Coronavirus: Inter-faith group calls for empathy, urges against targeting migrants

The Inter-Religious Organisation dissuaded the use of negative comments against the migrant community. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Stand united in safeguarding social cohesion amid the Covid-19 outbreak here, the country's inter-faith organisation has urged Singaporeans following reports of discrimination.

In a statement yesterday, the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) encouraged members of the public to keep in touch with those from diverse faiths and backgrounds, and dissuaded the use of negative comments against the migrant community.

"Negative sentiments typecasting our migrant brothers and sisters are inappropriate and against our national values. They are members of our Singapore community, helping build our ecosystem," the organisation said.

The IRO, which comprises representatives from the Hindu, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Taoist, Jain, Christian, Islam, Sikh and Baha'i communities, added that it is saddened by the big rise in the number of coronavirus cases and will continue to pray for the patients and their families.

It directed those who need emotional support to call the National Care hotline on 6202-6868.

Venerable Kwang Phing, president of the IRO, said: "We should not say anything that hurts each other. Instead, we should show compassion and empathise with each other.

"This will strengthen our relationships with members of our Singapore community. Together, we can overcome the challenging days."

On Sunday, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu noted how some communities have been singled out during the coronavirus outbreak.

In a Facebook post, she wrote: "I am heartened to know that many Singaporeans are expressing care and support to the vulnerable among us. However, it pains me when I read about some who are singling out certain communities and directing their frustration at them, in the name of upholding the measures.

"We must not condone behaviour that discriminates or intimidates others of another race, community or nationality."

Last Friday, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said that a forum letter published in Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao that linked the Covid-19 outbreak in dormitories to foreign workers' personal hygiene and living habits showed racism and deep insensitivity.

The letter, published last Tuesday, also showed a lack of understanding of why there has been Covid-19 transmission among Singapore's foreign worker population, he added.

While the average number of cases in the local community has stayed stable in recent days, the number of cases in dormitories has soared to the thousands and they now form the majority of new cases.

This is primarily due to communal living and is not just a question of personal habits, Mr Shanmugam told Zaobao.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: Inter-faith group calls for empathy, urges against targeting migrants. Subscribe