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In Conjunction with World Humanitarian Day


Singaporeans revisit inspiring old wisdom as global challenges mount  

Humanity Matters (HM) held its second The Majulah Assembly 2021 (TMA21), a unique ground-up National Day community observance which brings together Singaporeans to rejoice on the country’s sovereignty and social harmony, while reflecting on the nation’s role and responsibility as good citizens, locally and regionally.  It was also a time for reflection and to remind each other of what is most valuable in Singaporeans’ lives and in Singapore – where “the destiny of a people is not measured by its numbers or the area of its territory.  What matters is the quality of its people, the spirit in them” [Lee Kuan Yew, 1966].


Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Chairman of Humanity Matters, welcomed the Assembly of forty participants at the Chamber@Arts House.  This year’s TMA21 coincided with the United Nations World Humanitarian Day (WHD).  Hence, the topic for the dialogue and forum – ‘Faith & Disaster Management’, which discussed and underscored the community’s role in risk reduction, readiness, response and resilience, in relation to natural disasters, pandemics and social conflicts.  Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Indranee Rajah graced the occasion as the Guest-of Honour and delivered the Opening Keynote (refer attached).  Parliamentary Secretary Eric Chua moderated an online interfaith and intercultural youth dialogue.  This was followed by a ‘live’ forum with relevant field specialists on the topic of growing interest and pressing concern. (list of speakers appended below).


While the world continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic, Southeast Asia remains one of the most disaster–prone areas in the world.  Super typhoons and widespread floods have not only damaged lives and livelihoods, but also destroyed rice fields, farmlands and agricultural plantations.  Rising levels have not only altered coastlines but also intruded into rivers, causing floods, and damaging freshwater aquaculture and agriculture.  Increasing temperatures of oceanwaters have caused millions of sea creatures to die periodically.  And the effects on Singapore and Singaporeans – the one most basic needs for survival – food security.  Additionally, the world, with Singapore included, is also facing a mounting challenge of social and ideological conflicts. They come in the forms of terror acts by organisations, groups or lone wolves; increasing non-peaceful protests; ethnic polarisation, religious extremism and exclusivism, and xenophobia.  In August 2019, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reminded that there can be “no illusions about depth of religious fault lines” here, while regionally, there are “prevailing trends towards intolerance, extremism and inter-religious strife”.


In his welcome address, Ambassador Ong shared, “Given the inter-connectedness of the modern world, it is therefore extremely important that we remain constantly conscious that whatever happens around us, would certainly have splinter effects on our socio-economic harmony, growth and sustainability.  As a young and small nation, the destiny of our future generations hinges on how we act and navigate through this current journey and its challenges.  We must ensure that the Majulah spirit within us, since our independence, must allow our young to have those same opportunities that we had, to enjoy and excel as happy and worthy human beings, as they continue to fly our nation’s flag, in their pursuit of betterment for their family, community, country and humanity.” 


A 1-minute collective observance in silence marked Singaporeans’ gratitude and hope for continuing peace and progress, and to salute humanitarian workers, including the Covid-19 frontline service personnel, here in Singapore, and across the world.


Singapore’s popular singer, Stefanie Sun, who had walked the grounds of tsunami-stricken Aceh and quake-hit Sichuan to help support humanitarian relief and recovery efforts, shared her wishes and hopes for Singapore and Singaporeans.  A beautiful rendition of soulful tunes from the 10 main faiths, entitled ‘One Humanity’, was played to inspire harmony for humanity.  This original rendition was arranged by Jonathan Shin and played by Tangent Moves, a budding local quartet mentored by Lionel Tan, a founding member of Singapore’s premiere classical string group T’ang Quartet.     


At its inaugural run last year, President Halimah Yacob addressed the hybrid assemblies from The Istana.  An interfaith and intercultural youth panel, moderated by Ms Tin Pei Ling, discussed the topic ‘Living with The Enemy’, sharing on how Covid-19 ought to be dealt with from the spiritual lens and social sense.  The Main Assembly was held at the Pasir Panjang Power Station (PPPS), and the live-recording reached 50,000 netizens.

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