Forum on social cohesion, interfaith harmony in June

The first international conference in Singapore on social cohesion and interfaith harmony will take place from June 19 to 21 at the Raffles City Convention Centre, President Halimah Yacob said yesterday.

The International Conference on Cohesive Societies will bring together local and international thought leaders across academia, government, religious groups and the civic sector to share their experiences and ideas as well as collaborate and encourage people to rally their own communities to develop social cohesion, she said.

It will be organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and supported by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

"The purpose of the conference is very clear... to bridge the divide and to ensure that we build a more cohesive society," said Madam Halimah, who was speaking on the sidelines of her visit to the Chinese Development Assistance Council in Tampines. She had first mooted the idea last year.

"It is also to ensure that we strengthen trust among the communities and this is important because we saw what happened in Christchurch, therefore we cannot overemphasise the importance of cohesion and harmony.

"This is always a work in progress, there will always be new threats ... so it is an effort we must constantly invest in."

She urged all Singaporeans to engage and understand other communities and faith cultures.


Madam Halimah also addressed concerns about a survey published on Thursday by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) in which 15 per cent of 1,800 residents in Singapore said they found Muslims threatening.

"There is so much disinformation and false narratives about Islam spread in the media and online by Islamaphobes that these have caused some to fear Muslims," she said.

"I think what IPS needs to do is probably follow up and drill down a lot more as to why there is that apprehension or concern," she added, encouraging people to reach out to the Inter-Religious Organisation if they are uncertain about other faith communities.

She lauded how communities in New Zealand came together to support one another, after a white supremacist attacked two mosques in Christchurch, killing 50 people and injuring 42.

"The important thing is to invest during times of peace, not to scramble when something happens. We cannot be complacent," Madam Halimah said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 31, 2019, with the headline 'Forum on social cohesion, interfaith harmony in June'. Print Edition | Subscribe