Hold inter-faith forum on Shangri-La Dialogue scale, suggests President Halimah

President Halimah Yacob, with her husband Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, taking a date offered by Muis president Mohammad Alami Musa during last night's iftar at An-Nahdhah mosque in Bishan.
President Halimah Yacob, with her husband Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, taking a date offered by Muis president Mohammad Alami Musa during last night's iftar at An-Nahdhah mosque in Bishan.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Many religious organisations here do a good job in promoting religious harmony, but there is room to take these efforts up a notch, President Halimah Yacob said yesterday.

Drawing parallels to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue on security issues, she mooted the idea of a similar high-level dialogue focused on inter-faith harmony.

"We have, for example, the Shangri-La Dialogue for security. Perhaps we can even have an inter-faith dialogue... with that same prestige and status. I think that would be really wonderful," she said.

The Shangri-La Dialogue, launched here in 2002, is a regular pow-wow where government leaders, military chiefs and experts from the Asia-Pacific discuss the latest security and defence matters.

Madam Halimah was speaking to the media on the sidelines of an iftar (break fast) event at the An-Nahdhah mosque in Bishan.

Singapore cannot assume that because there is religious harmony, "we don't have to continue to do work in order to enhance and strengthen the foundation", she said. "That would be the worst situation that we put ourselves in. We are always exposed to external forces, which are not friendly to diversity. We need to strengthen the foundation all the time."

The 200 congregants of the mosque were joined in the iftar by Madam Halimah and her husband Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli, as well as leaders from neighbouring organisations such as the Zion Bishan Bible-Presbyterian Church.

The President also toured the Harmony Centre housed within the mosque. The centre showcases the Islamic lifestyle, and aims to promote a greater understanding of Islam and Muslims.

Madam Halimah lauded the centre for its work, saying it provides a neutral platform for people to discuss religious issues, and that it helps people of other faiths understand Islam better.

Reverend Alby Yip, a senior pastor at the Zion Bishan Bible-Presbyterian Church, welcomed Madam Halimah's suggestion for a regional discussion on inter-faith harmony.

He said that when it comes to co-existence with different races and religions, Singapore is one of the few success stories in the world. "If we can share with the regional community what we do, it could perhaps help others achieve the same."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2018, with the headline 'Hold inter-faith forum on Shangri-La Dialogue scale, suggests President Halimah'. Print Edition | Subscribe