Photo above: Two of our representatives (far left) at the ‘Roadmap for Interfaith Action’ interfaith dialogue’ organized by Critical Xchange (CRIX) last week. Photo by CRIX.
On Feb 12, 2017, the Humanist Society (Singapore) sent two representatives (far left) to a dialogue called ‘Roadmap to Interfaith Action’, organised by Critical Xchange (CRIX). The dialogue engaged faith leaders from various faith organisations and communities in Singapore and selected youth faith leaders.
Topics at the dialogue include 1) learning from experiences and challenges in past and present interfaith action in Singapore, and 2) interfaith action for the future. The dialogue is aimed at offering a platform for learning and building on interfaith cooperation, and provide opportunities for tangible action involving inter-generational teams.
Besides our Humanist Society, other organisations attending the dialogue include: The Free Community Church, Harmony Centre, Islamicevents.sg, Turkish Cultural Centre, United Indian Muslim Association, Young Sikh Association – Singapore, and Youths Of Darul Arqam – YODA.
At the dialogue, participants expressed concern that many interfaith meetings have poor follow-up or low actionables other than more sharing sessions or dialogues. Although participants shared more ideas on how interfaith meetings can be improved, there were not many substantial or memorable ideas, other than suggestions to have more contact exchanges and attending more of each other’s events.
Dialogue participants also said that while conservative religious leaders are responsible for a lot of divisiveness, the younger generation tends to be more accepting and liberal. I remarked at this point that if only liberal types attended interfaith sessions then it would be an echo chamber. I felt that conservative or traditional theists should be approached and invited to sound out points of disagreement, although this would naturally be difficult to do.
There was more talk about being creating a more open-minded, multiracial and multireligious society that is inclusive of Singapore’ diversity. Everyone was asked to suggest potential projects or points of collaboration on a piece of paper and drop them in a box.
My other Humanist Society representative, Yue Kong, pointed out concerns among freethinkers about deathbed proselytising. Some participants also said that it is important to learn other people’s cultural sensitivities in order to be respectful. In response, I said that people shouldn’t get into such an uproar if people don’t know everything about everyone. A faux pas doesn’t lead to social strife, I added.
We gave a short rundown on our activities/events to the whole group. Yue Kong mentioned the upcoming Darwin’s Day 2017 event. I mentioned the Humanist Society’s monthly event, the Humanist Cafe, and explained how humanists as a diverse group managed disagreements amongst ourselves in terms of ideology, ethics and politics. The key to managing differences is staying welcoming of differences in opinion as a way to learn from each other. In response, some participants felt that they can learn from how humanists accept and even celebrate differences.
Although we managed to raise awareness of the Humanist Society’s activities, I felt that overall, this interfaith dialogue was not very fruitful and productive in terms of sharing and learning. Participants never spent time on points of potential disagreement with each other, or sources of social strife.
Written by Bryan Gan, one of the two representatives at the CRIX dialogue.