Last week, I forwarded a letter (see at the end of this post) purportedly sent by an Italian student-priest who visited Singapore. I had received the “letter” from a religious Christian friend who divides her time between Singapore and Tasmania.
After I hit the forward-button, I got a range of responses, that were largely similar — with the exception of three. I share the responses here: the nine similar ones and the three which stood out because they took the route less travelled.
Identities of respondents have been removed to protect the “guilty” 😛
Those who agree with the letter’s sentiments:
In fact there have been even more little known jewels in the past.A friend I’ve known half a century told me of a British military family that attended her church, who took in their Malay driver’s children to help them in their studies. This was just after the war. One boy did well in school, went on to university and became a professional…a fairly unusual thing in l950’s Singapore. As many colonial families did, this one stayed after the war and became Singaporeans. We see many ex-colonials to this day at the Tanglin Club. In time the wife passed away, and the Malay family “adopted” the dependent widower who moved in with them. He was well taken care of till he died….and was given a Christian funeral. All paid for by the Muslim family.
Thank you. Yup, we take religious tolerance for granted but it is hard won.
Interesting indeed. To a large extent, very true
As a devout Muslim I fervently believe there is ONE god and He has created us all … Muslims , Christians , Buddhists , Jews , Hindus etc . Therefore I can with ease embrace everyone …no matter what our beliefs . No matter what our differences . We should accept all and let God judge us at the end of our days …
SID which does monitor closely religious harmony issues making sure that families of those arrested for jihadist activities are taken care of in terms of jobs etc, more sensitive approach than the US one of treating everyone as a combatant in Iraq wheureupon under Bremer they alienated the whole existing police force and army who could maintain law and order and lost the war.
.. so nice to hear from you and with such a powerful story. This sums up what I find to be phenomenal about Singapore…not just co-existence, but integration. Sure, there are differences of opinion and differences in behavior. But, in the end these are overshadowed by the willingness of Singaporeans to work (not just tolerate) their ‘opposites.’
Authentic or conjured, the visitor’s impression (visualized ideal?) does highlight what is achievable, given goodwill and the desire to engender communal-social harmony, at least at the formal level. This is not to say that racial-cultural prejudice, bigotry and even overt hatred against “others” will disappear entirely in a multi-ethnic society. There’s a lot to be said for maintaining “political correctness” with political disapproval of public speech and behaviour that would rile racial, cultural or religious feelings. In Malaysia, the ultra rightwing Malay “Perkasa” seems to have free rein in their public pronouncements which undermine the Government’s promotion of “1-Malaysia”.
It’s amazing how others envied the government and the state of things in Singapore while many of us took things for granted. I couldn’t image many Singaporeans waxing lyrical about how blessed we are…maybe it’s just the Asian mentality.
Yup, all those bloggers out there glibly condemning the govt for not being properly “democratic” like those in the west, and allowing anyone to say/do whatever they want, don’t have a clue as to how the religious harmony is obtained/maintained.
Those who are suspicious of the letter’s sentiments:
- It’s a very nice letter but I take exception to the phrase “Jungle of Asia”
as if our neighbours were still living on trees. How can he be religiously
tolerant when he doesn’t even appreciate the rich Buddhist and Hindu
civilisations around us that have elevated Asia many notches above
jungle-hood. Know what I mean?
- An interesting read about religious acceptance, tolerance and cohesion that appears only possible in Singapore.The author has obviously failed to address the consequences of ‘non compliance’… ie scratch the surface and find a tartar?
- Yes indeed letter to the editor is a real compliment to Singapore.If there are more like-minded people like that with moderate views, my view is that the world is a better place. But cynical me would think, is Singapore all that rosy, is the view taken from rose coloured tinted glasses. He he !!! don’t laugh if I say the wrong thing.
A Jewel in the Jungle of Asia.
Reflections of a Foreign Student on Religious Harmony in Singapore.