Singapore

Solidarity over River Valley tragedy ‘transcends race and religion’

Religious groups have stepped up to pray with bereaved and for well-being of students at River Valley school

In the wake of the alleged murder of a 13-year-old at River Valley High School, several religious groups have come forward to pray with the bereaved and for the well-being of the students, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing.

"These heartfelt gestures of solidarity, transcending race and religion, have brought light in our nation's hour of darkness.

"They embody the inherent understanding that before all else, we are fellow Singaporeans," he wrote in a Facebook post yesterday, which was Racial Harmony Day.

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Other politicians, as well as schools and community groups, also took to the social media platform for Racial Harmony Day, which is marked every year on July 21 - a date set by the Ministry of Education since 1998 as a day to remind students of the 1964 race riots and the importance of racial harmony. The riots resulted in 36 deaths and injuries to 556 people.

Mr Chan said the multiracial Singaporean identity was not about the cultures of minorities being subsumed under the culture of the majority.

"Neither is it about all of us giving up our own identities," he said.

"Instead, it is about building a shared and forward-looking identity based on a common set of values, with the foundation steeped in our rich and diverse identities."

Second Minister for Education Maliki Osman cited a prayer from St Joseph's Institution principal, Father (Dr) Adrian Danker, as an example of schools and communities standing together in solidarity.

"This Racial Harmony Day will be a more muted and sombre affair for our students and schools.

"But these gestures of grace and support are testament that we have so much more in common than our differences, and that there are always more things that unite than divide us," said Dr Maliki.

Minister of State for Education Gan Siow Huang said Racial Harmony Day this year carries added significance, with different racial and religious groups having come together since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic to assist others.

Recent incidents of racism have also served as reminders, she said, of how Singapore's multiracial, multicultural social fabric was painstakingly woven over the years by pioneers and seniors.

"(They) had witnessed the destructive nature of racism in the past and decided that racial harmony was the way to go to build a peaceful, happy and prosperous place for the future generations," said Ms Gan.

Holy Innocents' Primary School said, in line with this year's Racial Harmony Day theme of Common Spaces, Connected Communities, that its activities were focused on the roles students can play in building a cohesive Singapore.

Marymount Convent School marked the day with activities emphasising the values of respect and harmony.

These experiences - designed by schools to deepen engagement - matter, said Young Sikh Association president Sarabjeet Singh. "They are significant as part of a lifelong process of understanding others in our community."

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, writing on Facebook, described Singapore as one of the most diverse societies in the world today, without many of the conflicts that others struggle with.

"This is something that is both precious and fragile. Bigotry and intolerance can irreparably damage our society if we are not careful.

"Each of us can play our part in being sensitive in our words and deeds," he said.

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