Welcome Remarks by Mr Ong Keng Yong, Ambassador of the Republic of Singapore, Executive Deputy Chairman of RSIS, at the Opening Dinner of the International Conference On Cohesive Societies 2019
19 June 2019
Her Excellency, Madam Halimah Yacob, President of the Republic of Singapore
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good evening to all and welcome to the International Conference on Cohesive Societies.
This Conference is organised to bring together religious and community leaders, policy makers, scholars and young people to share and develop ideas on how to strengthen social cohesion.
You might have noticed the “Many Beliefs, One Future” exhibition which is a part of the ICCS. The exhibition presents community artefacts and artworks that capture how people of different faiths and traditions connect with one another, whether as individuals, families, communities, or as nations, across history and in our present day.
We meet today in an age of increased connectivity and rapid technological development. While positive, they have also brought on challenges, especially when coupled with intensifying identity politics. We are seeing more conflicts and clashes among communities nowadays, heightened and spread like wildfire by connectivity.
We live in a time where conversations surrounding race and religion are often marred by negative emotions such as hatred and fear. The place of worship has become the target of violence instead of a peaceful sanctuary for believers.
Going forward, constructive and effective conversations on interfaith issues need to take place. Mutual respect and trust can only be restored when there is awareness and understanding.
Tonight’s dinner is an excellent opportunity to start our conversations. Through your mingling and interaction over the next few days, we hope you will pick up ideas from one another about building cohesive societies and how to sustain social cohesion in diverse societies. Let us work together to build a community of advocates for cohesive societies. Our wish is to celebrate dialogue and harmonious co-existence.
In a while, we will hear how local religious leaders in Singapore have worked together for the past year on an initiative to re-affirm their commitment to shared values that uphold religious harmony. We are pleased that the presentation of this Commitment to Safeguard Religious Harmony is held in conjunction with the ICCS.
Peaceful cohesive societies are our collective endeavour. We can achieve this if all of us are committed to this ideal.
I hope you will enjoy the dinner conversations. Our energetic team has also included some special performances for this opening dinner of the ICCS.
Thank you for being here.