DPM Teo: Important for all communities, particularly minorities, to use religion for good

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said one way to strengthen interfaith relationships is for all faiths and communities in Singapore to promote mutual understanding and respect. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - All communities need to draw upon the inherent good in religion to strengthen society, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

Doing so will also help societies avoid the extremism and violence that can be brought about by a misuse of religion, he added.

This approach to religion is particularly important for minority communities, he said, as minorities thrive best in an open and welcoming society and are limited the most when societies are divided.

Mr Teo noted that interfaith peace and harmony did not come easy for Singapore, in a speech on Saturday (Oct 14) at a gala dinner marking the 85th anniversary of Jamiyah Singapore - also known as the Muslim Missionary Society Singapore.

This is why efforts by organisations like Jamiyah are particularly precious to help safeguard the country's social and religious harmony, he said.

Jamiyah, which started in 1932, now runs four welfare homes and eight education centres.

It also provides a range of community services including free dry rations for the needy, a free clinic and legal advice to people of all races.

Its founder, the late Maulana Abdul Aleem Siddique, also set up the the Inter-Religious Organisation in 1949 to foster greater understanding and respect among faiths.

Said Mr Teo: "By working together, all faiths and communities can strengthen relations between people of different religions."

He outlined three ways to do so.

One, all faiths and communities in Singapore can help promote mutual understanding and respect.

For instance, they can reject extremism and take a firm stand against netizens who denigrate other cultures and religions.

The Government has taken a strong stand against divisive teachings by preachers of any religion that could cause ill-will among communities, said Mr Teo, citing how two Muslim and two Christian preachers were recently banned from speaking in Singapore.

"These preachers encouraged intolerance and disrespect for followers of other faiths, and would have sown discord and disharmony if allowed to propagate their views in Singapore," he said.

Two, faiths and communities have their part to play in safeguarding the country's security.

Mr Teo highlighted how Singapore's Islamic teachers, known as asatizah, are well-positioned to impart religious knowledge from credible sources that takes into account the multi-religious society here.

Three, all faiths and communities can look out for one another and build a caring society, such as through volunteering.

Youths from Jamiyah, the Singapore Soka Association and the Hindu Endowments Board distribute roses that promote interfaith harmony, for instance.

"These simple acts go a long way to strengthen the trust, unity and resilience that we aspire to for our society," said Mr Teo.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.