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Nurturing the youth community through hope and unity in diversity

Speech by Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth & Ministry of Communications and Information at Singapore Soka Association Youth Summit

26 August 2018

Mr Tay Eng Kiat, Singapore Soka Association General Director;

Mr Koh Song Heng, Youth Summit Organising Chairman;

His Excellency Mr Nimal Weeraratne, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka;

Ms Thitiporn Chirasawadi, Minister Counsellor of Royal Thai Embassy;


Ladies and gentlemen


1. Good evening! I am delighted to join you here for the Youth Summit organised by the Singapore Soka Association (SSA). It is good to see so many young Singaporeans here, including some 5,000 audience members and more than 4,000 participants today. I understand we also have about 90 youths from different parts of Asia here as well. Thank you for joining us, and welcome to Singapore!


2. This event is a culmination of many activities that the Singapore Soka Association Youth Division has been planning with the community since March this year. Some of these activities include dialogues with youth on issues of concern to them, and community projects for the elderly. There have also been dialogues with youth from vulnerable backgrounds, as well as learning journeys on appreciating cultures and practices of various faith and ethnic groups.


3. The time and effort taken to organise and participate in these activities have been above and beyond your weekly training sessions for the culture performances this evening.


4. I would like to commend you on your dedication and commitment. Take for example, Ms Claire Teo, a participant of this Youth Summit who is involved in one of the dance items. Claire is 19 years old, currently a third year student in LaSelle, and visually impaired. Though she was diagnosed with a rare, genetic disorder of the eyes1 at the tender age of 4, she did not give up challenging her limitations. In preparing for her dance item at the Summit, Claire also received plenty of support and encouragement from her friends, especially when learning the choreography. The kindness and compassion of her group members made her determined to be in sync with everyone during the dance. Apart from her passion for dance, Claire volunteers actively with the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped, despite her busy schedule. Her spirit is truly admirable.


5. Another youth participant whom I wish to highlight is Mr Ng Li Jie, 20 years old and a full-time national serviceman. Li Jie spent his weekends over the last four months as a dance trainer in the lead-up to this Summit. Many who meet Li Jie may not know that he has mild autism, and used to lack confidence to interact with others. Today, he has overcome his challenges and continues to inspire others with his positive outlook. For this Summit, he had no qualms teaching dance choreography to a group of 20 to 30 participants. Let’s give Li Jie, Claire and all of you who have supported them a big round of applause!


6. I’m also very happy to hear that many youths from diverse social backgrounds, faiths and ethnic groups have stepped forward to take part in SSA’s community activities. For example, at SSA’s Youth of Peace Symposium in June, diverse youths from Harmony Centre, Assyafaah Mosque and Roses of Peace came together to participate in the dialogue session, discussing ways to develop themselves so that they can initiate change in the community. True to the Summit’s theme, Choose Hope – Embracing Diversity, Empowering Lives”, you have shown what it means to make use of your different strengths to improve the lives of others. Well done, everyone!

Safeguarding our racial and religious harmony

7. In Singapore, we are fortunate to live in one of the most religiously diverse yet harmonious countries in the world. A joint 2013 study by the Institute of Policy Studies and OnePeople.SG showed that more than 9 in 10 households are comfortable living and working alongside people of different faiths. This did not happen by chance. It is the result of deliberate government policies to expand the common space for different communities to come together, and a concerted effort by the people to treat one another with mutual respect.


8. We cannot take our racial and religious harmony for granted. This bears emphasising because our country’s openness – through immigration, the influence of the Internet – contributes to an increasingly complex religious landscape. Extremist and segregationist views continue to polarise societies around the world. We have also seen an increasing number of radicalised Singaporeans put under restriction or detention orders in recent years.


9. That is why it is so important to bridge understanding among ethnic and religious groups. As our President Madam Halimah Yacob said at the National Inter-racial and Religious Confidence Circles (IRCC) Convention this January: "Issues of race and religion are always sensitive, but that does not mean we do not talk about them and seek to better understand each other's perspectives." So let’s open our hearts and minds to new perspectives, and create more opportunities to forge mutual understanding.

This will be the foundation for trust and respect between diverse communities, so that we can face future challenges together as one people.


10. There are many other ongoing initiatives that aim to deepen our knowledge of different faiths. These include inter-faith dialogues by the IRCCs, as well as BRIDGE2, a series of community-led initiatives to improve racial and religious understanding in Singapore.


11. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) also launched Youth Conversations, a platform for Singaporean youths to engage with peers from diverse backgrounds and co-create solutions on a wide range of topics. We have already organised several conversations, on topics such as environmental sustainability, social inclusivity, as well as racial and religious diversity. If you have been inspired by this Youth Summit to voice your views and make an impact in the community, I encourage you to participate in Youth Conversations and BRIDGE too.


12. Lastly, I would like to congratulate the SSA Youth Division on this meaningful journey taken through the Youth Summit, and for involving many other youths to join you in this endeavour. To share a quote from the President of the Soka Gakkai International, Mr Daisaku Ikeda: “There is no challenge that cannot be resolved if we unite in solidarity… We call on youth to take on the responsibility of walking together with the people, embracing the confidence that each of their actions will produce results in future.”


13. With that in mind, I hope that you will become a source of inspiration for your peers. Let’s continue to work together, and build a more caring and cohesive home for all. Thank you.

 1 Retinitis Pigmantosa

 2 Broadening Religious and Racial Interaction through Dialogue and General Education.

Last Updated: 27 August 2018

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