17 Jan 2016

The Transfiguration Gala Fund Raising Dinner - Speech by Mr Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security

Archbishop William Goh

Reverend Father Joachim Chang,

Parish Priest of the Church of the Transfiguration

Distinguished Guests

Members of the Church

Ladies and Gentlemen


Good evening to all of you


1.                     Thank you for inviting me to join you here tonight for the Gala Fund-Raising Dinner for the Church of the Transfiguration in Punggol.  We welcome the Church of the Transfiguration to serve the residents in Punggol, and the wider community in the northeast.


Celebrating Racial and Religious Harmony in Singapore


2.                     Singapore is the most religiously diverse country in the world,[1] yet we enjoy racial and religious harmony. This did not happen by chance, but by the deliberate choices that we made. Singaporeans of all races and religions chose to live together in peace harmony. We could have chosen differently, we could have chosen to live separately, each community insisting on its own practices, wanting to carve as much exclusive space for itself as possible from the common space. This could have resulted in a very different Singapore. One marked by differences, rather than the broad common humanity that we all share.


3.                     Our pioneers had lived through racial and religious strife, and did not want to see it happen again. Since Singapore became independent, our various communities and their leaders have been committed to work together to strengthen our social harmony. Each community did not insist on the primacy of its race, language or practices. Instead, each of our communities is prepared to practise its own culture and religion in the context of a multi-racial, multi-religious society, making adaptations to accommodate others where necessary. We have also been careful about teachings and practices from overseas, which are not contextualized to our multi-racial and multi-religious society. In particular, teachings and practices which are disrespectful to other religions, or encourage communities to live apart from each other. And even as we allow each community its own space, we have continually deepened the trust between communities, and expanded our common space where all communities can come together as Singaporeans. These are the precious lessons and experience from our 50 years of independence.


4.                     All our religious groups reject extremism, radicalism and violence regardless of the source. This is important because if an attack were to take place in Singapore, the actions of the perpetrators would be condemned by every religious group in Singapore. Rather than allowing an attack to strike fear and splinter our society, we must unite against any such attack, stand together as one people, and emerge stronger.


5.                     For the next 50 years, it is up to us and our children to decide what kind of society we want to be. We can succumb to exclusivity and sectarianism and drift apart into separate communities. This can be by the choices of leaders, or by the individual choices we make every day, whether to live in harmony, try and integrate with others or whether we choose to live separately. So, we can make those choices ourselves. We can succumb to exclusivity, sectarianism and drift apart, or we can reinforce the choice that our forefathers made to live together, and continue to celebrate and strengthen our racial and religious harmony.


Role of Religious Institutions


6.                     Religious institutions play a very important role in our society.  Over the past five decades, organisations like the Catholic Church have worked hand in hand with the Government and the people of Singapore in nation building, especially in the areas of character formation, education, health-care and charity.


7.                    The Church of the Transfiguration, like all other Catholic churches in Singapore, will not only provide spiritual and moral guidance to parishioners under your care, but will also help the less fortunate in our society, and complement what the government is doing to strengthen our community, and build a better Singapore.


8.                     I am heartened by the strong support at tonight's fund-raising dinner for the Church of the Transfiguration. It shows the solidarity of the Catholic Church in Singapore, and encourages the Church to continue its good work for Singapore and Singaporeans.


9.                     On behalf of my Pasir Ris – Punggol colleagues, we welcome you to Punggol and look forward to the Catholic Church working together with other communities to build a better Punggol, a better Singapore. I wish you all the best in your progress to build the Church of the Transfiguration. We look forward to working together with you, to do good, and promote peace and harmony for our residents in Punggol. Thank you.

[1] A report by the Pew Research Centre in 2014 found Singapore to be the most religiously diverse among 232 countries.


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