Singapore—The country’s Minister for Communications and Information emphasised the role of religious and community leaders to keep ties between ethnic and faith groups strong.
At a dialogue at the Tentera Di Raja Mosque in Clementi Road on Sunday, April 14, Mr Iswaran called the work that these leaders do as “absolutely critical and cannot be taken for granted.” He added that the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles (IRCCs) have a big part in safeguarding relations between communities in an atmosphere which is sometimes challenging to social cohesion when issues such as fake news and reports of terrorism abound.
He said, “The IRCCs play a very important role at the community level, bringing together the different groups and working together in order to build strong bridges of understanding.
These things that we do are important because they help to build these bridges. Once it breaks, it is very hard to fix back. So it is better to keep it as strong as we can.”
Mr Iswaran issued a warning concerning how important it is to guard against hate speech and fake news on the internet, especially on social media. These, he emphasized, could be causes of disharmony between the various ethnic and faith groups in the country.
The dialogue was organised in connection with the West Coast GRC’s IRCC appointment ceremony, in the wake of last month’s mass shooting in two mosques in New Zealand, wherein 50 people were killed and the same number injured.
With Mr Iswaran at the dialogue was Foo Mee Har, his fellow West Coast GRC MP. She pointed out that the people of New Zealand came together in unity after the horrific massacre.
This shows, she said, that the manner with which people react to an incident can send a strong message to terrorists.
Mr Iswaran also told the people present at the dialogue that terrorist incidents may happen at any place in the world. He said to them, “There is a constant threat to multiracial and multi-religious harmony. No matter which country you are in, you are not immune to the threat.”
According to the Minister for Communications and Information, any endeavor to engage people from different groups, including even seemingly little ones such as sharing food participating in festivals, can cause people to learn about each other and forge strong friendships.
He added, ”We should not wait for an incident to happen before we make an effort to reach out, understand and build those bonds. If we do this regularly, there will be a lot less room for misunderstanding.”
Recently, other government officials have also been focusing on the importance of keeping social cohesion through maintaining racial and religious harmony, such as Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam and also Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong./TISG