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Speech by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Minister for Finance, at Singapore Buddhist Federation Vesak Celebration

12 May 2008

Venerable Kwang Sheng, President, Singapore Buddhist Federation

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

1. I am honoured to join you in your Vesak Day celebrations.

2. The theme of today's celebration (Buddhism - A Way of Life?) throws light on the values that are a way of life for those who follow the Buddhist faith. Values like compassion, selflessness and tolerance. But these values are also highly relevant to our way of life as a multi-cultural and multi-religious society in Singapore. They express how we have come to understand each other, and value the rich diversity that we have in our cultures and religions.

3. It is no surprise that we have here today leaders and people of various faiths and cultures. No surprise that we join in each other's celebrations and festivities. It is part of the constant interactions that we have with each other - whether in our day-to-day activities or on special occasions like our religious holidays - that help us to keep strengthen the bonds between members of our different communities and ensure that we stay a cohesive society.

4. We are fortunate that our community and religious organizations themselves place great priority on building these bonds. Organizations such as MUIS, Jamiyah, the Hindu Endowments Board and the Singapore Buddhist Federation share a common vision of preserving social harmony by promoting an understanding of our differences, as well as an appreciation of what we have in common.

5. But it is not just what our religious and community leaders do, but what each of us as citizens do that ensures that Singapore remains a peaceful and harmonious society well into the future. It will be so if we each make the small efforts to get to know each other. Small efforts like being sensitive to each other's needs, bringing each other into our conversations in school and at work, or into our leisure and games. Or looking after a neighbour's child, and having an occasional meal together. These simple acts, between schoolmates, colleagues at work and neighbours of different races and religions, are what develops our sense of comfort with each other, creates friendships and ensures that our social fabric remains strong. They make us a truly multiracial society.

6. We look forward to the variety of programmes and activities that the Singapore Buddhist Federation is organizing over the next two days. The exhibition on Buddhism and the vegetarian food fair will I am sure generate much interest, and allow everyone who comes to leave with a taste of one of Singapore's main faiths.

With this, I wish everyone a very meaningful celebration of Vesak Day.