Think Tank (3/2023)
Ambassador Mohammad Alami Musa giving an introductory speech
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Religion and Non-Religion: Dynamics and Impacts on Plural Societies
03 May 2023
Claribel Low

The Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies (SRP) Programme held the eighth iteration of its Executive Programme (EP) titled “Religion and Non-Religion: Dynamics and Impacts on Plural Societies” on 3 and 4 May 2023. Given the growing number of Singapore residents identifying as having no religious affiliation, this EP was convened to examine non-religiosity and its influence on Singapore’s religiously-diverse landscape. Specifically, it was aimed at exploring the diversity within the non-religious community in Singapore, along with the perspectives that religious and non-religious communities hold of one another. The event was attended by policymakers, public officers, as well as community and religious leaders. Ten speakers of diverse profiles were invited to share their views and expertise.

Ambassador Mohammad Alami Musa, Head of Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies Programme, commenced the EP with a welcome speech after an introductory note by Assistant Professor Rafal Stepien. A series of presentations about non-religion followed. These included introductions as well as assessments of non-religion and humanism delivered by Senior Analyst Acmal Zuheyr from SRP, Senior Lecturer at the University of Kent, Dr Lois Lee, Associate Professor Paul Hedges and Mr Paul Tobin, founder of the Humanist Society of Singapore.

Dr Lee Foong Ming, Ustazah Liyana Rosli Asmara, and Reverend Dr Edmund Fong presented respectively the views Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity held of non-religious communities. Thereafter, Mr Paul Tobin shared the views that humanists and non-religious communities held of religion, before a lively panel discussion commenced, during which participants posed questions for speakers.

The second day was dedicated to examining the constitutional and legal frameworks for the maintenance of social harmony in Singapore. The session began with head of Institute of Policy Studies, Dr Mathew Mathews’ presentation where he analysed social attitudes and perspectives that the non-religious community held of both religious communities and social issues. Associate Professor Eugene Tan and Associate Professor Jaclyn Neo then discussed, in their respective presentations, the ways in which social cohesion can be sustained and cultivated as the number of non-religious in Singapore continue to grow. Before the event concluded, participants worked on hypothetical case studies within their small groups where they applied the knowledge they gleaned from the two-day event. Through this programme, they were able to gain a deeper understanding of the nuances and complexities surrounding non-religion in religiously-plural Singapore.

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