Reflections from IRCC National Convention 2018
The IRCC held its first inaugural inter-faith dialogue on 27th Jan and I was most fortunate to be able to join as a participant with some of BW Monastery’s youth members. As far as my understanding goes, this was the first time where all the clusters of IRCC in different locations and communities came together.
Post the welcome address by the President Ms Halimah Yacob and Minister Grace Fu, participants participated in one of the 5 breakout sessions that include: “Jihad Selfie” – Dialogue on Countering Radicalization, The ties that overcome threats to Trust, Inconvenient Questions on Race and Religion, Common senses for common spaces and #SpeakUpSpeakout Workshop. I had participated in the 3rd topic of interest.
It was an eye-opener as quite a number of sensitive questions were posed by the audience. Some of these include why Christians seemingly have a need to evangelize wherever they go. What is the take on the LGBT community in Singapore by the Christians? Is Buddhism more a religion or a spirituality pursuit? Why do Taoist have to burnt paper money all the time? And what is it about more women in hell than men as described in Islam? Most of these were answered by the respective religious leaders of the different faith. It was also interesting to note that according to Pew Research Centre, for a small country with about 5million in population, we have the highest religious diversity index in the world.
On reflection, what I gathered was that often we may not always have ready avenues to ask the subject matter experts on the different religions as this topic is frequently deemed sensitive itself. Hence, most times, we formed our views based on personal experience or what we could have read or heard somewhere without fully understanding the subject. Having such breakout session was valuable for people to clarify their questions and doubts. It created a common space for Singaporeans to ask and push the envelope of what sensitivity entails.
At the end of the session, what was obvious for me was that we are a unique society with a lot of freedom when it comes to religious practice. It would be such a dream fertile ground for academic investigation. However, to sustain this uniqueness, no one’s faith should be above the other and we should live together on a common set of Singaporean values.
As the society matures, having such open discussions at a greater frequency can only enrich and add more colors to our lives.
Leow P Shan