The 70th Anniversary of the Inter Religious Organisation (IRO) was celebrated at the Fullerton Hotel on 19 Dec 2018. This charity dinner was sponsored by the Far East Organisation, with all the funds raised going to six beneficiaries of different faiths. The dinner was well attended and supported.
The evening began with IRO’s “signature feature” at its events—a prayer led by 10 leaders of the various faiths for peace for the nation, good health and just rewards.
A short video of violence and armed conflict where religion is hijacked for causes by some groups and countries set the tone for the speeches by the three speakers. It was a vivid depiction of threats to religious harmony around the world.
Mr Ben Benjamin, president of IRO, reminded all present to promote peace and religious harmony in Singapore. Referring to the Maria Hertogh riots in 1950 and the racial riots in the 1960s, he emphasised how Singapore has progressed and that we should never take our religious harmony for granted.
Ms Grace Fu, the guest of honour and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, warned of the clear and present danger of taking our eyes off threats to our peace and harmony. Pledging, striving and committing to deepening cooperation among religions is as pertinent as guarding against falsehoods, hate speech and fake news, especially on social media.
Ms Dorothy Chan, the executive director of Far East Organisation and a Methodist, exhorted attendees to seek the welfare of Singapore. She quoted Jeremiah 29:7, “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you…, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
Kampong Kapor Methodist Church supported the event by sponsoring a table. TRAC President, the Rev Dr Gordon Wong, was the specially-invited guest at our table. Mr D Joseph, the associate lay leader of our Tamil Ministry, wrote: “I am thankful for the opportunity to join the inter-faith charity dinner. It was very useful to learn about the IRO. The dinner was great and it was definitely a very meaningful fellowship.”
As the event drew to a close, there was a strong shared sense that, as we celebrate religious diversity, we acknowledge a commonality of compassion and care for others across the different faiths and nationalities.
Said the Rev Kenneth Huang, Pastor-in-Charge of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church: “When promoting inter-faith harmony, we need to respect and learn from other faiths, while upholding our own. The bottom line is mutual understanding and the formation of real friendships since we are ultimately Singaporeans and residents of Singapore, regardless of race or religion.”
For the greatest of God’s commandments teaches us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30, 31)
Arthur Fong is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.
Photo courtesy of Mr Lim Shung Yar