Dear Muslim brothers and sisters,
In solidarity with you all during this special time of prayer, fasting and good works, where you strive to deepen your relationship with God and neighbour, I wish you God’s abundant blessings. We are most fortunate in Singapore to be able to share in and express our solidarity with one another at various religious occasions and reiterate our mutual commitment to ongoing interreligious harmony and peace building.
Just over a month ago in April, His Holiness, Pope Francis visited Egypt as a messenger of peace. He spoke frankly in a video message about the state of the world today, “Our world is torn by blind violence, a violence that has also struck the heart of your beloved land. Our world needs peace, love and mercy. It needs peacemakers, people who are free and who set others free, men and women of courage who can learn from the past in order to build the future, free of every form of prejudice. Our world needs people who can build bridges of peace, dialogue, fraternity, justice and humanity.”
At the International Peace Conference held at the Al-Azhar Conference Centre in Cairo organised by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Pope Francis was invited to share some pointers to help deepen interreligious dialogue. He mentioned that there are three basic interlinked areas: “the duty to respect one’s own identity and that of others, the courage to accept differences, and sincerity of intentions.”
Firstly, in respecting one’s own identity and that of others, we should not compromise on our beliefs just in order to please others. In other words, we should remain authentic and truthful to our religious convictions, expressing our faith with courtesy and respect for others. We should not engage in false compromise and irenicism. But this does not mean that we can impose our faith beliefs on others or denigrate others’ beliefs. Faith is dependent on a personal religious experience of the Sacred or of God. Without which, there is no faith but only religion and empty doctrines and ritualistic practices.
Secondly, we must also have the courage to accept differences, welcoming others as fellow pilgrims in the journey towards God, believing that the “good of each resides in the good of all”. We have much to learn from each other. Rather than speaking of differences, we should share our distinctiveness and thereby enrich the faith of others and their religious practices and values. We all can learn from each other in loving God and neighbour.
Finally, there is the importance of sincerity of intentions because dialogue “is not a strategy for achieving specific goals, but rather a path to truth, one that deserves to be undertaken patiently, in order to transform competition into cooperation.” Inter-religious dialogue is not a masked attempt at proselytism but an honest desire to show appreciation and mutual understanding of each other’s religion and to strengthen our fraternal brotherhood.
May our respective Muslim and Christian communities continue to uphold the good relations we have enjoyed in our beloved nation. May we never take for granted the peace and harmony that we have but continually work towards enhancing our interreligious understanding and cooperation.
On behalf of the Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore, I wish you all a happy and holy Hari Raya Aidilfitri!
Most Rev William Goh
Archbishop of Singapore
Msgr Philip Heng, S.J.
Vicar-General (Interreligious Relations)