Racial, Religious Integration Ongoing Work: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday (4 Oct) that racial and religious integration is an ongoing challenge, and stressed that the harmony Singapore enjoys today is not natural, but an “act of will” sustained over many decades.

Addressing community and religious leaders at a forum held by OnePeople.sg, a national body focused on promoting racial and religious harmony, Mr Lee said that race and religion remain "difficult and sensitive" issues for any society. He added that while there is room for open discussion, it is unwise to assume there is no need to be careful when dealing with such issues.

Describing the harmonious state of affairs here as one of Singapore’s “most remarkable achievements”,  Mr Lee said that Singapore’s pioneers had strongly believed in the ideal of a multiracial society where all are treated equal. Singaporeans had also supported many hard decisions along the way.

In some ways, racial and religious matters are more complicated now than 50 years ago, as seen from “incidents with a racial tinge”, said Mr Lee who cited posts on social media and decisions over religious rites for births in mixed marriages as examples.

However, even as Singapore preserves harmony within its borders, it must be vigilant over external threats. Mr Lee said: “...We’ve got to be on our guard. If (terrorism) comes to Singapore, we must be very, very careful that we don’t let it pull our fabric apart.”

Mr Lee urged racial ties to be nurtured and built upon, through advocacy groups such as OnePeople.sg and inter-faith platforms such as the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles in every constituency.

He also cited a 2013 Institute of Policy Studies and OnePeople.sg survey, which found that while all respondents believed in racial and religious harmony, fewer than half had at least one close friend of another race.

“For many people, the friendships are still within the family or still within their own groups. So I think we have to continue to work on it and to do better,” said Mr Lee.

Source: “Racial, religious integration in Singapore an ongoing work: PM Lee Hsien Loong” (Straits Times, 5 October 2015) and “Complacent and dangerous if racial, religious harmony taken for granted: PM” (TODAY, 5 October 2015)

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