice-chairman. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

A new SGSecure Community Network will be established to connect all religious organisations in Singapore and help places of worship get ready in the event of a terrorist attack.

It is one of the upcoming national efforts to foster greater resilience and understanding among Singaporeans, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu in Parliament yesterday.

The new network will complement the work of the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles, which promote racial and religious harmony at the constituency level, as well as strengthen the Government's partnership with religious organisations, she added.

"All religious organisations should be plugged into the SGSecure movement, so that they are well informed and can count on one another for help when the need arises," said Ms Fu during the debate on her ministry's budget.

"In the hours and days after a terrorist attack, we need respected community and religious leaders to convey messages of calm and solidarity to their congregations, and to the wider community."

Earlier this year, her ministry and the Home Team held two counter-terrorism seminars for religious and community organisations.

More than 500 leaders from about 180 organisations learnt from parties, such as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, on how to develop crisis management plans and keep their followers safe. More of such seminars are in the works.

The seminar drove home the importance of being prepared to Al-Khair Mosque vice-chairman Abdul Wahab, 61. "We're still lacking awareness on the security aspect, and we have a lot to do to get not just our staff ready, but also our congregation," he said. "Now, nowhere is completely safe from attacks."

Yesterday, Ms Fu said plans are on the horizon to deepen religious understanding, too. Gaps in understanding about religious practices still persist, she pointed out, and irresponsible voices could use this to sow seeds of prejudice.

Her ministry will work with community organisations to clarify how religions are practised in a multiracial, multi-religious society, as well as address sensitive questions in a mutually respectful setting.

Such efforts to band together are crucial in today's uncertain global climate.

She said: "At a time when tensions are tearing at the fabric of other countries, the bonds and bridges we build in times of peace will enable us to stand together in a crisis."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2017, with the headline 'SGSecure network to link religious groups'. Print Edition | Subscribe