Thursday, July 17, 2008

Racial and religious harmony cannot be just a wayang

(I didn't bother sending the following to the Straits Times after drafting a reply. Must be one of those days.)

I read with interest Jeffrey Law's letter 'Mosques show our multi-religious spirit' (ST, Jul 17).

What various religious organisations and places of worship have done over the years was to engage the community with volunteer and welfare work.

They may have a strong sense of civic consciousness, compassion and responsibility, as observed from such community-oriented initiatives.

However, it cannot be taken for granted, as such initiatives are still not indicative of multi-religious spirit, nor do they entirely contribute to racial and religious harmony.

Volunteer and welfare work is should be racially and religiously blind, among many other impartialities and neutralities. It will only deepen the divisions of our society should community-based volunteerism be confined to related or selected racial or religious communities.

To invoke the rhetoric of racial and religious harmony at times reinforces our differences and awareness of these differences.

Compassion, goodwill and volunteerism may be exercised by people and organisations within and outside socio-religious spaces, but our concept of harmony should not merely be based on the observation of these acts.

I believe racial and religious harmony should be appreciated at the ideological level.

If every Singaporean truly believes in and is willing to uphold such harmony, the acts of compassion and volunteerism are just a bonus.

Ho Chi Sam

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