NZ attack reminder that peace cannot be taken for granted: ESM Goh , Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

NZ attack reminder that peace cannot be taken for granted: ESM Goh

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ESM Goh says work to keep Singapore united is never done

To celebrate 70 years of work to build religious harmony, the Inter-Religious Organisation, Singapore (IRO) planned the launch of an exhibition at Far East Plaza yesterday.

Friday's terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed 50 cast a pall on the gathering.

But the group's patron and president resolved to redouble efforts to deepen inter-faith harmony so that Singapore remains united and peaceful.

"The heinous acts... are a sad reminder that the peace we enjoy is both precious and fragile, and cannot be taken for granted," said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who is the IRO's patron.

IRO president Ben Benjamin said "events of the past week remind us to constantly address hate and divisiveness wherever we may find it".

He added: "It is in precisely these difficult moments that we fill ourselves with a sense of renewed resolve to continue to build inter-faith understanding and knowledge in Singapore, and that we stand in greater unity to send a clear message that senseless acts of terror and intolerance only serve to galvanise and unite us as one people."

Mr Goh noted the IRO has contributed substantively to Singapore's religious harmony.

"Singapore's multi-religious harmony is an exception rather than a norm in the world," he said, adding: "Our work to keep Singapore united and peaceful is never done."

Mr Goh noted rising religiosity has led to concerns that some groups could seek to impose their beliefs on others. Segregationist practices imported through foreign preachers and social media also threaten to reduce the common space in society.

"Regardless of our own beliefs, we must always protect the freedom to interact with one another as friends, neighbours and fellow Singaporeans."

Mr Goh urged religious leaders and Singaporeans to work on four priorities: preserve and grow the common space; guard against extremism, segregationist practices, hate speech, online falsehoods and condemn acts of terror or violence; enhance interactions between different communities; and strengthen Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles (IRCCs).

IRCCs were set up in every constituency after the 9/11 terror attacks on the US to deepen trust among communities.

Mr Benjamin said from May, the group will grow its online presence with content on inter-faith topics aimed at youth.

It will also collaborate with the National Library Board to organise gatherings focused on building inter-faith knowledge.

The exhibition at the concourse of Far East Plaza is open to all from 11am to 8pm daily until March 31. Free guided tours are available.