The 5th Distinguished Lecture and Inter-Religious Symposium organised by the Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies (SRP) Programme took place on 3 April 2019 at Marina Mandarin Singapore. The event brought together 350 religious and community leaders, interfaith practitioners, academics, professionals, public officials and students.
The theme for this year’s event was “Countering Exclusivism, Promoting Inclusivism for Positive Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies”. Founding President of the Dialogue Institute and Professor at Temple University Leonard Swidler delivered the Distinguished Lecture titled “Countering Exclusivism, Promoting Inclusivism: Being Human in a Global Civilisation”. Prof Swidler highlighted that our inclusive human nature and context of living in a burgeoning global community promises encounters with others who are different from us. The mantra in dealing with these encounters is: “Nobody knows everything about anything – therefore dialogue!”
The first keynote speaker, Prof Zhuo Xinping of the Institute of World Religion, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, elaborated on how dialogue can contribute to achieving holistic harmony – the idea of unity instead of uniformity. Meanwhile, Prof Julius Lipner of Cambridge University unpacked the term fundamentalism, and suggested that secular democracy best allows the critique of fundamentalist attitudes.
Assoc Prof Patrice Brodeur of the University of Montreal, and Senior Adviser of KAICIID (King Abdullah International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue) discussed future trends on religious exclusivism and inclusivism. On the one hand, there is no end in sight to violence perpetrated in the name of religion. On the other hand, the world has witnessed an exponential increase in interfaith efforts, including dialogue initiatives. President of Singapore Management University, Prof Lily Kong, focused on the way forward for Singapore. Beyond broad narratives, Prof Kong invited the audience to evaluate forms of exclusivism in our daily lives, and how we choose to think and act upon these issues.
During the symposium, Head of the Programme, Amb Alami Musa, also introduced Interreligious Relations (IRR), a series of online peer-reviewed, open-access Occasional Papers, in conjunction with SRP’s fifth anniversary. The IRR series covers issues of religious diversity with a special focus on Asia.
The symposium then culminated in a lively Q&A session, addressing topics such as overcoming barriers to interaction, the role of the state in countering exclusivism and promoting inclusivism, and the limitations of a democracy.