The Taoist Federation (Singapore) celebrated its Silver Jubilee in conjunction with Singapore’s Golden Jubilee on 15 April 2015. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was the Guest-of-Honour and leaders of the inter-religious and religious communities in Singapore joined in the celebrations.
Speech by Chairman of Taoist Federation (Singapore), Mr Tan Thiam Lye, BBM
Straits Times Frontpage on 16 April 2015
Lianhe Zaobao article on 16 April 2015
Friends and fellow guests,
I am very happy to join you this evening to celebrate the Taoist Federation’s Silver Jubilee.
The Taoist Federation, led by Mr Tan Thiam Lye, has worked hard to foster good relations between the different religious groups in Singapore. It is part of the Inter-Religious Organisation and it is also on the National Steering Committee on Racial and Religious Harmony. This evening, it has invited guests of all races and religions to celebrate its Silver Jubilee, and share a meal for the occasion. I was very happy this evening, when I came in, to be greeted by two performers performing on traditional Indian instruments and to have a kompang group and a Chinese dance group to welcome me and bring me in. It reflects our religious integration, our racial harmony, and the way Singapore society is and should be, and not just at an abstract national level, but on a personal, direct person-to-person level. Through such interactions, we build trust and goodwill amongst our religious leaders, amongst our different religious groups, and bring the communities closer to one another. So thank you, the Taoist Federation, for your very good work!
The religious and racial harmony that we enjoy in Singapore is a very unusual and in fact, unnatural state of affairs. They are studies of different societies and there was one study, called the “Global Religious Diversity” report, looking at how mixed different societies were. They ranked Singapore as the most religiously diverse country out of all the countries they studied. They studied 232 countries in the world, and we were the most religiously diverse – the most different religions, the most intermingled. All the world’s major faiths are present in Singapore and many smaller faiths too. And yet, we enjoy racial and religious harmony, and we live peacefully and happily side by side every day. I think that is something we can be very proud of, and it is something which has been important for us right from the beginning, when we became a country.
A multi-racial and multi-religious society is a key ideal upon which Singapore has been founded. As Mr Lee Kuan Yew said, and I quote him, “we make the model multiracial society. This is not a country that belongs to any single community – it belongs to all of us.”
According to the Dao De Jing – the sacred book, the scripture of the Taoist, it is said that in governing people and serving heaven, there is nothing like parsimony. The Chinese word was ‘啬’. Dao De Jing describes parsimony – that means being very careful with your resources – as storing up virtue, because for virtue you can never have too much of it. As you accumulate, the more you have, the stronger you can be. And the more people cannot fathom how much you have, the less likely they are to challenge you and to put it to the test, and the more peacefully we can live.
To govern well, we need as big a store of virtue as possible. Virtue, in the sense of capabilities, in the sense of resources; virtue, in the sense of good conduct and high standards of behaviour and of government, so that we can hold our heads high and we can say, we are doing the right thing and it has produced good results for Singapore.
We have done well in Singapore, but our mindset should be to keep on building, to keep on saving, to keep on being good stewards, to keep Singapore going for a long time to come. We must not to think that perhaps we have done enough, or saved enough, and we can afford to ease off, do less, and enjoy more. This is how we have developed and built ourselves up steadily over the last 50 years, and this is how society should carry on.
We also, of course, need to keep our society open and inclusive. We can be any race, any religion, but we are also at the same time, all Singaporeans together. And we have learnt to trust and respect our different races and religions, and to live peacefully with one another.
As religious leaders, you lead by example. Your communities look to you as role models. How you counsel and lead your congregations, your flocks, will shape religious relations in Singapore. So I am very happy that so many of our religious leaders are committed to building trust and friendships with other communities, and are continuing the good work which has brought us here today.
Tonight, we have this happy dinner. I hope it will be an opportunity for all the religious leaders and disciples and followers here to renew old ties and forge new friendships.
I wish the Taoist Federation a very happy Silver Jubilee. Thank you very much indeed.