The Harmony Games, an ecumenical event, is organised each year by a different religious group, and this year, the cycle went a complete round back to the National Council of Churches (NCCS).
This year’s Games was held on 24 August at Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church (TA CMC)—a Chinese Annual Conference church that has just celebrated its 130th anniversary. TA CMC was gazetted as a national monument in 1989, which made it an appropriate location for an event of such significance and value.
A total of 31 groups registered for this year’s Harmony Games—these included Muslim students from Islamic studies at Madrasah Wak Tanjong Al-Islamiah, Catholic students from CHIJ St Theresa’s Convent, as well as Christian students from Trinity Theological College. There were young students, along with senior members of our local community from groups such as the Singapore Taoist Federation, the Sri Mariamman Temple as well as the Singapore Khalsa Association.
Even while most participants arrived donned in their own organisation’s garb, as each of them changed into the Harmony Games T-shirt, the place eventually transformed into a sea of blue. An act as simple as wearing the blue event shirts caused everyone to view themselves as fellow Games participants and teammates for the day, rather than associating each other with the separate organisations they were originally from.
The first main event was the Explorers Race, in which participants in mixed groups visited various religious sites such as the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, and the Al-Abrar Mosque. When participants reassembled back at the church, they excitedly discussed what they had learnt about each site, such as how to perform the Taoist way of greeting that they had learnt at Yu Huang Gong, while wearing the flower garlands they had weaved together at the Sri Mariamman Temple.
The second main event, the Explorers Board Game, was held at TA CMC and conducted by students from the Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. In this modified version of Monopoly, participants took turns rolling the dice while “collecting” religious sites on the game board. Part of the gameplay involved old, familiar game components where kuti kuti was used as the in-game currency, and mini-games, such as five stones and the “eraser game” were played, allowing senior participants to relive their childhood days.
Participants unanimously enjoyed the event. A first-time Games attendee, a student from Madrasah Wak Tanjong Al-Islamiah, felt that it was a good opportunity to have different religions come together.
Ms Grace Fu, the Minister of Culture, Community and Youth, was the guest of honour. She toured the church while church leaders who shared with her about the church’s heritage. She also met up with the religious leaders present.
As everyone gathered in the church sanctuary at the end of the day, Bishop Terry Kee, chairman of (NCCS), delivered a short message. He said, “We do not have to be the same [to] be friends. We can be different and still work together for the common good. […] We are different but we are all Singaporeans, all human beings, all good friends.”
As everyone, young and old, recited the declaration of religious harmony in one voice, I felt comforted in the realisation that harmony across different faiths and creeds is possible. And the prominent presence of the younger generation that day assured me that, surely, harmony can also be a future reality.
Elena Yeo is currently a pastoral ministry staff at Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church, serving in the children and youth ministry.
Photos courtesy of National Council of Churches Singapore