Transcript of speech delivered by DPM Teo Chee Hean at the 70th Anniversary Thanksgiving Dinner of Trinity Theological College on 5 October 2018.
“A Harmonious and United Singapore”
The Right Reverend Rennis Ponniah,
Chairman of the Trinity Theological College (or TTC) Board of Governors,
The Right Reverend Terry Kee,
Vice Chairman of the TTC Board of Governors,
Reverend Dr Ngoei Foong Nghian,
Principal of TTC,
Members of TTC, Alumni
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am happy to join you tonight to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Trinity Theological College. This is an important milestone for TTC. Over the past 70 years, TTC has made many contributions towards building a stronger and more united Singapore.
A Multi-Racial and Multi-Religious Singapore
Today, it is more important than ever for all communities in Singapore to continue to work for a harmonious and united society. A report by the Pew Research Centre in 2014, which many of you would be familiar with, found Singapore to be the most religiously diverse among 232 countries. Yet, we are able to live together in peace and harmony, and even participate in one another’s religious festivals. We see non-Muslims breaking fast with their Muslim friends during Ramadan, and non-Hindus joining the colourful Deepavali celebrations in Little India every year. And Christmas is a favourite holiday for many Singaporeans, regardless of their faith. We greet each other “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Deepavali” or a “Blessed and Peaceful Ramadan”.
This harmony that we enjoy today did not happen by chance, and must never be taken for granted. In many places around the world, exclusivism and intolerance are coming to the fore, whether in race or religion. In our own region, the threat of religious extremism and terrorism continues to threaten our peace. In Singapore, we continue to detect radicalised individuals. The rapid growth of digital technologies and social media has also created new challenges by making it much easier to spread intolerant and radical ideas, or to deliberately spread false or distorted messages to pit one community against another.
To safeguard our peace and stability, we need to take a firm stand against these ideas and send a strong signal to support mutual respect and harmony. This is why the Government has consistently worked closely with our community groups and organisations, especially our religious organisations, to expand our common space and promote greater understanding among different social groups; through various policies such as education and housing, and programmes and platforms such as Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles or IRCCs.
By working together, we can prevent malicious individuals or groups from exploiting these differences to divide our society and tear apart our social fabric. Where there are differences, and there will always be differences, we should engage in respectful dialogue, focusing on our similarities and common humanity, rather than accentuating our differences, and tearing our communities apart.
Trinity Theological College: Working Hand-in-Hand
Over the past 70 years, TTC has helped to build a harmonious and united Singapore. This is grounded in the vision of your founders, who were the leaders of the Protestant churches incarcerated at Changi Prison during the Second World War. These leaders, in the darkest of times, saw beyond the prison walls to conceive of a better day, where different Christian denominations would work together for the development of the Christian Church in Singapore and the betterment of our society. Soon after the war ended, the Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches came together to found the union College in October 1948. In 1963, the Lutheran Church joined the three denominations and further strengthened the college.
The College has not only trained pastors from mainline Protestant denominations, but also those from independent churches in Singapore. More importantly, TTC has helped to contextualise the training of Christian pastors across the denominations to our multi-racial and multi-religious society in Singapore. This means understanding and respecting others and their beliefs that promote togetherness, and rejecting teachings and practices that promote segregation, and that denigrate other religions. This contextualisation requires opening both our hearts and our minds, and is instrumental to building a harmonious and united Singapore.
Through your degree programmes, you have helped to train scholars and servant-leaders not only for Singapore but also in the region, including countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, India and China. Today, about 2,300 TTC alumni serve in churches and Christian organisations in Southeast Asia and across the globe. It was wonderful to see the enthusiastic response of all the alumni, who are able to make it here tonight. I congratulate all of you, and I wish the College all the very best.
You have also collaborated and launched exchange programmes with leading seminaries and institutions around the world. These include Yale Divinity School in the US, Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and the University of Otago in New Zealand. These collaborations reflect the high regard that these reputable institutions hold of your College.
As one of the key Christian institutions in Singapore, you have also actively reached out to other religious groups to organise inter-faith dialogues to promote religious harmony. For example, together with the National Council of Churches of Singapore you organised a seminar with the Association of Muslim Professionals in 2004 on the theme ‘Secular State, Moral Society’. This seminar brought Muslim and Christian leaders, scholars and professionals together to discuss the role of religion in Singapore.
More recently, you participated actively in the inaugural ‘Building Bridges’ programme jointly organised by NCCS and the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. Your lecturers have also given talks organised by MUIS and the Harmony Centre. TTC has also signed an MOU with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at NTU to offer modules in RSIS’s Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies Programme. I commend you on these efforts, which help to bond our diverse faith communities and foster meaningful dialogue.
Members of TTC,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Congratulations once again to you on your 70th Anniversary! Over the past 70 years, TTC has worked hard to live up to its motto of Lux Mundi which means ‘Light of the World’. Your service to both church and society has made your College shine brightly in Singapore and in the region. As we look to the future, the role of religious institutions like TTC will continue to be key to help us safeguard and promote Singapore’s peace and harmony. I urge you to continue working closely with the Government and across communities to foster mutual understanding, forge closer friendships, and build a more harmonious and united Singapore.
May you and your congregation be showered with many blessings and much happiness.
Thank you very much.
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