Learning journeys to places of worship for Singaporeans to know more about religion and culture

At the Silat Road Sikh Temple, participants attended a "crash course" on the Sikh religion and cultural norms. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Taoist priest-in-training Kendrick Goh with a fellow participant, Ms Gwee Siew Theng, at the Silat Road Sikh Temple. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - From a Buddhist monk to Taoist priests, the students attending a class at the Silat Road Sikh Temple on Saturday afternoon (June 22) were an unusual bunch.

Throughout the one-hour long sharing session, the group of about 25 people from different races and religions asked the Sikh lecturers about their daily lives.

One participant asked how they bring their daggers - a religious item to be carried on them at all times - through airport security.

The answer? Check-in baggage, said a bemused lecturer.

Such casual conversation about religion and culture is what the session's organisers, Onepeople.sg, a ground-up national body that promotes racial and religious harmony, had hoped to elicit through eight different learning journeys to various religious sites on Saturday (June 22).

The learning journeys are part of a series of public events exploring racial and religious matters - the post-International Conference on Cohesive Societies (ICCS) 2019 engagement events. The conference concluded on Friday (June 21), and other activities include public dialogues with community stakeholders such as academic experts on religion.

Onepeople.sg's director Ramesh Ganeson said he hopes the events are a good platform for the public to talk about racial and religious issues.

Tolerance is often the first thing that comes to mind when people think about race relations, but there is a limit to tolerance, said Mr Ramesh.

"What we're trying to do is build a culture of understanding, where you know, people can understand shared values and respect and trust. These things are not easy to build, we must first start talking abut things that matter,"he said.

About 500 participants took part in Saturday's events.

They toured religious sites such as a Taoist monastery, Loyang Tua Pek Kong Temple, Hindu temple Chettiar's Temple, Roman Catholic church, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, and mosque Masjid Kampung Siglap.

At the Sikh Temple on Silat Road, also known as the Gurdwara Sahib Silat Road, participants attended a 'crash course' on the Sikh religion and cultural norms. They also visited the temple's prayer hall, dining area and memorial.

Mr Lim Boon Kheng, 53, said he came for the event as he wanted to learn more about the Sikh culture.

"The essence of the religion is not that different from the others... there's a focus on cleanliness (and purity)," said Mr Lim, a Buddhist, who had heard about the event from leaders at the Buddhist organisation he volunteers at.

Participants at the Silat Road Sikh Temple on June 22, 2019. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Another participant, Taoist priest-in-training Mr Kendrick Goh, 23, said it was an excellent opportunity for the public to speak to religious leaders about their religion.

"It's like ICCS for the masses,"he said.

The post-conference activities will continue on Sunday (June 23) with a public dialogue about the Abrahamic faiths, which consists of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, racial and religious prejudice and stereotypes, and fake news.

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