Edwin Tong is refreshing Harmony Circles for a S’pore that looks beyond differences 

It is easy to take the racial and religious harmony which we enjoy in Singapore for granted. We live alongside our Chinese, Indian and Malay neighbours peacefully, and it is not uncommon to see Christian churches, Muslim mosques and Hindu temples near each other.  

In fact, interfaith friendships are remarkably common. The Taoist Hock Huat Keng Temple and the Hindu Sree Veeramuthu Muneeswarar Temple have a long history of their devotees praying together — they all even share the same building

But all this everyday harmony does not come about by chance. Destructive racial riots erupted in 1964 and 1969, for example.  

So, from National Education in schools to July being Racial and Religious Harmony Month, the PAP Government keeps taking various steps to build trust and acceptance between all Singaporeans. 

Another of these steps is refreshing plans and leaders for Harmony Circles, which bridge different religious, ethnic and community groups across our diverse Singapore.  

Source: Racial and Religious Harmony Circles 

Harmony Circles: Inclusivity, interaction, impact and interest  

“We are probably the world’s most diverse country,” said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Edwin Tong at the National Harmony Circle Appointment Ceremony (May 27), noting how Singaporeans are free to practice their own beliefs, cultures, festivals, and religions.   

“Since the days of those racial riots, our forefathers have been very single-minded about making sure that we preserve this for many generations to come,” he added. 

And refreshed Harmony Circles — all 93 of them — will help Singaporeans make friends across the divide during the 2020s. 

These Circles will be even more inclusive with their 1,700-strong membership (up from 1,500 just two years ago) set to include more youth, women and religious and community organisations.  

Regular programmes like interfaith dialogues and learning journeys to places of worship are set too. They will help different communities interact and positively impact our everyday life — so save those weekends for sharing Singapore spirit-affirming trips to cultural heritage sites and tree-planting events!     

These Circles are also about broadening community interest in strengthening social harmony: That Racial and Religious Harmony Month (aka “July”?). It will have various ground-up activities across Singapore to celebrate our shared everyday harmony. 

A Harmony Circle Coordination Council will also be set up so that Circle leaders can themselves better work together, especially for sharing their best practices. 

A Singapore that stays united  

It has been mentioned before by PAP 4G leaders that Singapore isn’t about exclusionary tribes; it is about an inclusive community

So, where Singapore’s laws and policies protect diversity, they only go so far. 

 “We can tell you what you cannot do — you cannot denigrate another religion, you cannot criticise another race,” observed Minister Tong.   

“But we cannot tell you to build harmony, we cannot tell you to make friends.” 

This is where these refreshed Circles, with all their activities and foci, will really make a difference.    

“We all have a responsibility and a role to play in building up Singapore. Not just for today, but to ensure that this peace and harmony that we treasure will last beyond this generation,” added Minister Tong.  

And the result of this partnership between the PAP Government, community leaders and Singaporeans? 

“A Singapore that looks beyond our differences, embraces our similarities, and stays united as one Singapore,” said the Minister.