The International Conference on Cohesive Societies (ICCS) that took place this past week (June 19-21) saw religious organizations and experts come together to discuss ways to strengthen interfaith harmony.
The brainchild of President Halimah Yacob, the idea of ICCS was first mooted in May 2018—a conference that would gather global thought leaders and stakeholders to explore and share knowledge on building a harmonious interfaith society.
Organized by the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) of Nanyang Technological University, the ICCS comprised of three days of plenary sessions and breakout sessions that provided opportunities for dialogue.
At the opening ceremony of the conference, Madam Halimah was presented the commitment to safeguard religious harmony, signed by religious leaders in Singapore. This document represents the commitment made by various religious organizations, including City Harvest Church, to propagate their faith respectfully and sensitively, to maintain solidarity in crisis, to support efforts made by national institutions toward the cause, and to protect religious harmony for the sake of the country.
The keynote speaker for the conference was His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, who is a global leader in interfaith harmony, and who has championed initiatives such as the Amman Message and the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week. In his speech he said that the attack on inter-faith harmony and mutual trust is the world’s “single most important threat”.
In Madam Halimah’s words, “The ICCS will be a platform to facilitate mutual learning among our communities internationally. The purpose of the Conference is clear – to address the challenges to social harmony and ensure that we continue to strengthen the cohesion within our societies. We live in a world increasingly fraught with conflict and danger. The social fabric of many communities is stressed by extremism, exclusivism and polarisation. It is therefore important for us to grow trust across communities. This will always be a work in progress, so it is an effort we must constantly invest in.”
Bobby Chaw, executive pastor of City Harvest Church, who attended the conference with pastor Choong Tsih-Ming and zone supervisor Wayne Choong said, “It’s important that we all do our part to maintain religious harmony. Protecting the freedom to worship is a responsibility we must never take for granted.”