Monday, 18 May 2015

Buddhist community has set tone of tolerance and acceptance of other faiths: PM Lee

Values of inclusiveness, unity will keep S'pore going: PM Lee
That involves the better off stepping forward to help the less fortunate
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 16 May 2015

AS SINGAPORE celebrates its 50th birthday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called on its people to reflect on the values of unity and inclusiveness that have brought the country this far and will keep it going.

These values are not dissimilar from Buddhist values such as kindness, tolerance, compassion, selflessness and moral integrity, he said at a concert yesterday organised by the Singapore Buddhist Federation (SBF) to celebrate Vesak Day next month and SG50.

Elaborating on the values important to Singapore, Mr Lee said inclusiveness involves the strong and the better off stepping forward to help the weak and less fortunate, "so that all enjoy the fruits of progress".

He also said it is crucial to stay "one united people, where different races and religions can work together for the common good".

"We must uphold these important values, because if we stay together and stay harmonious, we will build a stronger and a better Singapore for all of us," he added.

Mr Lee said he was grateful that the Buddhist community, as the largest religious group here, has set the tone of "tolerance and acceptance of other faiths".

"We have shown, over the last half century, that with mutual respect and understanding, different religions can come together to build trust and harmony," he said.

"That people from different religions share common values that inspire us to look beyond ourselves and care for the others who are around us."

The Buddhist community has done good works to help Singaporeans regardless of their race, language or religion, he told the more than 6,000 concertgoers.

Citing the Singapore Buddhist Free Clinic, he noted that its seven branches give free medical services to sick and needy people.

The Metta Welfare Association also runs nine welfare centres that provide care and education for the elderly, students and children.

This year, the SBF worked with the Muis Harmony Centre - set up to explain Islam to members of the public - on the Building Bridges Programme, which promotes interfaith understanding.

The Buddhist community has spared no effort in education too, setting up Maha Bodhi School, Mee Toh School and Manjusri Secondary School, Mr Lee added.

The three schools' combined choir of students were among the 600 performers who took to the stage at last night's concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Other acts included South Korea's award-winning Didim Dance Company, in its first performance here, and the thousand-arm Bodhisattva by the Beijing Soul Inspiring Art Troupe.

SBF's president, the Venerable Seck Kwang Phing, said the foundations for Singaporeans to co- exist in peace and harmony are aligned with the teachings of the Dharma.

"We hope all Singaporeans will always treasure the ideal of maintenance of harmony, and feel duty-bound to uphold this ideal in order to ensure everlasting stability and happiness."

The Singapore Buddhist Federation Vesak & SG50 Concert was a double celebration. The colourful and spectacular event was...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Friday, May 15, 2015

Deepening inter-faith understanding critical today: Sam Tan
Dialogue between religions 'increasingly important'
By Olivia Ho, The Sunday Times, 17 May 2015

Singapore's religious harmony may amaze foreigners, but it was "hard-won", and deepening the understanding between religions through dialogue is increasingly critical today.

This was the message from Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Sam Tan Chin Siong yesterday morning at an event to find common ground between Islam and Buddhism.

Speaking at the Building Bridges seminar at the Singapore Islamic Hub, he said Singapore "has been a trailblazer in fostering religious harmony".

Singapore is "a place where we can house a Jewish synagogue, a Hindu temple and a Buddhist temple on the same street", he said.

"This may seem very normal to all of us. However, when I travel to other countries for government work, my counterparts often tell me how amazed they are at this and that it isn't even imaginable in their own communities."

But it should not be taken for granted.

Mr Tan recalled how his family lived in a small Chinese kampung in Jurong which was next to a Malay kampung. The latter's leader came over to personally assure the Chinese that his kampung would defend theirs in the event of danger.

"But in other parts of Singapore, people did not have the good fortune of encountering an enlightened man like him, and some lost their lives in the riots," he said.

Yesterday's event was organised by the Harmony Centre of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore and the Singapore Buddhist Federation (SBF).

It was opened by the Mufti of Singapore, Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, and the SBF's president, Venerable Seck Kwang Phing.

Leaders from 10 faith communities here attended the seminar, along with about 300 participants across religions.

Mr Tan stressed the importance of involving more young people in interfaith dialogue and noted that more than 200 youth ambassadors attended the Ignite Faiths Youth Camp, an interfaith retreat for youth leaders, in March.

"I am very happy to see many youth leaders at this event as well," he said, referring to the seminar.


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