SINGAPORE - They hailed from 10 different faiths, but the 10 religious leaders from the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) were united in silent prayer for the 13-year-old River Valley High School student who was killed on Monday (July 19).
Imam Syed Hassan Mohamed Al-Attas, who organised the prayer session on Friday (July 23) under the auspices of the IRO, said he was spurred to do so in the aftermath of the alleged murder and the new Covid-19 wave.
The IRO council member told The Straits Times that both incidents transcended race and religion, and the session was a similarly unifying response.
His fellow council members, including IRO president Tan Thiam Lye, rallied around the cause, rescheduling their other commitments to attend the event to pray for Singaporeans and residents.
Habib Hassan said that he felt very sad about the alleged murder, but stressed that it was an isolated incident.
"We should carry on with our lives, and things will be all right," he reassured.
"Singapore is a cosmopolitan country and we are strong together. We don't single out any race or religion - we are one."
The 13-year-old boy was cremated on Friday afternoon.
In his opening remarks at the session, Mr Tan, a Taoist leader, also highlighted another incident in which a student was injured.
"These shocking events have happened while we are troubled with another wave of rising Covid-19 cases," he said in Mandarin.
He added: "Indeed, we are facing some challenges that test our resilience. The only way to rise above these testing times is to be compassionate and caring for each other."
He also said the IRO organised the session to show care for the well-being of the Singapore community.
A silent prayer was also recited by 10 religious leaders: Habib Hassan (Muslim), Pandit Kalavanpara Ayyappan Sunil Kumar (Hindu), Rabbi Netanel Rivni (Jewish), Mr Evard Rustom M. Ghadiali (Zoroastrian), Venerable You Guang (Buddhist), Master Benjamin Tan (Taoist), Mr Ashvin Desai (Jain), Reverend Gabriel Liew (Christian), Mr Harpal Singh Jothiram (Sikh) and Mr Kuek Yi Hsing (Baha'i).
Habib Hassan also had a brief invocation for Singaporeans and the community.
"Let us raise our hands together to pray to God the almighty to shower his greatest blessings to us all today, to the innocent student from River Valley High School, and for the safety of all our primary and secondary school students, teachers, principals and their families," he said.
"We pray for a peaceful world and a peaceful Singapore free from the Covid-19 pandemic, for continued success and prosperity, in building a strong multiracial, multi-religious society based on understanding and trust."
Second Minister for Education Maliki Osman also attended the event.
In his remarks at the session, Dr Maliki affirmed that the Ministry of Education (MOE) would continue to provide support for all students and teachers affected by the RVHS incident.
"Today's inter-faith prayer session is a reflection of our strength as a society, spiritually coming together as one with those most affected by this tragic incident."
"We must continue to reject the virus of fear, selfishness, xenophobia and racism, which can be even more devastating on the human spirit and the society than the pandemic," he added.
Ms Low Yoke Kiew, MOE zonal director of schools north, was also present to express appreciation to the IRO on behalf of RVHS and the ministry.