Singapore

Singapore's diversity is its strength: President Halimah Yacob

President Halimah says Singapore is microcosm of global challenge in getting people of different backgrounds to live harmoniously

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 yesterday.

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 said Singapore's diversity means it can tap cultural and language similarities and familial ties to help make friends with other Asian nations.

"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 national service also ensures generations of male Singaporeans learn to work together and train to defend Singapore and its ideals.

PROTECT

The country's Constitution also protects the position of minority communities, she said, adding it was recently amended to ensure minorities will be regularly elected as president - Singapore's highest office.

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

But Madam Halimah said religious harmony is 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.

After speaking at the opening ceremony, Madam Halimah met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and China's fifth-ranked leader Wang Huning.

She had arrived in Beijing on Tuesday and is on a three-day visit to attend the CDAC and meet top Chinese leaders.

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