Bernadette Lee

The Harmony Games is into its 12th year but the enthusiasm and the energy that the participants put into the events certainly augur well for Singapore efforts to promote inter-religious harmony.

Some 160 participants gathered on the morning of Aug 24 to learn about each other’s faith and the religious practices through a variety of games at the 130-year old Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church, to participate in the Harmony Games 2019. They represent some 10 major faiths in Singapore.

This interreligious event, organised by the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS), is a community effort to foster close ties among Singaporeans from the different faith communities. The outdoor Explorers’ Race segment saw the participants, which range from students to retirees, pitting against the clock to use various skills to solve the puzzles at the many stations. And there was even a game of religious monopoly to spice up the excitement.

For one of the participants, Anne Lee, who is from the Church of St Ignatius, she found that the multi-racial mix of her team proved to be an advantage when playing the games as they could leverage on the skills and language of the different members.

Students from St Gabriel’s Secondary and CHIJ St Theresa’s Convent also participated in the games.

Bishop Terry Kee, Chairman of the NCCS, in his address to religious leaders and representatives, said that the Games is a reminder that “we can be different and still work for the common good”. The theme for this year’s Games was “200 years of Religious Harmony in Singapore”.

Elder Richard Chong, Executive Secretary of NCCS, explained that to coincide with the bicentennial commemoration of Singapore’s founding, the choice of the venue, an area where early migrants traded and interacted was a particularly apt choice. It reflected the spirit of the early settlers of Singapore who came to the island to make a living and then a home, and when persons of different creeds, races and languages came together.

Elder Chong observed that taking part in the Harmony Games is also beneficial in fostering friendship and trust among the young people, allowing them to forge closer ties and yet “be open and aware of (any) sensitivities”.

The Guest-of-Honour, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Ms Grace Fu said, “The annual Harmony Games brings together the different religious communities in Singapore, in celebration of our racial and religious harmony. This is a good opportunity for the participants, especially the youths, to understand the importance of mutual trust and respect between people of different beliefs and backgrounds.”

Monsignor Philip Heng, S.J. was present to witness the Harmony Games and to take part in the Declaration of Religious Harmony with the other leaders of the various faiths.

Organised on a rotational basis by the different religious groups each year, this year’s games was co-organised with the Boys’ Brigade of Singapore.

Ms Grace Fu (fourth from left), Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, at the Harmony Games with religious leaders.