Archbishop Chia receiving the Inter-Religious Organisation Award from President Tony Tan on July 10.

Recognised for contribution to interfaith harmony in Singapore

The Catholic Church is committed to building up “friendship, kinship and goodwill” without which “no country can enjoy the peace and prosperity that we have been so blessed with”, said Archbishop Chia as he accepted the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) Award on July 10.

In his speech, Archbishop Chia said that it was with “great honour and much humility” that he accepted the award, which recognises individuals for their contribution to inter-faith harmony in Singapore.

“Over the years, the Catholic Church has worked together with people of other religions resulting in common ground and collaboration, for example in humanitarian efforts,” Archbishop Chia said at the ceremony held during the official opening of the IRO premises at Palmer Rd.

“As we witness great suffering around the world today on so many levels, from natural disasters to religious persecution and war, it is important that we join efforts to spread peace, working hand-in-hand to alleviate the sufferings of those around us.”

 At the IRO ceremony: (from left) Archbishop Chia, Master Wei Yi (Taoism) Venerable Seck Kwang Phing (Buddhism) and Mufti Fatris Bakaram (Islam).He noted that over the years, the IRO “has made great strides and progress in promoting inter-religious peace and harmony”.

“As Christians, particularly from the Catholic Church, we have collaborated and given our support in joint efforts with IRO as well as different religious groups,” he said.

He thanked the IRO Council for acknowledging “our efforts to forge greater accord, understanding and harmony amongst the different religions”, and the Singapore government “for its vigorous support in fostering religious freedom, equality and tolerance”.

Archbishop Chia received the award from President Tony Tan.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean; Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing; and IRO patron and former Singapore president S R Nathan also attended the event, together with religious representatives and members of the diplomatic corps.

The proposal to give Archbishop Chia the award was mooted by Habib Syed Hassan Al-Attas, one of the IRO’s 2011/2012 council members, and unanimously agreed upon by the other members.

The award citation stated that Archbishop Chia was “a visionary leader” and “catalyst for positive action in coordinating the inter-religious movement in our country”.

Among his various contributions, the citation noted that the archbishop:

  • Has been a member of the National Steering Committee on Racial and Religious Harmony.
  • Supported Muslim and Christian communities in the joint Hari Raya-Christmas celebrations in 2001 and 2002 in the aftermath of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.
  • Established the Archdiocesan Council for Inter-Religious and Ecumenical Dialogue in 2007 which educates Catholics on other religions in Singapore.
  • Supported the Singapore-China Religious and Cultural Exhibition in 2009 jointly organised by the IRO and the Catholic Church.

A total of seven individuals, including Archbishop Chia, have now received the award.

The archbishop has also been recently reappointed to the Presidential Council for Minority Rights.

By Darren Boon
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