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Programme to build interfaith understanding enhanced and extended to wider audience

The Straits Times | 4 February 2022

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong (fourth from left) at the launch of the expanded Faithful Footprints interfaith heritage programme on Feb 4, 2022

SINGAPORE - A programme to build awareness, understanding and trust across faith groups has been enhanced and made available to a wider audience.

The enhanced Faithful Footprints interfaith heritage programme was launched by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong on Friday (Feb 4) at the Ministry of National Development building and will begin in March.

The programme is now expanded to include grassroots, youth and Inter-racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC) leaders, and alumni of niche schools - madrasahs and Special Assistance Plan schools.

First piloted in 2019, it was meant to help better acquaint and assimilate non-native citizens and residents, as well as students of niche schools.

It aimed to help them understand Singapore's model of multiculturalism through experiential journeys and stories of the contributions and collaborations of pioneer migrant and faith communities here.

Humanitarian interfaith organisation Humanity Matters, which runs the programme, has now made it more comprehensive.

It has beefed up the original three segments - a walking trail, a gallery tour and a fireside talk - to five by adding a video trailer for the programme and breakout sessions for participants to share and discuss pressing and prevailing issues that affect social cohesion, confidence and resilience.

Mr Tong noted that while Singapore is seen as a model of harmony to be emulated by other societies, it must not rest on its laurels.

"We can still do so much more to create and maintain common spaces and positive lived experiences, where people of different faiths, cultures and beliefs, can come together and share that appreciation and deepen that understanding," he said.

"The day we say that we arrive at a destination is the day we stop trying to accommodate and we stop trying to move forward. I see this as a constant journey, a work in progress of coming together and learning about one another."

He called on people to continually reach out and talk to one another, to understand things from a different perspective.

The pilot that began in 2019 drew 518 participants over 20 runs of the six-hour programme.

On Friday, 16 participants, comprising members of the IRCC and grassroots organisations, non-native citizens and residents and alumni of niche schools, took part in the new programme, supported by the National Integration Council.

The launch was held in conjunction with the United Nations International Day of Human Fraternity on Feb 4, which seeks to promote cultural and religious tolerance, as well as the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Friday's programme included a tour of the Harmony in Diversity Gallery at the Ministry of National Development building and a 1.7km trail that took them across eight places of worship in the Bencoolen Street area.

Mr Yiu Bin Hao, 26, a Bukit Batok East Youth Network member, said the most interesting part of the trail was the Maghain Aboth Synagogue as he had never been in a Jewish place of worship.

"I got to see how the interior looked like, and the rabbi explained the prayers and the items inside," he said.

"I think more Singaporeans should be exposed to the different religious sites and understand what they are doing inside and what the religious practices are.

"Embracing different religions is not just about knowing and reading about them but also experiencing, seeing and understanding the rationale behind them."


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