Our religious harmony, just like racial harmony, is always work-in-progress. It is precious but fragile.
The religious harmony that Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh observes in Aljunied GRC is reflected across the whole of Singapore.
This harmony is a treasure that all Singaporeans can be proud of. It therefore warms the cockles of my heart to see Mr Pritam Singh acknowledging this harmony.
It is a harmony that has been built painstakingly over time – through the generations, through the efforts of individuals as we live together, engage one another, offer help to one another, through organisations like Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles (IRCCs) which are the local-level inter-faith platforms in every constituency, formed to promote racial and religious harmony, and through legislation like the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (MRHA).
Underlying these efforts is a commitment to build a home together.
It is a home built on the ideal of a multi-racial and multi-religious society, where everyone has the freedom to choose and practice his or her religion, provided the same freedom is afforded to others.
At all times, one must therefore remember to speak responsibly, especially when one is an MP elected to represent a multi-racial and multi-religious people, speak with the full conviction of our words, and speak not merely to be politically correct so as to stay out of controversy.
In short, speak with sincerity, putting the interests of the community above self and party.
A deliberate choice
When Singapore became independent, our founding fathers made a deliberate choice to build our nation based on a multi-racial, multi-religious society, as an expression of what Singapore stands for.
It was a novel idea at that time. Most newly independent countries opted to entrench a dominant race, language and religion, because it was the easier and primordial path. It is done out of a tribal instinct to protect its identity and ensure its existence.
Singapore did not go down this primordial path. We forge a novel path and today, multiculturalism and the sharing of societal space has become an integral part of our Singapore identity.
So let us not regress to the primordial path with careless words that promote enmity between different races or religions. It starts with leaders.