Non-Sikhs get crash course on community's culture and religion

Taoist priest-in-training Kendrick Goh, 23, and fellow learning journey participant Gwee Siew Theng, 49, being served food by volunteers at Silat Road Sikh Temple yesterday. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Taoist priest-in-training Kendrick Goh, 23, and fellow learning journey participant Gwee Siew Theng, 49, being served food by volunteers at Silat Road Sikh Temple yesterday. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

From a Buddhist monk to Taoist priests, the students attending a class at Silat Road Sikh Temple yesterday were an unusual bunch.

Throughout the 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 take 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 yesterday.

The learning journeys are part of the Heartland Dialogues and Experiences, a series of events exploring racial and religious matters following the International Conference on Cohesive Societies (ICCS) 2019, which concluded last Friday.

Other activities included public dialogues with community stakeholders such as academic experts on religion.

Onepeople.sg 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, he said.

"What we're trying to do is to 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 about things that matter," he said.

About 500 participants took part in yesterday's events.

They toured religious sites such as the Loyang Tua Pek Kong Temple, a Taoist monastery; the Hindu Sri Thendayuthapani Temple; the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Good Shepherd; and Masjid Kampung Siglap.

At the Silat Road Sikh Temple, also known as 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 attended the event as he wanted to learn more about 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 heard about the event from leaders of the Buddhist organisation he volunteers at.

Another participant, Taoist priest-in-training 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 today with a public dialogue about the Abrahamic faiths, which consist of Judaism, Christianity and Islam; racial and religious prejudice and stereotypes; and fake news.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 23, 2019, with the headline 'Non-Sikhs get crash course on community's culture and religion'. Print Edition | Subscribe