The celebration, held on Dec 29, aimed at promoting religious harmony

Archbishop William Goh and representatives of various religions pose for a photo in the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd on Dec 29. Photo: VITA Images

By Jared Ng

“As religious leaders, we must set the example of leading the world to find peace not through war but through dialogue,” said Archbishop William Goh.

He was speaking to representatives of various faiths at an interreligious Christmas celebration held at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

They comprised members of the Muslim, Hindu, Jain, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Taoist, Baha’i, Sikh and Christian (Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox) communities.

The celebration, organised by the Archdiocesan Catholic Council for Interreligious Dialogue (ACCIRD), was held on Dec 29.

“Peace between nations begins with peace between religions,” Archbishop Goh said.

He added that “peace is possible only through genuine dialogue when we seek to grow in mutual understanding and appreciation of each other’s beliefs and practices.”

Emphasising the part played by various religions in promoting peace, Archbishop Goh said: “Our presence here from different religions is a good sign that we are serious in promoting peace through mutual understanding and appreciation of each other’s religions.

“It is important that religions do not view each other as a threat,” he said, adding that “we have much to learn from each other.”

He also shared the meaning of Christmas for Christians.

Msgr Philip Heng (second from left) sharing with religious representatives the history behind an artefact in the Heritage Gallery. From left: Ustaz Mohamed Ali Atan (Muslim), Mr Foo Check Woo (Baha’i), Mr Rajesh R. Shah (Jain), Mr Ashvin Desai (Jain) and Master Lee Zhiwang (Taoist).

The celebration also saw the Cathedral Choir of the Risen Christ singing carols such as Mary’s Boy Child, Silent Night and O Come All Ye Faithful.

Msgr Philip Heng, rector of the cathedral, took the opportunity to share about the history of the cathedral and its significance to Catholics in Singapore as the Mother Church.

Participants were then invited to view the Heritage Gallery and large Nativity scene in the Annex Building of the cathedral. Many took photos and asked questions about certain artefacts housed in the gallery.

During the dinner which followed, participants enjoyed fellowship among themselves while also taking part in table games.

These games required them to solve a quiz on religions, complete a word-search puzzle, and play a hidden objects game.

Religious representatives taking part in a table game. From left: Master Chung Kwang Tong (Taoist), Venerable Shi You Guang (Buddhist), Swami Jitamanasananda (Hindu), Mr Pua Luck Kheng (Buddhist) and Swami Vimokshananda (Hindu).

Mr Foo Check Woo, a Baha’i and a member of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) Singapore, also led all participants in the popular Christmas song, Feliz Navidad.

The event ended with everyone singing Let There be Peace on Earth.

“I always look forward to this gathering every year,” said Venerable Shi You Wei, Education Committee chairman of the Singapore Buddhist Federation. “A lot of us [religious representatives] are always busy throughout the year so it’s good that we have a gathering such as this to have fun but also, more importantly, stand together to promote religious harmony.”

Religious representatives viewing the Nativity scene in the cathedral’s Annex Building.

Master Lee Zhiwang, president of the Taoist Mission (Singapore), concurred with Venerable You Wei. “It is important to have such events for the various religious representatives to gather. Us being here shows that we are committed to strengthening religious unity in Singapore.”

This was the first time that the annual celebration was held at the cathedral. Previous venues were the Churches of St Teresa and St Ignatius. 

JANUARY 22, 2017, Vol 67, No 02

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