“We Christians believe in the faith tremendous that in Christ Jesus, God is breaking down the walls, and barriers, and partitions, and prejudices that separate us as races and as religions.”
—The Rev. Dr. H. B. Amstutz, Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southeast Asia, 1956–64
To celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Imam Syed Hassan Al-Attas of the Ba’alwie Mosque and his family opened their hearts and home to leaders of other faith communities on 5 June 2019. Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung, Bishop Emeritus Dr Wee Boon Hup, the Rev and Mrs Tay Kay Leong, Pastor and Mrs Anthony Phua, and I were privileged to be included.
A very well respected Muslim leader, Imam Syed Hassan Al-Attas has made invaluable contributions to religious peace in Singapore. The visit to his home helped build inter-religious friendships as we enjoyed his kind hospitality over a shared meal.
Most of us find security and comfort with people of our own nationality, culture, race, social status and religion. If this is left unchecked by spiritual discernment, it may morph into identity politics and tribalism. So much suffering in the world today is caused by prejudice, tribalism, hatred and religious conflict. The recent terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand and Sri Lanka underscore the importance of racial and religious harmony.
As Singapore celebrates our Bicentennial, Methodists can contribute to nation building by promoting religious peace both on a national level and on a personal level.
On a national level, we are grateful to Her Excellency Madam Halimah Yacob, the President of Singapore, for initiating the “International Conference on Cohesive Societies” held in June. Delegates from far and near came to celebrate our common humanity, to affirm our love and care for one another and to build cohesive societies. Methodists served as panellists, youth facilitators and delegates. We even hosted a visit to Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church. The Methodist Church in Singapore is among one of the 250 religious organisations that have affirmed our shared Commitment to Safeguard Religious Harmony.1
On a personal level, we need to make a conscious effort to interact with others beyond our circle of familiarity. We do this with godly wisdom and without compromising our Christian faith.
In closing, I would like to share a prayer I crafted. It was adapted from the statement issued by the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) in response to the Christchurch mosque attacks.
“God of justice, may this incident serve as a reminder to us of the need for members of different religious and racial communities to interact with and know one another on a personal level, in order to dispel harmful stereotypes that might lead to exclusion, discrimination and, in the worst cases, outright violence. Help your Church to continue to work closely with other religious leaders to promote peace and better understanding amongst the followers of the various faiths. Amen.”
The Rev Gabriel Liew is a Pastor of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.