Singapore: Country of racial and religious harmony
Prime Minister of Singapore: 1990-2004.
Initiator of the "Declaration of Religious Harmony» (2002)
as the first in history of humankind document
of the conscious state policy of social harmony
Racial Harmony Day is celebrated annually on 21 July in Singapore (population: about 5 millions). The event is to commemorate the 1964 Race Riots , which took place on 21 July 1964.
Racial Harmony Day also represents a day for schools to reflect on, and celebrate Singapore's success as a racially harmonious nation and society built on a rich diversity of culture and heritage. In schools all across the nation on that day, students are encouraged to be dressed in their traditional costumes such as the Cheongsam and the Baju Kurung. Traditional delicacies are also featured in the celebrations. Traditional games such as Kutih-kutih and zero point are played in schools, where inter-class competitions are sometimes organised. Schools are also encouraged to recite a declaration on religious harmony during the celebrations.
Declaration on Religious Harmony
We, the people in Singapore, declare that religious harmony is vital for peace, progress and prosperity in our multi-racial and multi-religious Nation.
We resolve to strengthen religious harmony through mutual tolerance, confidence, respect, and understanding.
We shall always
Recognise the secular nature of our State,
Promote cohesion within our society,
Respect each other's freedom of religion,
Grow our common space while respecting our diversity,
Foster inter-religious communications,
and thereby ensure that religion will not be abused to create conflict and disharmony in Singapore.
The Declaration of Religious Harmony of Singapore is a statement that affirms the importance of, and the commitment of Singaporeans towards, religious harmony. It is a basis for Singaporeans to reflect on religious harmony, and what should be done to achieve it.
The idea of having a Code on Religious Harmony was proposed by the then Prime Minister (now Senior Minister) Goh Chok Tong in September or October 2002. This followed strains in racial harmony in the country following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States of America and the arrest and detention of members of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist network in Singapore in December 2001.
The Declaration was issued in 2003 by a working committee chaired by Minister of State Chan Soo Sen and involving the national bodies of all mainstream religious groups in Singapore, after six months of intense debate over its wording.
Subsequently, an Inter-Religious Harmony Circle (IRHC) comprising representatives of the religious groups involved in the working committee was formed to promote the Declaration. The IRHC has encouraged Singaporeans to recite the Declaration during the week when Racial Harmony Day (21 July) is marked every year.