“As long as love exists, peace and harmony exist, and God will bless our work.”
Shaikh Syed Isa Mohd Bin Semait, the former mufti of Singapore, made this comment at a dinner honouring Archbishop Emeritus Nicholas Chia.
Some 40 representatives from various religions, including council members of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO), gathered at the Jesuit Novitiate for the June 24 event.
The celebration, held on the premises of the Church of St Ignatius, was organised by IRED (Archdiocesan Council for Inter-Religious and Ecumenical Dialogue).
During the dinner, Shaikh Isa expressed his gratitude to Archbishop Chia for promoting interreligious relations and for their close friendship. He also noted that the celebration was not only to show respect for Archbishop Chia but also to one another present.
Archbishop William Goh, who also attended the event, expressed his gratitude to his predecessor for his interfaith dialogue. He noted that as Archbishop Chia is now retired, he will be able to further develop the friendships he has established.
Archbishop Goh added that as he wants to ensure the effectiveness of such dialogue, he had appointed Jesuit Msgr Philip Heng as a vicar general in charge of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.
Msgr Heng will work with members of IRED and IRO, said Archbishop Goh.
“If we have no love, what we build will be in vain ... so we share in this love and see in each other the presence of the divine being,” said Archbishop Goh.
Infant Jesus Sr Maria Lau, chairperson of IRED, noted that Archbishop Chia is “a man of deep faith with three loves”: love of God, love of the poor and a steadfast supporter of interfaith dialogue who strongly believed in building trust and relationships among religious leaders.
She said she hopes the trust and relationships will grow “from strength to strength under our new archbishop”.
A slide-show featuring Archbishop Chia’s work in interreligious dialogue was also shown that evening.
In his speech, Archbishop Chia said his years of involvement in interfaith dialogue have been fruitful and meaningful.
He noted that “not many people know about other religions, so I’ve made talks available so that young people may learn about other religions”.
He also stressed the need to help young people respect and understand other religions.
Archbishop Chia shared that some religious leaders send him emails and that he always replies.
“Although I’m retired now, I will do what I can to support interreligious harmony,” he said, adding that “it is love that binds us”.
By Gerald Kong