RACIAL HARMONY FORUM 23 APRIL 2019
Programme BREAKFAST & NETWORKING CHECKING IN EXPERIENCING A LEARNING JOURNEY LUNCH CONNECTING OUR EXPERIENCES APPRECIATING PERSPECTIVES THROUGH DIALOGUE TEA
IN CONVERSATION WITH MS INDRANEE RAJAH Minister in Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Education and Finance
BA'ALWIE MOSQUE Be fascinated by Habib Hassanâ€™s sharing of the story that led to the building of Baâ€™alwie Mosque by his late grandfather, Habib Muhammad bin Salim Al-Attas. The stories behind several artefacts donated to the mosque, such as a Quran inscribed on jade and a Bible written in Arabic, are intriguing. There Habib Hassan Al-Attas is also a mini museum within the mosque which houses a collection of Qurans and, interestingly, Bibles as well.
BW MONASTERY This Buddhist monastery in Woodlands was only opened in 2017 but has since been actively making their mark in the community they reside in. Explore how this monastery tries to keep up with modern times and appeal to the younger generation through the various activities conducted by their youth wing. Pick up some skills along the way as you get a chance to try out some of the musical instruments they use during their ceremonies.
Venerable Bensi (A different guide may host you on the day of visit)
CATHEDRAL OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD Hear about Singapore’s early years first-hand from Mr Wilfred James. Built in 1847, the Cathedral of the Good Shepard is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in Singapore and has been a gazetted National Monument since 1973. It is also the Cathedral Church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore and the seat of its Archbishop. Discover how Waterloo Street became a Catholic Hub while co-existing with other religious entities in the area.
Mr Wilfred James
GURDWARA SAHIB SILAT ROAD SIKH TEMPLE Lose yourself in the story of the Sikh diaspora in Singapore as Mr Amarjeet Singh takes you through the history of the temple which is almost a century old! Originally known as the Police Gurdwara by the Sikh community, it was built by the Sikh policemen who came to Singapore to serve the British. It currently holds the shrine of 19th-century Sikh holy man Bhai Maharaj Singh.Â Mr Amarjeet Singh
KHADIJAH MOSQUE & RELIGIOUS REHABITILATION GROUP Have an open and honest discussion with Mr Salim Mohamed Nasir, a member of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) Secretariat. The RRG is housed in Khadijah Mosque, one of the oldest mosques in Singapore. Aside from welcoming worshippers, the mosque grew in prominence for housing the gallery of the RRG. Be moved by Mr Salim’s sharing of interfaith collaborations at Khadijah Mosque and how the RRG aspires to build social resilience in the community.
Mr Salim Mohamed Nasir
KONG MENG SAN PHOR KARK SEE MONASTERY Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery (KMSPKS) is a spiritual sanctuary in urban Singapore where one can learn the Buddha's teachings of wisdom and compassion; practise mindfulness; develop gratitude and bring happiness to all. Founded in 1921, KMSPKS is one of the most significant and renowned monasteries in Southeast Asia. Find out about KMSPKS's contribution to the growth of Venerable Sik Buddhism as well as the inter-religious harmony in Kwang Sheng Singapore. (A different guide may host you on the day of visit)
MASJID KAMPUNG SIGLAP
No one knows exactly when Masjid Kampung Siglap was first built. It was widely believed that the mosque was collectively built by the village folk, most of whom were fishermen who toiled to build the mosque. Unlike the usual domes characteristic of mosques, Masjid Kampung Siglap is distinctly Malay in its architecture. Akin to a time capsule, the old prayer hall remains unchanging to its times and the use of steel panels alike to wooden planks is MrÂ Nailul Hafiz a reminiscence of the good old kampong ambience.
NARGORE DARGAH Visit Nagore Dargah and learn from Mr Rajah Mohamad about the uniqueness of his heritage as an Indian Muslim. Indian Muslims are a small but prominent community in Singapore. The Nagore Dargah is an important monument to them and a valued cultural artefact to Singapore. The building was said to have been built as a memorial to a holy man, Shahul Hamid of Nagore in southern India.
