Fewer complaints about joss-paper burning, littering during Hungry Ghost Month: Koh Poh Koon

Aug 26 marked the end of the seventh month, which is also known as the Hungry Ghost Month. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Fewer complaints about joss-paper burning have been received during the Chinese seventh month this year, a sign that recent efforts by religious groups have had some success, said Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Koh Poh Koon.

Friday (Aug 26) marked the end of the seventh month, which is also known as the Hungry Ghost Month, when Taoists and Buddhists offer food and burn joss paper to honour their ancestors.

Speaking at the installation ceremony of the 37th council of the Singapore Buddhist Federation (SBF) on Saturday, Dr Koh also said he had seen a significant reduction in litter during walks around his constituency in Tampines as well as fewer complaints about littering from residents.

In his speech, he thanked the Alliance for Action (AfA) on Norms for Joss Paper Burning for educating the public on what not to do during the seventh month through posters and videos displayed at HDB blocks, supermarkets and shops selling prayer products.

The AfA, launched in July, comprises 10 organisations, including SBF, the Taoist Federation, the Singapore Religious Goods Merchants Association and the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations.

Venerable Shi You Guang, the SBF secretary-general, said that the overall message of the education was to promote social responsibility and harmony among Singaporeans.

"We do not tell people they can't burn their incense paper. We are telling them to do it properly, and suggest other ways of showing their gratitude to their ancestors such as donating to charitable causes," he said.

Dr Koh added that religious guidance was key in both helping the youth to understand the cultural significance of these practices and also educate those who practise the rituals to be more conscious of the environmental impact.

He added: "Older generations may be more used to the culture of incense burning and joss-paper burning, especially in the seventh lunar month.

"But the younger generation see some of these things as environmental pollution that does not sync with what they see as an urgent need (to protect) the earth and to be carbon neutral."

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