Archbishop William Goh and representatives of various faiths pose for a photo during the archdiocesan interreligious Christmas celebration at the Church of the Transfiguration.  Photos: VITA Images

By Jared Ng

It was an evening of fellowship and unity as close to 80 representatives of various faiths gathered for the annual archdiocesan interreligious Christmas celebration.

Held for the first time at the new Church of the Transfiguration on Dec 29, the participants included representatives from the Muslim, Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, Taoist, Baha’i, and Christian (Catholic, Protestant
and Orthodox) communities.

They were joined by Archbishop William Goh; Mr J. Y. Pillay, chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers; Mr Alex Yam, MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC; and Ms Sylvia Lim, MP for Aljunied GRC, for an evening of fellowship, fun and food.

In his opening address, parish priest Fr Joachim Chang briefly explained the features of the new church including what the stained glass in the main church depicting Jesus, Moses and Elijah, meant.

Archbishop Goh, in his address, shared what Christmas means to Catholics and why it is a celebration of Jesus’ life giving love.

“The birth of Christ is an invitation to love. Jesus lived His life for others and that is how we should live as well,” he said.

Addressing the participants from the various religious communities, Archbishop Goh said, “Together we need to build a greater harmony among ourselves. Together we need to show authentic, sincere love for each other, to encourage each other, and together, we can build a humanity that is rooted in the love of God.”

A choir from the parish then sang carols such as O Come, All Ye Faithful and Silent Night.

The evening ended with a buffet dinner during which the various religious representatives enjoyed fellowship as they chatted among themselves.

Representatives from the Harmony Centre, Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), take a wefie with Archbishop William Goh.

Some of them shared their thoughts on the celebration with Catholic News.

Ustaz Mohamed Ali Atan, head of the Harmony Centre, Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), said the gathering of religious representatives provides an opportunity to “appreciate each other’s festivities” and “it also shows our unity and diversity.”

He added, “For me every year, I will never miss this [celebration].”

Master Chung Kwang Tong, secretary general of the Taoist Federation Youth Group, highlighted the importance of religious unity in Singapore.

“This is something precious to us and I think something that we should hold very dearly. I hope all Singaporeans, regardless of race and religion can ... step out of their comfort zone to find out more about their friends and neighbours of different faiths.”

The Archdiocesan Catholic Council for Interreligious Dialogue (ACCIRD) organised the interfaith Christmas celebration, the fifth time it has held such a celebration. Previous venues were the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd and Churches of St Teresa and St Ignatius.

A video of the event is accessble at https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=mfo-nEJPFwE

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