MrÂ Rajah Mohamad
WAT PALELAI BUDDHIST TEMPLE Soak in the Thai influences of this temple located in Bedok. As a Singaporean monk in a Theravada Buddhist tradition (a sect hailing from Thailand), Phra Goh Chun Kiang will share how the distinct Thai influences of the temple feels right at home in Singapore through the charity it extends to the local community it resides in. Â Find out the story behind his ordination as a Buddhist monk.
Phra Goh Chun Kiang
SINGAPORE YU HUANG GONG (TAOIST MISSION) Immerse yourselves in Master Lee Zhiwang’s and Master Tan Zhixia’s stories of this ornate Temple of the Heavenly Jade Emperor (Yu Huang Gong). The temple was gazetted as a National Monument in 2009. Masters Tan and Lee will journey with you through the history of the temple and how it is intricately intertwined with the history of the Hokkien community.
Master Tan Zhi Xia
Guide For Learning Journey 1. TIPS FOR DIALOGUE WITH THE HOST Ask Open-Ended Questions How do you see your role in... ? What do you think about...? Could you share more about..?
Draw Out Stories What was it like growing up in this community? How did you feel about (something featured in the news)? How has it affected you or your community?
Ask Follow Up Questions You've said that times have changed and there are new challenges today. Can you tell me more about that?
2. SEND YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS VIA WHATSAPP TO: Select 3 photographs on the way back and send via Whatsapp to:
8318 5305 (Tables 1 - 9) 9754 1777 (Tables 10 - 19) <INSERT PHOTO> <TABLE NUMBER> Printing takes time. Photos will be delivered to your table when they are ready.
What's the Point
Civic Discourse: Debate, Dialogue or Deliberation? Civic discourse is an integral part of democracies. The term is sometimes used interchangeably or with slight distinction from ‘civil discourse’, but in many instances both refer to public conversations among citizens on issues that matter to them and to the country. Civic discourse refers to the sum total of all such conversations and statements of opinion that occur in physical, print and online spaces, and when conducted purposefully, allows people and government to come together to share perspectives and coconstruct actions or outcomes on important issues. The quality of civic discourse in a country often represents the capacity of its people to participate actively in the growth of their country, and shape its future through dialogue, consensus-building, and collective decision-making. As much an opportunity to listen as it is to speak, civic discourse is defined by core principles such as openness, inclusiveness, reciprocity, and moderation 1. Participants are committed to take the perspectives of others, and to be open to a diversity of ideas. Otherwise, “by becoming loud or single-minded in pursuit of one’s rightness” 2, both individuals and society will not benefit from the dynamism and growth offered by constructive civic discourse. Schools, being microcosms of society, provide contexts for students to learn about and practise being active adult citizens in future. Specifically, opportunities to discuss contemporary issues with their peers and teachers enable students to learn the values and social and emotional competencies required for civic 3 discourse, mostly related to civic listening, civic empathy, and internal reflection .
