Close to 200 leaders, members and activists from the faith, community and public sectors seized the rare opportunity to listen and learn from visiting renowned historian and political scientist and strategist, Dr Gérard Chaliand, at the inaugural IRCC Spotlight dialogue series held on 20 & 21 September.
The IRCC Spotlight series brings international experts and practitioners to share on global issues which impact harmony and cohesion of Singapore’s multicultural society. The opening lecture & dialogue ‘Polarisation – Dogma & Divide: Schism & Supremacism’ was held at The Chambers of The Arts House, with the closing lecture & dialogue ‘Text, Context & Pretext – Understanding Motivations to Radicalism & Extremism’ taking place at the Botany Centre. Dr Chaliand shared on the histories and geo-politics of Sunni-Shiite schism and white supremacism. Additionally, he touched significantly on the power of humiliation and that internal affluence mitigates external influence. Dr Noor Huda Ismail, a film-maker & research fellow at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies, graced as the co-panelist at the dialogue sessions which was moderated by CNA’s Head of International News, Mr Sujadi Siswo.
Dr. Chaliand first came to Singapore in 1976 where Singapore was more popularly known for her Bugis Street then, but now, she is envied as an economic wonder due to her realistic policies and resulting peace. This peace would be too priceless to lose. Dr Chaliand commented that though Singapore's harmonious diversity is not unique in the world, it is very rare. Only few others would probably be better than Singapore, such as Switzerland and Sweden.
As the most religiously diverse nation in the world, it is critical that Singapore must consciously and constantly make consistent and constructive engagements to assemble her people, to better understand one another clearer, bond themselves closer, and remove any divisive elements or obstacles. There can be “no illusions about depth of religious fault lines” (PM Lee Hsien Loong) here, while regionally, there are “prevailing trends towards intolerance, extremism and inter-religious strife” (PM Lee). This will be a continuous, arduous and enduring journey, but one if done with smartness and sincerity, can be fulfilling, endearing and enriching. Given the “increased polarisation around the world” (DPM Heng Swee Keat), Singapore must be “deeply committed” (DPM Heng) to continuous and constructive engagement to sustain and enhance the harmony that she has achieved.
At the dialogues, participants were encouraged to pledge their ‘Commitment’ towards safeguarding religious harmony in Singapore. The Series was presented by Humanity Matters (HM) in partnership with the Inter-Racial & Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC) and supported by the Ministry of Culture, Community & Youth (MCCY).