SINGAPORE - The way to help families at-risk is not to see them as victims that need saving, but as potential leaders, said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli.
It means they should not just be given handouts, but also support in building and growing their family assets, he added.
This includes providing quality education to children, and encouraging parents to embrace lifelong learning and upgrade their skills.
Mr Masagos made this call for a mindset change in supporting vulnerable families on Thursday (June 28) at an annual Hari Raya gathering – the first he hosted as minister for his community.
He said the Malay/Muslim community has "shared in the fruits of Singapore's progress" because it strove hard together.
Nearly 40 per cent of Malays in Singapore have post-secondary or higher qualifications, up from 31 per cent eight years ago, he noted.
But this is not enough, he said, citing how 51 per cent of Chinese and 63 per cent of Indians have achieved this. There is space for the community to do better by focusing on education and helping one another, he added.
"We can do better, and we will, if everyone in our community continues to apply the same can-do spirit, diligence and drive that have spurred our community forward all these years," said Mr Masagos, who is also the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources.
The celebration was attended by, among others, community and religious leaders as well as ministers, including Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.
Besides stressing the importance of nurturing stronger families and instilling a spirit of lifelong learning, Mr Masagos also called on those who are more successful to help those in need.
"Our community is strong when everyone stands shoulder-to-shoulder as equals," he said.
He also outlined various challenges, including the threat from insidious ideologies "that erode our culture and values, and threaten our way of life".
He called on everyone in the community to stand united, and warned against divisive teachings.
"We may feel that our way is the only right way, and teach our children not to interact with those who do not share our views. Beware of such negative influences that seek to divide us, because this will be our weakness and downfall," he said.
The solution to such challenges, he said, lies in cooperation between key community institutions - the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), self-help group Mendaki and the People's Association Malay Activity Executive Committees Council (Mesra).
He termed this collaboration as M^3, and said the institutions will also work with other community organisations to improve support for the community.
Mr Masagos said he is confident that no one in the community will be left behind, if every member and institution works together towards its shared goals.
He added that success is not only about getting to the top. Rather, it is about overcoming struggles, leading a dignified life, and always giving back to society.
"I believe too that success in life is not solely due to our own strengths, but because everyone cared for each other in good times and bad,'' he said, adding: "It takes a village, not just to raise a child, but for the whole village to do well."