These three inter-related capacities encompass the ability to listen, which is both a skill and an attitude of openness and interest in others; to understand different contexts and personal narratives; and to develop empathy for the common good, especially when it conflicts with their own interests. Students are also involved in reflecting on and adjusting their views, including challenging their own biases and forming new ideas. It is important to recognise that different types of discussions can occur in society and among students, and 4 for different purposes. For simplicity, I will focus on three: Debate, Dialogue, and Deliberation . Debate is a type of discussion where opposing arguments are usually put forward and substantiated with reasons and evidence. Usually, debates involve finding ways to defend your position, and to counter that of others. Participants listen to find flaws, counter-arguments, and differences. Winning is often the goal, and the atmosphere may be threatening. In contrast, dialogue is a type of exchange that allows people to share their perspectives and experiences with one another in safe spaces. This includes sharing on difficult topics such as race, religion, or inequality, especially as dialogues allow people to explore power, privilege, and injustice in a safe environment. Being in dialogue is not about winning an argument, or about making decisions; it is about listening to understand and learn. It is about relationship-building. Dialogue dispels stereotypes, and enables people to find common ground and connect emotionally. The atmosphere is one of trust, and is marked by clear ground rules that promote respectful exchange. Deliberation is a related process to dialogue, but with a different emphasis 5. Deliberation involves collective decision-making, as its participants examine all sides of an issue, consider relevant information, and weigh options. Dialogue lays an important foundation for deliberation, as it helps participants to be open to others’ perspectives even when they conflict with their own. Principles of dialogue, including the emphasis on listening and personal reflection, are key to ensuring that everyone has an equal voice. The trust, mutual understanding, and relationships that are built during dialogue also enable participants to deliberate and make decisions more effectively. Deliberation is a key process for society and government to arrive at better decisions together, and to co-construct public and societal outcomes. An understanding of different types of discussions – debate, dialogue, and deliberation – could help us design and facilitate conversations in classrooms more intentionally. In some instances, students could participate in a debate to develop critical thinking, reasoning, and persuasion skills. In others, teachers can facilitate a safe space for students to share personal narratives and form connections with others. And in other instances, students can be tasked to co-construct solutions to problems, and develop consensus-building capacities. Each type of discussion has its set of processes and skills, and develop our students differently. For CCE, discussions on contemporary issues aim to focus mainly on dialogue and deliberation as a means to nurture civic listening, empathy, and internal reflection. Through experiencing these discursive processes, students not only benefit from exchanges that are shaped by the values of graciousness, empathy, and respect, but to also play an active role in shaping those values themselves. 1. National Issues Forum (www.nifi.org). Accessed 17 Oct 2018. 2. Herbst, S. (2014). “Civility, Civic Discourse, and Civic Engagement: Inextricably Woven”. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 5-10. 3. Peterson, A. (2009). “Civic Republicanism and Contestatory Deliberation: Framing Pupil Discourse Within Citizenship Education”. British Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 57, No. 1, pp. 55-69. 4. Heierbacher, S. (2007). “Dialogue and Deliberation”. In Holman, P., Devane, T., Cady, S. (Eds.) The Change Handbook: The Definitive Resource to Today’s Best Methods for Engaging Whole Systems. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 5. National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (www.ncdd.org). Accessed 17 Oct 2018.
What's the Point
Contemporary Issues: How can we make discussions relevant to students? A big challenge for us as educators in Singapore is to get our students interested in contemporary issues that are of national and global significance. Our students, especially our teenagers, tend to be either indifferent or cynical about adult perspectives on these matters, and are very quick to dismiss it all as “propaganda”. Often, they do not see the relevance of such discussions. In preparing our students for the future world they will be living in, they need to be able to express their own views and perspectives on national and global contemporary issues, practise critical thinking skills to refine and improve understanding, open their minds to listen and learn from other perspectives, and apply values and social-emotional competencies in the process. So how do we make contemporary issues discussions relevant for our students?
1. Make human connections
When we are able to connect to the human dimension of an issue, we can see its relevance to our own lives. One of the best ways to do this is to tell a relatable story. When introducing a contemporary issue for discussion, an effective way to capture the interest of our students is to share stories of the people or communities impacted by the issue or narrate a personal experience, if possible. Bringing in the human angle opens the space for emotional connection and empathy-building. Besides such stories and experiences, we can also encourage the students to share their stories and experiences, too.
2. Don’t place the entire focus on knowledge about the issue Some issues may be somewhat complex and there may be technical aspects of the issue that need to be understood. However, while knowing and clarifying the facts about an issue is important, this should not be sole the purpose of the discussion. To nurture citizenship dispositions including a sense of belonging, hope and reality, and a will to act, these discussions need to touch the hearts of our students and inspire them, and not only make them knowledgeable.
What's the Point
3. Avoid short-circuiting the process by zooming in on the “correct answer” In discussing contemporary issues, the focus should be on presenting and understanding different perspectives on an issue, not just the dominant, widely accepted views. If these are the only perspectives that are discussed or presented uncritically as the “correct answer”, it will not be surprising if students walk away unconvinced. Perspectives need to be analysed, always bearing in mind the broader social context and the fact that, in a diverse, multi-cultural society like ours, we need to respect the common space and anchor our decisionmaking processes on shared societal values and the common good. For some issues, it will be possible to come to a moral consensus, but for some more complex issues, we may need to learn how to hold the tensions of unresolvable concerns, and still respect one another, despite our different views and experiences.
