By Sister Wendy Ooi, fsp
CHIJ ST. JOSEPH’S CONVENT was mentioned in this year’s National Day Rally speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Two video productions on cohesion and pride in Singapore, produced by students, were showcased. I dare say we are proud to be Singaporeans, and proud that a Catholic institution was mentioned in the Prime Minister’s speech.
There are many aspects of Singapore that are worth taking pride in. Yet some aspects are given more weight than others because some goals in life are considered more important than others. While the Prime Minister focused on long term goals and encouraged the use of talent, technology, leadership and entrepreneur flair to embrace a digital world and make Singapore a top notch place to live in, I could not help but tell myself as I listened to the speech that "this is all well and good but there is more to life than being the best, than being number one, than mere winning and having".
To be fair, there is only so much one can squeeze into a National Day speech and there is only so much that a government can do. That’s where we come in as church – to be an alternative or a complementary voice.
The country’s ethos, spurred on by the ruling party which has governed for 41 years, has always been to excel and develop, to achieve and be the best, so as to obtain economic security; and indeed there is nothing wrong in these aims – after all, economic security is needed for peaceful nation building. Yet other humane values of giving, sharing, loving, justice and human rights, which include the sacredness of life, should also be in the minds and hearts of all Singaporeans.
Undoubtedly, we are blessed to have had a corrupt-free, dynamic leadership that has brought our tiny nation from a struggling island with racial woes to an economically secure and racially harmonious metropolis that other countries talk about.
Much thanks is due to our dedicated political forefathers. Yet when a child studying abroad calls or chats or sends an SMS today, I hope it is more than just to tell his folks his academic results. When professionals living abroad return to Singapore, I hope they find a place not only where their bank account can grow but where their heart can expand.
There is more to life than just achievements and winning. The "heartware" of Singaporeans should grow beyond materialism and economic well-being, towards a quality of life filled with love and friendship, and solidarity with the less fortunate (materially, physically, and psychologically) in life.