SINGAPORE - Britain’s Prince Charles spent an hour discussing interfaith issues with over 30 religious leaders, students and youth volunteers on Tuesday (Oct 31), the second day of his official visit to Singapore.
Together with Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, he attended a dialogue at the Harmony Centre in Bishan, where he heard ideas on promoting religious harmony, ranging from ensuring there are no religious enclaves to organising school visits to different places of worship.
He was also shown translations of the Quran and books on interfaith efforts while on a tour of the Harmony Centre led by Dr Mohammad Hannan Hassan, deputy director for capacity building and interfaith engagement at the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).
They were accompanied by Dr Yaacob, Singapore's top Islamic leader Mufti Fatris Bakaram and Muis chief executive Abdul Razak Maricar.
The Harmony Centre at An-Nahdhah Mosque in Bishan has been run by Muis since 2006 to encourage inter-faith dialogue and explain Islam to the public.
Speaking at the start of the dialogue, Dr Yaacob said laws are a key part of maintaining cohesion but insufficient on their own. “We do have laws but we also want to promote harmony through mutual conversations and understanding,” he said.
He added that he hoped the session would provide an overview of the delicate balance Singapore has achieved in creating a society where faith leaders can work closely together.
He also highlighted the Bridge programme launched by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth in March this year to support inter-ethnic and inter-religious initiatives like conversations over dinner to address sensitive questions on race and religion.
After meeting the prince, Sikh Advisory Board chairman Jarmal Singh, 69, told The Straits Times Prince Charles was interested in the Inter-Religious Organisation here as the UK does not have an overarching body bringing together all religious groups.
"He said what we have here is something he will take back with him," said Mr Singh.
Madrasah student Nurhani Rehan, 17, who posed for a photo with Prince Charles and other students after the interfaith dialogue, said it was fascinating meeting someone from Britain's royal family, and good to see that he was interested in religious harmony.
"More Singaporeans should try to attend such dialogues to understand each other's faiths," she said.
She also told Prince Charles how schools here take students to various places of worship to learn about the history of these faiths in Singapore.
Earlier in the day, Prince Charles - also known as the Prince of Wales - and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, received an official welcome at the Istana, where they also called on President Halimah Yaacob and met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Prince Charles laid a wreath at the Cenotaph in Connaught Drive in memory of those who died fighting in the two World Wars. While he was at the Harmony Centre, his wife visited Temasek Junior College to meet participants of the Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition.
On Tuesday night, the royal couple will be hosted to an official dinner at the Istana by Madam Halimah and her husband, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee.