Singapore's diversity is its strength, President Halimah Yacob tells conference on cooperation

SINGAPORE – Singapore’s diversity is its strength – one which has made it a more resilient society and moved it closer to its neighbours, President Halimah Yacob said during her visit to China on Wednesday (May 15).

Outlining efforts Singapore has made to safeguard and promote racial and religious harmony, she said: “Our diversity helps us in understanding the differences in the world outside us. Our effort to integrate and harmonise the different communities has made us a more resilient society.”

Speaking at the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilisations (CDAC) in Beijing, a summit to promote cooperation between Asian countries, Madam Halimah said Singapore’s situation is a microcosm of a “larger challenge faced by the world in getting people of different religions, values and backgrounds to live together harmoniously”.

She pointed out that Singapore’s diversity also means it can tap cultural and language similarities, and familial ties to help make friends with other Asian countries.

“But we conduct our relations with other countries as a Singapore nation, and not as a Chinese nation, a Malay nation, or an Indian nation,” she said.

Speaking to officials and world leaders gathered for the inaugural conference, Madam Halimah outlined how Singapore safeguards its diversity.

It uses English as a common working language so minorities are not disadvantaged, and ensures schools and public housing estates are racially integrated, she said, adding that national service also ensures that generations of male Singaporeans learn to work together and train to defend Singapore and its ideals.

The country’s Constitution also protects the position of minority communities, she said, adding that it was recently amended to ensure that future presidents come from a minority race.

The country also has strict laws to prevent the denigration of other faiths and the mixing of religion and politics, she added.

But the President also said that religious harmony was always going to be a work in progress, noting that Singaporeans have become more fervent in their religious convictions.

“It is important that our people are good citizens of Singapore, at the same time as they are good Buddhists, Taoists, Christians, Muslims, or Hindus,” she said.

Madam Halimah, who arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, is on a three-day visit to attend the CDAC and meet top Chinese leaders.

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