The Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies (SRP) Programme was inaugurated on 9 June 2014 by President of the Republic of Singapore,Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam. It is the latest programme offered by S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).
The SRP aims to study various models of how religious communities develop their teachings to meet the contemporary challenges of living in plural societies. It will also deepen the study of inter-religious relations, formulate models for the positive role of religions in peace-building and produce knowledge to strengthen social ties between communities. The Programme seeks to be at the forefront in the development of scholarship and applied knowledge on the roles of religion and inter-religious relations in plural societies today.
Objectives of the SRP
The SRP will meet the growing need around the world for greater inter-religious understanding. Its approach is interdisciplinary and its specific objectives are:
- To pursue excellence and innovation in research in the study of inter-religious relations and understanding.
- To offer post-graduate education and professional training related to inter-religious relations and understanding.
- To act as a leading forum for scholars, policy makers, leaders of private and public sector institutions and national and international experts to come together to explore issues related to coexistence in plural societies, inter-religious understanding and social cohesion.
Components of the SRP
The Programme comprises research, teaching and community engagement.
The SRP is a research-intensive programme driven by the following considerations:
- To understand the nature of inter-religious conflicts with a view to prevent them; and
- To foster greater understanding and harmony between people of different religious traditions in order to enlarge the common space of plural societies.
Research will be conducted according to rigorous scholarly standards that take into account the social and cultural specificities of communities. The outcomes will be academic, in terms of furthering scholarly knowledge in this field, as well as practical, in its generation of knowledge and building of skills to address the real-life challenges of managing diversity.
SRP’s research themes are as follows:
Religious Peace-Building in Plural Societies
This theme will study the role of religious traditions, fraternity and organisations for peace-building as well as in conflict and post-conflict situations. It will study religious ideas, arguments and paradigms that are used to legitimize the disruption of social harmony and cohesion. The theme will focus on developing doctrinal content and exploring strategies for responding to ideas that undermine the social fabric of plural societies.
New developments in inter-religious relations from different religious perspectives
This theme will identify recent developments in the thinking of world religions in their conceptualisation of what constitutes the religious ‘Other’. It will focus on theological positions, philosophical arguments and ground initiatives that are underpinned by inclusivity within each tradition. Apart from the identification of commonalities between different religious groups and religious teachings that advocate mutual understanding and co-operation, this theme will also explore the positive value of differences between religious traditions.
Tolerance and co-existence in the historical religious traditions
This theme will research into the historical traditions of world religions to elicit an ethos that fosters peace in the contemporary world. Key areas of interest include embracive theological or philosophical positions and historical periods of tolerance or acceptance of the religious ‘Other’.
Singapore’s model of managing social cohesion
This theme will explore how Singapore, as a plural society, manages religious diversity. These include its initiatives to grow the common space, its use of legal and policy frameworks to facilitate inter-religious understanding and the historical and contemporary roles played by religious traditions and institutions to foster community harmony.
The SRP is committed to the development and delivery of best practices in the teaching of inter-religious studies. To achieve this, the Programme will offer taught modules at the Masters level. The taught modules will equip students with the knowledge of world religions, how religions function in contemporary societies and of key issues that arise in inter-religious relations in contemporary plural societies. It will also equip students with the professional know-how for the fostering of inter-religious relations and management of religious diversity in areas such as conflict resolution,peace-building and dialogue.
Community engagement is an important aspect of the Programme. In pursuing its objectives, the Programme will collaborate with academic institutions involved in relevant or complementary research projects, government agencies, religious institutions and non-governmental organisations.
Community engagement objectives will be achieved by:
- Fostering collaborative partnerships with key community and religious organisations and leaders.
- Promoting knowledge and understanding of inter-religious issues through regular public lectures featuring high-profile speakers from the field.
- Formulating policy papers to assist governments to respond to particular issues, challenges or situations with evidence-based options or solutions.
- Undertaking dialogue in Singapore and the region.
- Identifying best practices in the field and offering advice or consultation to organisations or governments wishing to enhance inter-religious understanding.
Leadership and Staffing
The SRP works in close consultation with leaders of the different religious communities in Singapore.
The SRP is headed by Ambassador Haji Mohammad Alami Musa, President of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), and a leading figure in the promotion of inter-faith relations in Singapore and the region.
The Advisor to the Programme is Professor Abdullah Saeed. He is Sultan of Oman Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies as well as Director of the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne, Australia.
The Programme has embarked on the building of expertise for teaching, research and administration.
RSIS is grateful to Mr Peter Lim, a well-known Singaporean philanthropist, for his endowment gift of $3 million and to the Singapore government for the matching grant of $3 million towards the establishment of the Peter Lim Professorship in Peace Studies. The endowment enables the SRP to appoint a professor who can lead the programme in teaching and research in Peace Studies.
Last updated on 06/05/2015