SINGAPORE – Representatives from the Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu, Skih and Muslim communities gathered for fellowship at St. Joseph’s Institution International (SJI International) on Apr 12.Organized by the Archdiocesan Council for Inter-Religious and Ecumenical Dialogue (IRED), the programme included a performance by a choir formed by students of SJI International, a talk by Brother Michael Broughton on the meaning of Easter, and explanation of the parts of the SJI International chapel, where the main parts of the programme were conducted.

In his talk, Brother Michael described Easter practices of Catholics using humour and relating them to practices of other religions. "It is not a good idea to invite Christians to a barbeque party on Good Friday," he joked.

About Jesus’ resurrection, he said, "When Jesus rose after his death, he was not a ghost – he could eat!"

Brother Michael added, "Jesus can meet anyone with goodwill."

The visitors were shown around the chapel and explained its various parts, such as the altar and tabernacle by Brother Michael and other Catholics.

Mohamad Saiful, 23, a Muslim who was part of the Singapore Inter-Faith Youth, said that the programme enabled him to draw similarities between Catholicism and Islam. "I love language, so the use of scriptures in Latin inside the chapel to convey messages such as love and charity caught my attention. I was fascinated with the use of scriptures to set the tone of the place."

Brother Michael had translated Bible verses inscribed in Latin on the altar and lectern, for the visitors.

"This is my first time at an inter-faith event. I got more knowledge about the Catholic faith out of it," said Chua Poh Lin from the Singapore Buddhist Lodge, which was represented by 15 Buddhists at the session.

After learning about the elements of the chapel, the visitors were led to a reception, where they continued to mingle with one another.

For Venerable K. Gunaratana of the Mahakaruna Buddhist Society, the "indifferent" attitude of the hosts – not distinguishing between Catholics and non-Catholics – struck him.

"We were welcomed like brothers and sisters from their faith," he explained. "What is most important is whether we are good disciples of each of our religions. I saw a cheerful relationship between the Catholic brothers and sisters. It was a spiritual relationship springing from the heart."

"This is more important than studying the doctrines of different religions, which we can do in our own homes," he added.

Agreeing with Venerable Gunaratana, Secretary General of the Singapore Buddhist Federation Seck Kwang Phing said, "Understanding is more important than tolerance. This event helped me to understand Catholics even better."

Sister Maria Lau, IJ said, "It was good that the session was informal in nature, because the purpose of this event was to fellowship and share what Easter is about. Representatives of other religions have invited Catholics on several occasions to share about their faiths, so the IRED conducted this session to build mutual understanding and mutual respect between people of different religions." - By Regina Xie

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