Want to understand Hinduism? Step into a temple
Attending religious ceremonies of a religion different from your own can foster harmony, say religious leadersBy Tan Tarn How
RELIGIOUS leaders here yesterday joined hands in urging Singaporeans to focus on the similarities between their many faiths, and to maintain peace and harmony in what some described as 'special times'.
Speaking at the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) Observance Day, some of the leaders also admitted that creating inter-religious understanding and respect was not always easy.
Mr V. R. Nathan, the Vice-President of IRO and chairman of the Hindu Endowments Board, said: 'We have achieved co-operation among the leaders of the religions but we cannot say honestly that we have achieved this cooperation at the lower levels.'
That was why, he added, the IRO was trying to foster more understanding among faiths.
It was doing this by encouraging people to attend ceremonies of religions different from theirs.
The IRO is a non-governmental organisation that seeks to promote understanding and interaction between followers of different religions.
At yesterday's event, representatives from each of the nine religions under it offered prayers for a united and harmonious Singapore.
Representatives from each of the religions spoke on the theme 'Towards One Nation'.
Some of them noted that recent world events, such as the terrorist attacks on America and the religious troubles in places such as the Middle East and India, had given this year's observance ceremony particular significance.
Venerable Ming Yi, president of the IRO, said: 'We must vigilantly guard against destabilising influences like the threat of terrorism, fanaticism, religious strife and corrupt values from weakening our social framework.'
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, who will be the new Acting Minister for Community Development and Sports from March 25, also addressed the need for people to work at achieving religious harmony.
Singaporeans could not take the country's peace and harmony for granted, he said, and urged believers to be moderate and responsible, and the communities to interact more.
The guest of honour, President S. R. Nathan, launched the IRO website ( www.iro.org.sg ) and a book about the nine faiths - Hinduism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, and the Baha'i faith.
He said religious harmony here was strong because most people were steadfast in their respect and sensitivity towards others.
He added: 'A little irritation will come from time to time, but if all of us are spiritually strong and our bonds are formed, we can withstand them.'
©Copyright 2002, The Straits Times (Singapore)