The lessons learnt from religious studies in Kuwait should be adapted and applied to Singapore's context, said President Halimah Yacob last Sunday.
Speaking at a reception with the 17 Singapore students here, she pointed out that as future asatizah or Islamic religious teachers, they play a key role in promoting social cohesion in multiracial and multi-religious Singapore.
"All Singaporeans, including Muslims, are free to practise our religions and live harmoniously with others regardless of race and religion. Not every country enjoys this privilege. Your religious training will therefore have to be contextualised in the wonderfully diverse society we have back home," she said.
She said they have to provide "spiritual and pastoral guidance" and shape the socio-religious life of Singapore's Muslim community.
Since 1980, the Kuwait Ministry of Education has awarded scholarships to Singapore students to study at Al Mahad Al Dini High School in Kuwait City. Over 40 Singaporeans have graduated from the programme since its inception.
The programme takes students from their high school curriculum through their undergraduate studies, said Mr Sukri Ahyar, 21, president of the Singapore Students Society in Kuwait.
Madam Halimah described the Singapore student community as among the most tangible examples of the "warm and longstanding friendship" between Singapore and Kuwait. She reaffirmed the relationship when she met Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah earlier on Sunday.
Mr Sukri was 13 when he travelled alone to Kuwait for religious studies. He was a student of Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah when he was selected for the programme and is currently majoring in Islamic law.
All Singaporeans, including Muslims, are free to practise our religions and live harmoniously with others regardless of race and religion. Not every country enjoys this privilege. Your religious training will therefore have to be contextualised in the wonderfully diverse society we have back home.
PRESIDENT HALIMAH YACOB
He told The Straits Times: "This is a learning journey. It is not just about education, but about developing all aspects of life, including the emotional and psychological. I feel I have a sense of responsibility and will return to Singapore with a greater purpose."
Mr Zainul Abidin Rasheed, Singapore's non-resident ambassador to Kuwait, said at the reception: "These are the young leaders who will lead... our Muslim community in Singapore in the years to come. We certainly appreciate the sacrifices they have made in being away from their family, friends and country."
Earlier on Sunday, Madam Halimah had separate meetings with former Kuwait prime minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammed Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al Hamad Al Sabah.
Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: "During these meetings, both sides affirmed our strong links and discussed ways to increase the momentum of our bilateral engagement. They also exchanged views on developments in the Middle East."
Yesterday, Madam Halimah visited the Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre, a museum in Kuwait City celebrating the scientific and cultural achievements of Kuwaiti, Islamic and Arab history.
She has ended the Kuwait leg of her Middle East trip, and Saudi Arabia is the next stop.