SINGAPORE - One of the oldest charities here is a Buddhist entity whose philanthropic work extends to all people, regardless of race and religion.
In doing so, the 87-year-old Singapore Buddhist Lodge exemplifies a spirit that is necessary - and encouraged - in Singapore's multicultural society, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam on Saturday (July 10).
He noted, for instance, that more than half of primary and secondary school bursaries given out by the lodge last year had gone to Malay and Indian students.
Mr Shanmugam was delivering a speech as guest of honour at a ceremony to inaugurate the lodge's latest board of directors as well as welfare and education foundation councils. The event was held in two separate locations on the lodge's premises in Kim Yam Road, in observance of pandemic safe distancing measures.
Describing the lodge as a key religious and charitable organisation with a long and rich history, Mr Shanmugam said many of its initiatives continue to benefit people in the broader community.
He highlighted how it has been giving out three vegetarian meals a day, all year round, since the 1980s. More than 500 meals are served on each weekday, and up to 2,000 on each weekend day.
Some 30 years ago, it set up a family service centre in Tampines to provide counselling and outreach programmes. Last year alone, these programmes saw more than 600 cases.
Since 1979, Singapore Buddhist Lodge's education foundation has given out more than $21 million of bursaries up to the Institute of Technical Education, polytechnic and university levels.
For the past 72 years, the welfare foundation has also been distributing hongbao to people in need as well as seniors every Chinese New Year. Over $15 million has been raised and given out to more than 300,000 beneficiaries.
Some of these initiatives have been carried out in partnership with the likes of Muslim welfare organisation Jamiyah Singapore and the Hindu Endowments Board.
The lodge is also one of nearly 700 religious signatories to the Commitment to Safeguard Religious Harmony in Singapore. To affirm the pledge is to show that there are positive ways of interacting between religions and encouraging different faiths to be tolerant towards one another, said Mr Shanmugam.
He had stressed this point earlier in the day, when asked to comment on a formal apology issued on Friday by former lecturer Tan Boon Lee for his bigoted outburst against an inter-ethnic couple in June.
The Chinese man's remarks ignited a national conversation on race and led Mr Shanmugam to say then that he was "not so sure any more" that Singapore was moving in the right direction on racial harmony.
The minister told reporters on Saturday: "I just hope that we will continue to work towards a Singapore that is even more tolerant and more understanding across all the races. It's not the duty of any particular race only. It's all of us."
Additional reporting by Jasmine Choong