Catholics learn more about building intercommunal bonds
Msgr Heng and MCCY’s Ms Goh (front) were among the speakers at the seminar.
The important roles that Catholic religious and community leaders play in building relationships with their counterparts from other communities was highlighted at a seminar recently
The Archdiocesan Catholic Council for Interreligious Dialogue (ACCIRD) Social Cohesion Seminar was held at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd on Aug 25. It was organised together with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) for Catholic members of Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles (IRCCs). Forty-seven IRCC representatives from 29 parishes attended.
During the seminar, Monsignor Philip Heng, the Vicar-General for Interreligious Relations, noted that ever since Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council’s 1965 Declaration On The Relation Of The Church To Non-Christian Religions, popes had worked to strengthen interreligious relations throughout the world.
Ms Goh Ching Hsia, Assistant Director of MCCY’s Community Relations and Engagement Division, outlined the aim of IRCCs (see other story).
She also stressed the important roles that Catholic IRCC representatives play as religious and community leaders in networking and building relationships with their counterparts from other communities.
Ms Goh noted that IRCCs could facilitate collaborations between religious and other organisations to reach out to the wider community, for example, through IRCC and SG Cares initiatives.
SG Cares is a national movement to build a more caring and inclusive home for all, through acts of consideration and care, active volunteerism and organising ground-up efforts, explained MCCY’s Mr Chng Tze Kia, who is Assistant Director with the SG Cares Secretariat.
Mr Gerald Kong, ACCIRD’s Executive Secretary, explained how Church teachings and documents like Nostra Aetate and Dialogue and Mission (1984) made interreligious dialogue an integral element in the Church’s mission.
“It is essential, and not merely optional, for Catholics to have not only a solid grounding in the Catholic faith, but also a good knowledge of the beliefs and practices of other religions,” said Mr Kong.
ACCIRD member Ms Michelle Voo introduced the four forms of dialogue set out in Dialogue and Mission – the dialogue of life, the dialogue of action, the dialogue of theological exchange, and the dialogue of religious experience.
Among the examples she gave of the dialogue of theological exchange was ACCIRD’s Interreligious Panels of Jewish, Muslim and Catholic speakers who have come together to explain the meaning of birth, marriage and death according to their faith traditions.
IRCC representatives from the Church of St Mary of the Angels and the Church of the Transfiguration also shared how their parishes organise and participate in community outreach events.
Many participants found the seminar engaging. Ms Anne Chiang from St Joseph’s Church (Victoria Street) said she was happy to learn about the Church’s teachings on interreligious dialogue, and was particularly inspired by what the representatives from the two parishes shared.
In response to participants’ requests, MCCY and ACCIRD said there could be follow-up sessions.
What are IRCCs?
There are 89 IRCCs in Singapore with each IRCC comprising leaders from local religious, ethnic and community organisations. Each constituency has at least one IRCC.
IRCCs are local-level interfaith platforms that play a critical role in promoting racial and religious harmony and social cohesion under the SGSecure movement, which aims to prepare the public to stay united and resilient in the event of terrorist attacks or other crises and incidents with racial and/or religious overtones.
During peace time, IRCCs work to foster friendships and build trust so that challenges and strains on social cohesion are better withstood nationwide during crises.
In the aftermath of a crisis, IRCCs will be the key link to disseminate timely and accurate information, collect feedback, and maintain confidence in the local community.