4. Encourage students to voice their thoughts, opinions and feelings As teachers, we need to believe that every student has something to contribute to enrich the discussions. We should not allow the more vociferous ones to dominate every discussion; instead, we should provide different ways for students to express their views, e.g. in written form, or by standing on a continuum or a human graph, or showing the extent to which they agree on a scale of 5 or 10 by simply showing their fingers. Encouraging student voice during discussions on contemporary issues is critical if we are to create a national culture that nurtures a sense of belonging and hope. Our students need to feel that they have a part to play in building our nation; that they can speak up and contribute regardless of race, language, gender, religion, socio-economic status or education level.
5. Listen and ask probing questions Curiosity is an important quality for a person to be an active listener. Being curious opens our minds to new perspectives and enables us to sincerely seek understanding; we will not be so quick to evaluate and judge the opinions of others against our personal yardsticks, thereby closing our minds. Importantly, the skilful teacher-facilitator has clarity of the objectives of the discussion and asks questions that draw out the desired learning from the students. We practice and demonstrate active listening so as to be able to ask appropriate questions to surface and evaluate the fairness of assumptions, refine thinking and sensitise one another to the feelings of others. We ask probing questions to improve our students’ thinking, and guide them to arrive at responsible decisions and informed opinions.
Investing in Common Spaces There has been much in the news recently on issues involving race and religion. Some recent headlines include... "Parliament: Christchurch attacks a lesson for Singapore to stand united and respond swiftly to public incidents" (The Straits Times, Apr 2019)
"15% of respondents find Muslims threatening: IPS report" (The Straits Times, Mar 2019)
"Restrictions needed on offensive speech as it creates conditions for discrimination: Shanmugam" (Channel NewsAsia, Apr 2019)
"Christchurch shootings show radicalisation could be present in any race or religion: Grace Fu" (The Straits Times, Mar 2019)
"Almost a quarter of Singaporeans would allow religious extremists to post views online: IPS report" (Channel NewsAsia, Mar 2019)
"Many Christians were ‘very concerned and offended’: Shanmugam explains reversal of decision over metal band concert" (TODAY, Apr 2019)
IPS Survey Results
Restrictions on Offensive Speech
The important thing is to invest during times of peace, not to scramble when something happens. We cannot be complacent. - President Halimah Yacob (The Straits Times, Mar 2019)
Consider some of the policies and initiatives below: 1948: Sedition Act 1959: Bilingual Policy 1960: People's Association 1970: Presidential Council for Minority Rights 1988: Group Representation Constituency 1989: Ethnic Integration Policy 1990: Presidential Council for Religious Harmony 2002: Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles 2017: Ask Me Anything - interfaith discussions
How many are you familiar with? Discuss the following statement with your colleagues!
"We have invested enough in racial & religious harmony to be united in times of crisis." Strongly Disagree
NE FORTE 2018 Issues
Redefining Failure notions of success
unCLASSified SES and social mixing
Our Singapore Stories national narratives
Who Cares? care for the elderly
How on Earth? climate action
Culture Shiok! cultural heritage
Keeping the Balance diplomatic relations
Consensus the ASEAN Way
Fake News, Real... online falsehoods
DisPLACEd? conservation efforts
Colour Brave race "blindness"
Who are We? national identity
Why You So Kiasu? kiasuism
Crazy Rich Discussions Waste Not, Want Not media representations reducing waste
2019 Issues (so far...)
Food for Thought hawker centres and our cultural heritage
Digitally Insecure? digital security and the digital realm
Click on any NE Forte cover for a refresher on the issue!
Spark Joy? Beyond the Bicentennial decluttering and the zero waste movement commemorating history
In Common building common spaces amid diversity
Got a contemporary issue you would like us to cover? Let us know!
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