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Singapore’s first Cardinal Goh to promote religious harmony

Cardinal William Goh of Singapore (Photo courtesy of Archdiocese of Singapore)

The first Cardinal of Singapore, Archbishop William Goh, assures that he will promote religious harmony in Asia by strengthening dialogue between different religions.

"Interreligious dialogue," he observes, “means interacting with people beyond religious borders to collaborate and promote peace in society, in Asia and in the world. It is part of the evangelizing mission of the Church in a complex reality like Asia."

Goh, one of the 20 new cardinals formally created by Pope Francis at the Vatican on August 27, explains to Fides that the Archdiocese of Singapore will create a special research institute to study methodologies on how to promote friendship with other religious leaders to later share them with the bishops of the Asian continent. 

In the past, the Asian bishops have asked the Catholic Church of Singapore for suggestions, advice, and good practices to live pluralism and dialogue with different religions in a fruitful way.

Goh points out that "the work of interreligious dialogue is carried out thanks to a patient weaving of human and spiritual relationships." In addition, institutional support is important: "The Singapore government is also keen to promote unity by offering its support without being the body that promotes or guides the process."

"The government sees us as a partner because, in the end, we help build a better society. We want to live a harmonious life in Singapore. We work with the government to recognize common values, and the government respects us," he says.

"We respect the government because, after all, religion is not involved in politics," he says. "The Church does not look down on other religions and does not seek political power, but cooperates and collaborates with civil institutions." 

Goh's creation as a cardinal came as the diocese of Singapore celebrated its 200th anniversary of evangelization. 

The Cardinal explains how the baptized can be builders of dialogue and peace: "Religious leaders maintain excellent relationships; we respect and support each other. We may not share the same convictions, but at least we share the same universal values of love, justice, peace, and harmony. We live these values with the spirit of Christ, which is the source."

And he continues: "Singapore is a religious nation, in which 80% of its population professes a faith, but we are a secular state. We must not take religious harmony in our country for granted and we must ensure that religious leaders remain moderate and respectful of one another, setting an example for the faithful."

"On an individual level, we should encourage Catholics to know the religions of others, but the interreligious dialogue is for people who are passionate and mature in their faith. You cannot dialogue with others if you do not know your own faith. With this spirit, one can be "authentic witnesses of Christ with people of other faiths," he concludes.

Singapore is a multi-religious and multi-ethnic nation with an estimated population of 5.7 million. Most Chinese are Buddhists and most Malaysians are Muslims.

Christians represent about 15% of the population. The Archdiocese of Singapore, which covers the entire island, has some 360,000 Catholics, divided into 32 parishes. - Agenzia Fides 


Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.”  Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.