Singapore – Cohesive societies do not exist spontaneously. They are based on choices and beliefs, and the Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced this, President Halimah Yacoub said Tuesday.

At the outset of a three-day conference to discuss issues around faith, identity and unity, she said the public health measures needed to curb the coronavirus have increased social unrest.

She said tensions were high and in some cases caused prejudice and xenophobia.

Some places saw hate crimes against Asians accused of spreading the virus.

“The pandemic has deepened social chasms around the world at a time when it was collective action and cooperation that was urgently needed to recover from the pandemic,” she said.

“Social cohesion is a necessary condition for our collective security. Without the social glue that holds people together, no society can survive, let alone thrive.”

Over 800 attendees from over 40 countries attend the International Conference on Cohesive Societies at the Raffles City Convention Center. The event is organized by S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) and Nanyang Technological University and supported by Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).

Initiated by Mrs. Halima and first held in 2019, the conference is an international platform for participants to engage in dialogue and action on how to promote harmony in diverse societies.

Themed “Confident Identities, Connected Communities,” this year’s event brings together religious leaders, policy makers, academics and civil society activists. Over 40% of the participants he is under the age of 40.

While the 2019 event discussed how groups find common ground with each other, this year’s event aims to explore the role of identity, beliefs and faith in shaping social connection and cohesion. is.

Madam Halima hoped the conference would provide a platform for people to learn from each other and embrace their differences.

She asked the audience two questions: Moving forward, how will we protect and promote social cohesion in these difficult times? How can we bridge divisions and harness diversity for the common good?

She also shared a phrase she came across two months ago when Singapore celebrated its annual Day of Racial Harmony.

It came from Gaia Amedhi, a 4-year-old preschooler.

Madame Halima said, “A reminder that despite all our differences and disagreements, we are human after all, equally fragile and yet equally resilient. .

“We may come from different backgrounds, countries, cultures and religions, but we share the same basic values ​​of kindness, compassion and love.”

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