High-level inter-faith meet on the cards

President Halimah Yacob had in May 2018 mooted the idea of holding a high-level dialogue on inter-faith harmony similar to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue.
President Halimah Yacob had in May 2018 mooted the idea of holding a high-level dialogue on inter-faith harmony similar to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue.PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore could host a high-level international dialogue focused on inter-faith harmony as soon as next year - if the idea mooted recently by President Halimah Yacob takes shape.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Madam Halimah said she is working with government agencies here on the details of the proposed dialogue, which she hopes will be on a similar level and have similar recognition as the annual Shangri-La Dialogue on security issues.

"While we are celebrating our religious and racial diversity as something that is good for us, in many other countries it is seen as a difficulty, a source of conflict," she said, speaking on the sidelines of the 15th Inter Racial Inter Religious Harmony Nite.

"What we need to do is to see how we can share this understanding and that's why I have suggested we have a high-level conference that encompasses not only Singapore but also other parts of the world."

Asked when the dialogue could be held, Madam Halimah said she hopes Singaporeans can look forward to it "maybe next year".

In May, Madam Halimah had mooted the idea of holding a high-level dialogue on inter-faith harmony similar to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, where government leaders, military chiefs and experts from the Asia-Pacific discuss latest security and defence matters.

She said it would be "really wonderful" to have an inter-faith dialogue with that same level of prestige and status.

Yesterday, she reiterated that Singapore's racial and religious harmony has not been by chance but by design through many progressive policies and practices, and that this harmony should constantly be broadened to embrace a wider part of society.

"We should not look at racial and religious harmony just as a source to prevent extremism, but rather we should see it as a way to develop people to respect and accommodate each other, to contribute towards the improvement of humanity," said Madam Halimah.

She was guest of honour at the event, held at Singapore Expo, which marks the importance of racial and religious harmony here. In attendance were more than 2,200 Singaporeans and new citizens, as well as ambassadors and foreign diplomats from 18 countries.

At the event which featured various cultural performances, Madam Halimah signed 15 pieces of jigsaw that will be presented to the 15 ministries in Singapore, as a gesture of appreciation for their contribution towards racial and religious harmony.

The event was organised by Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society and seven other partners.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 15, 2018, with the headline 'High-level inter-faith meet on the cards'. Print Edition | Subscribe