Religion and the milk of human kindness

THE recent saga involving the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Campus Crusade for Christ (‘Christian group says sorry for remarks’; last Friday) once again highlights how sensitive religious matters are in our society.

To believe in something as important as a religious tenet, passion is to be expected. For many, to believe includes the desire to communicate that belief passionately. However, passionate adherence to one’s faith must not result in disrespect for the faith of others in word or deed.

How then does one communicate faith in a way that does not breach peace among neighbours who subscribe to different faiths and world views?

The answer, I believe, is in kindness.

We live in a multi-religious society, held together by a social compact to live in harmony. In such a society, we must look at our shared world through each other’s eyes. We have to at least try to look at our own words and actions from more than just our own point of view. This consideration for others is an integral part of kindness.

Kindness would be a good barometer to gauge if one’s words or behaviour are socially responsible. For instance, in this case, the students, prior to posting the comments, could have asked themselves, ‘Would it be kind to say this?’

Another good question to ask is, ‘How would I feel if this is said about me and my religion?’

In the situation commented on, the answer, I am certain, would have been that it was not kind to have said those things. I am also sure that if they were the recipients of those comments, they would have found them offensive to their religious sensibilities.

It’s a simple approach to determine appropriate behaviour in our society. This approach is, in fact, espoused by all religious teachers. It is the Golden Rule, that we should treat others the way we want to be treated.

If we keep this simple rule in mind, and measure our words and actions against this standard, I’m certain we will find that practising and communicating one’s faith in a multi-religious ethos can be done without creating disharmony among neighbours.

Dr William Wan
General Secretary
Singapore Kindness Movement

First published in The Straits Times – Feb 22, 2012

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