There is great wisdom in knowing that you alone can’t solve the problem. There is great wisdom in knowing that you need help. In that respect, Minister Khaw is indeed wise. He realised that he alone cannot solve the teething problems of the new extension of the Downtown Line (aka DTL2). And even though he has tried to convince Singaporeans that it’s really our own fault for being unhappy because we have such high expectations, he must have realised that he still has to appear to do whatever he can to prevent too many teething problems from occurring. But what can he do? His engineers have told him that they can’t “replicate” (terrible choice of words) the actual operating conditions and thus cannot predict and prevent the “teething problems”.
Any other mere mortals would have given up. But not Minister Khaw. He wisely sought help from higher powers. No. Not the PM. Even higher than that. He decided to seek divine intervention. And thus it was, that religious leaders were called upon to bless the depot of the MRT line. As Straits Times reported: “Leaders of Singapore’s Inter Religious Organisation (IRO) took a private ride on the new DTL2 last Thursday (Dec 17) and “jointly blessed” the new Gali Batu Depot, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan revealed on Facebook on Tuesday (Dec 22).”
I don’t know how the prayer went. But a Facebook user commenting on ST’s Facebook post on this report had this suggestion:
In any case, regardless of what prayer was said, let’s hope that the higher powers heard our prayers and the DTL2 will outperform the low expectations that Minister Khaw has set. Then Singaporeans, because we now have such low expectations of our government, will all rejoice and celebrate.
On a more serious note, I think it is a uniquely Singaporean practice to have the government invite leaders of different religion coming together to bless something. I know that the Officer Cadet School (OCS) has, for the longest time, the practice of getting leaders of different religion to bless newly commissioned officers during their commissioning parade. And, I think it is something that we should be thankful for.
In this day and age of strife amongst different religion, it is a heartening and encouraging sight to see leaders of different religions coming together for a common cause. Where people of different religions are fighting and killing one another in other parts of the world, we have in Singapore different religions coming together to ask for blessings to benefit all Singaporeans, regardless of race or religion.
It is something precious, this religious harmony. That we can have a Hindu temple next to a mosque right opposite a church, all existing peacefully. That we can have a Chinese incense cauldron in front of a Hindu temple. That we can have a Chinese funeral happening, without any conflict, at the void deck of a block right next to a Malay wedding in the void deck of an adjacent block. I think it’s testament that Singapore, for whatever our grouses and complaints, is special.
This religious harmony is something that we need to vigorously guard and further nurture. Because we can still do better. More than just tolerating other religion, I hope we can learn more about other people’s religion. I hope we can have vigorous discussions, learn to respectfully agree to disagree, and even if we do disagree, stridently defend one another’s right to differences in religious opinion. And even if we do disagree with some aspects of one another’s religion, I hope we can come to appreciate those aspects that we do agree on.
We are starting on a strong foundation. We can go further. We can become the shining example of what religious harmony looks like. We can show the world what things can be if we put our hearts and minds to it.
So while there may still be teething problems even after the “joint” religious blessings of leaders of the different religions in Singapore, I am glad that we had that. Because it’s a uniquely beautiful Singaporean ritual that shows the world what should be.
[Featured image: photo of visit by religious leaders posted on Minister Khaw’s Facebook page. Photo: Minister Khaw Boon Wan/Facebook]