Work in unity to strengthen social harmony: Grace Fu

A performance by Singaporeans and new immigrants at the Victoria Theatre yesterday. It was jointly organised by the People's Association Integration Council and the National Integration Council to promote greater integration.
A performance by Singaporeans and new immigrants at the Victoria Theatre yesterday. It was jointly organised by the People's Association Integration Council and the National Integration Council to promote greater integration.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
It is critical that different community groups continue to build trust with one another, says Ms Grace Fu.
It is critical that different community groups continue to build trust with one another, says Ms Grace Fu. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

While global forces like technological advancements have improved societies, their gains are unevenly distributed and may put a strain on social cohesion.

"Those who are left behind may retreat into communities based on their faith, ethnicity, status or ideology," said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu yesterday.

Citing the two terror attacks on Christchurch mosques last month as an example of the threats society faces, she underscored how everyone has a part to play in strengthening Singapore's social harmony.

She was speaking at the start of a performance by Singaporeans and new immigrants at the Victoria Theatre. It was jointly organised by the People's Association Integration Council and the National Integration Council (NIC), which she chairs.

To foster stronger bonds, Ms Fu said, people should ensure that online falsehoods which seek to sow discord in this multiracial, multi-ethnic society "do not remain unchecked and take a life of their own". "We have to work in unity to counter groups or people who are spreading falsehoods to aggravate fault lines in our society, and capitalise on insecurities in some segments of our society," she said.

Thus, it is also critical that different community groups continue to build trust with one another.

She added that the authorities will embark on a series of public engagement and get new ideas on how to improve integration for newcomers to the island.

"Integration does not always require big ideas or formal projects... Something as simple as getting to know the people around us in our neighbourhoods and workplaces would be a good start," she said.

"With time and without prejudices, friendships will develop."

Ms Fu also pointed to Singapore's bicentennial as a reminder to reflect on the country's journey.

Having started out as an entrepot open to international business, the nation flourished as its pioneers brought with them skills, resources and networks "much larger than Singapore", she noted.

Even languages and cultures here have taken elements from one another, she added, citing unique words such as "ba sha", the Mandarin phrase for market, which in turn came from "pasar" in Malay or "bazar" in Persian.

Yesterday's play featured more than 60 Singaporeans and foreigners, who rehearsed for four months. In doing so, many of them drew closer, Ms Fu said.

It was the latest effort to promote greater integration between new immigrants and Singaporeans by the NIC, which was set up in 2009.

Looking ahead, Ms Fu said, the NIC will see how it can encourage greater acceptance of foreigners in an increasingly diverse society, and establish shared norms and values.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 07, 2019, with the headline 'Work in unity to strengthen social harmony: Grace Fu'. Print Edition | Subscribe