Singapore— According to Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, Singapore can show the world how to turn racial and religious diversity into a source of strength.
Mr Heng was speaking to over 60 people from the South-East District on August 12, Monday, at a dialogue at the launch of Temasek Foundation’s Faithful Footprints programme, designed to celebrate the country’s multi-faith heritage.
He says that working on multi-faith and multicultural harmony must be a consistent process that requires commitment.
“We have made tremendous progress, but it is a work that we must always continue because there is no final destination. It is always a work in progress, we must always continue to build on it all the time.
“We must be deeply committed to preserving this racial and religious harmony.”
The challenge is to turn Singapore’s diversity into great strength, which will help the entire global community.
“The fact that our people, our ancestors come from all over the world, that we are so diverse in terms of religious diversity, racial diversity, cultural diversity, we have new citizens, old citizens, permanent residents and so on, ought to be a great source of advantage. So we should think harder, to see how we can continue to push the envelope, to turn that diversity into a great strength, and to turn smallness into a great strength.”
The Deputy Prime Minister told attendees that Singapore is in a position to share its experiences with others in the global community in forging peaceful bonds, especially in these troubled times.
“I don’t think we should be arrogant and say, well, we are a model. Every country is different – different culture, history and tradition. But we can join hands with people around the world, to share the lessons we have learned, to share our experiences,” he says.
DPM Heng believes the racial harmony the country enjoys is something that should be taken “very seriously” and never for granted.
“Every day when you open the newspaper, you’ll find conflicts of one form or another in at least one page, which is linked to either race, language, or religion.
So for us to maintain harmony in a society that is so multiracial, multicultural and multireligious, is always an act in progress.”
He emphasizes how the country can tap the diversity within it for its own benefit, citing his own example of needing to learn Islamic finance some years back when he was the managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
He visited various countries in the Middle East to learn more on the subject, taking some Muslim colleagues from MAS with him.
DPM Heng says, “And what was most helpful to me was that I have in MAS, officers who were Muslim, who went along with me. They were teaching me all the dos and don’ts.”
This, in turn, helped him build good relationships with the Middle Eastern countries’ central bank governors as they talked to him openly on Islamic finance.
”If I’d not been able to understand the religion a little better, to be able to build a rapport, I wonder if they would be so frank with me.”/ TISG