Racial harmony champion wins award
Consultant, 68, recognised for his efforts to promote inter-racial and religious harmony at inaugural award
The Zen Ren Gong Temple in Redhill is a place where Taoist devotees worship and carry out their rituals.
But thanks to Mr Sarjit Singh, 68, this temple has seen people from other religions, too. He organises visits at least four times a year, when Muslims, Christians and people from other faiths visit the temple to learn more about festivals or rituals.
This is just one of the many initiatives that Mr Singh, an engineering consultant, took up as chairman of the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC) at Radin Mas.
His exceptional efforts were recognised at the inaugural IRCC Awards Night yesterday evening. The awards were given to nine winners: three each in three categories.
Mr Singh, who is married with two children, is a recipient of the Colours Award, which recognises the contributions of members from the IRCCs.
The other categories were the Harmony Award, which recognises successful events or projects by the IRCCs, and the Ambassador award, which acknowledges religious organisations or other stakeholders that have contributed to IRCCs.
Mr Sarjit had also spearheaded the annual Race With Faith, which was held in conjunction with World Religion Day and modelled after popular reality television show The Amazing Race.
In the race, which was organised by Mr Sarjit and the Radin Mas IRCC, young people had to complete tasks at various religious organisations.
The first race took place in 2013 and the latest race on Jan 25. This year's attracted more than 80 participants from all over Singapore.
"It is all about reaching out to youths in fun and relevant way which will expose them to different religions," he said.
Mr Sarjit feels that engaging young people is an important step in promoting racial harmony. He also encourages the use of social media, saying that it is a tool that can be used to safeguard racial harmony.
Mr Sarjit added: "Young people are always on social media, it is a great way to get people to understand each other. But we should always check the facts before joining others on online discussions that could create racial and religious tensions."
He also takes these discussions offline and organises interfaith dialogues, where people with different beliefs come together to talk about their religions.
He said that these dialogues are important as they allow people to clarify any misunderstandings.
Mr Sarjit and the Radin Mas IRCC meet once every three months. Sometimes, they have more meetings and take their discussions online, especially when planning events like Race With Faith.
Mr Sarjit, who has been chairman of the IRCC at Radin Mas since 2008, said that his early exposure to different cultures inspired him to become a champion for racial harmony.
"I was born into a kampung where my neighbours were all Malay, but I studied at Christian schools like Saint Joseph's Institution. I grew up with people who have different beliefs," he said.
Mr Sarjit still has many friends from different cultures. This makes him feel fortunate and motivates him to set aside his time for the IRCC.
He said: "I really have a strong passion for peace and harmony and I wanted to help out in any way I can."
His fellow IRCC members say the award is well-deserved.
Businessman David Tan Kim Leng, 41, who has worked at the Radin Mas IRCC for over two years, said: "He has the ability to put people at ease when he speaks and he helps them to understand each other better.
"I think he knows a lot about many religions and that is very inspiring."
Wong: Next 50 years dependent on harmony
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong last night praised the work of the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles (IRCC).
He also highlighted the importance of racial and religious harmony for the future of Singapore in his speech at the first IRCC Awards Night at the Orchard Hotel.
He said: "The IRCCs have done outstanding work and helped build many networks of trust that unite our people, regardless of race or religion."
"The next 50 years of our Singapore Story will depend on whether we can continue to uphold a harmonious and cohesive society," he said.
"So we must continue to forge ahead, protecting our stability, helping relations between our different communities to flourish.
"I believe we can achieve this by standing together, not just as representatives from different ethnic communities, but standing together as friends and fellow Singaporeans for a united purpose: Believing in a better Singapore for many more years to come."
Initially called the Inter-Racial Confidence Circles, the IRCC was formed in 2002 by then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in light of the Sept 11 attacks. It was renamed in 2007 to also promote religious harmony.
The 87 IRCCs, one for each constituency in Singapore, deepen the understanding of the various religions through inter-faith activities like heritage trails, dialogues and religious celebrations.