Friday, September 5


Read my earlier post - Singapore - Clergy 'wary of inter-faith talks'

Here are responses in the online letter pages of ST

Sep 6, 2008

Issue of inter-faith talks must be addressed

I REFER to Wednesday's report, 'Clergy 'wary of inter-faith talks''. This is the situation we must address if we want to work for religious harmony in our multi-religious society. We cannot afford to be embroiled in conflict among the different faith communities. The cost is too high. As Professor Tommy Koh has warned, 'it will threaten everything we have build for the last 43 years'.

While the Christian clergy are fearful that religious dialogue will compromise their beliefs, other religious leaders are afraid their members will be proselytised. Until they cast out such fears, faith communities will continue to exist in isolation and refuse to interact and engage with one another. We need to break down the walls that separate us as people of faith and those who claim no religious affiliation. We share a common humanity.

Christianity, as well as other religions, tends to be exclusive in order to maintain its distinctive identity and convictions. Each religion will claim it is true and its beliefs are revealed by God. If one claims one's religion is the only true religion, then all other religions are necessarily false. The claim that my religion is the Absolute Truth means the doors to dialogue are shut tight.

In studying the historical developments of different religions, scholars are saying to us that, in our understanding today in the postmodern world, there is no one Absolute Truth. No one Sacred Text contains all the truths. No one religion has the monopoly of Truth. No one single religion can dominate the entire world. We witness the resurgence of religions which have been suppressed in the past. We see the emergence of new religions in rejection of traditional religions in the present. We watch the increase of the numbers of 'free thinkers' and atheists.

Admittedly, it is difficult to bridge existing differences. No, all roads do not reach the same God. Yes, there will be different roads to God and we travel our chosen path in faith. At the same time, we have to recognise that there are fellow travellers on other roads. On the journey, we need to borrow the light from one another. We may meet common dangers and we come together to defend ourselves. We may see some common tasks and we can work together for our common good. The hope of each of us is that, ultimately, the road I chose to travel is the one that leads to God.

In the context of religious diversity, we have to lay aside our exclusive truth claims and admit we do not possess all the truth. It is through interaction and engagement we learn to comprehend the differences and appreciate the commonalities. This will eradicate the fears and remove the suspicion we have for one another. Only then we can ensure harmony in our multi-religious society.

Dr Yap Kim Hao

Sep 6, 2008
It really depends what the talk is about

I REFER to Wednesday's article, 'Clergy 'wary' of inter-faith talks'.
Since the article was based on my research, I hope to provide some clarification so the report may not be interpreted wrongly.

My research shows that, among some quarters of clergy, there were some concerns about inter-religious dialogue. This was particularly the case if dialogue was conducted with the aim of presenting that all religions are really very much the same. This becomes a problematic exercise for conservative Christians who hold truth claims which they do not want to dilute. On the other hand, clergy seemed more willing to engage their non-Christian religious counterparts if the dialogue was aimed at working on social concerns pressing society. The main point of my paper, then, was that, even among conservative Christians who may hold rather exclusivist positions of their faith, there are ways to reconcile their theological beliefs and evangelist styles to cope with the reality of a secular and multi-religious society.

Dr Mathew Mathews

Link to Profile of Dr Mathew Mathews
Books - Checkout - Religious Diversity in Singapore

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