KtN with venue1

KNOW THY NEIGHBOUR INTERCULTURAL UNCONFERENCE

The Know Thy Neighbour Intercultural UnConference or “KtN Singapore”  is an intercultural development event in an UnConference format.

The KtN Singapore aims to engage people of diverse races, cultures and nationalities in Singapore on the importance of community interactions. It hopes to bridge differences and bring common traits among them to foster healthy interaction within the community.

The KtN Singapore intends to i) foster understanding of one’s culture and that of others; ii) discussing the challenges of a multi-cultural society in the context of today’s world; and iii) reflecting on how Singaporeans and the international communities in Singapore could contribute towards promoting harmonious intercultural relations.

What needs are being addressed?

The event is needed given Singapore’s increasing cultural diversity. It has long been multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-religious, being at the crossroads or peripheries of major and minor civilisations.

This diversity continues to flourish with the steady rise of Singapore’s foreign population. Official statistics show that the number of non-residents increased significantly every year, the highest being in 2007 and 2008 by 14.9% and 19% respectively. While it abruptly declined to 4.8% in 2009, it has been steadily increasing since then, reaching 7.2% in 2012 (Yearbook of Statistics Singapore, 2013).1 As of last year, 2012, the country has 1,494.2 non-residents, which is almost half the population of Singaporean citizens which stands at 3,285, and almost one third of the country’s total population (including permanent residents).2

This diversity has created fault lines in the Singaporean society and had the Government making extensive efforts to know its people. Based on its founding principles of secularism and multiculturalism, Singapore’s nation-building project since 1965 has aimed to establish and maintain social harmony and cohesion.3 In a wide range of public spaces, the processes of living and interacting over time have produced a level of tolerance, respect and civility that today serves as the standard of appropriate and expected behaviour. Underlying these processes are important approaches: pragmatism, tolerance, experimentation, and monism. Pragmatism devises rules for everyday living, tolerance allows for mutual coexistence, experimentation results in exchange and hybridisation, while monism leads people to look for points of unity beneath the diversity.4

Through government efforts though, there have been improvements since the 1960s.  A 2011 survey led by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University found that the probability of a Chinese Singaporean or Christian accepting people of other races and religions as teachers, neighbours, bosses and political leaders rose from 40 per cent (2007 identical survey) to 70 per cent. Malay interviewees remained as likely to be open-minded – the probability was 70 per cent in both surveys. The survey defines an inclusive Singaporean as someone who is willing to ‘interact’ with people of other races and religions.5 Another survey contained in the book Youth.sg: The State of Youth in Singapore 2010, found out that the Inter-racial trust, such as being comfortable with having a neighbour of a different race stands at 91.4 per cent among Chinese, and 94.3 per cent and 93.8 per cent among Malays and Indians respectively.6

While the fault lines don’t appear to run as deep as before and should therefore not be feared as some say, they have always existed.7 The situation may have relatively improved compared to that in the 1960s but efforts continue and must continue to be exerted to further soothe it, 8 given that Singaporeans are still ‘shamefully oblivious to the diverse cultures surrounding them’ and that such fault lines will always exist – Race and religion are visceral fault lines in Singaporean society.9

For example, while it is generally thought that the younger generation is more tolerant and wise when dealing with its peers from different cultural backgrounds, it is also believed that people are just more tactful and adept at sweeping their underlying sentiments under the rug. A more concrete example is the 2010 survey showing that while nine out of 10 young people claimed they would be comfortable with a neighbour or colleague from a different race, eight in 10 felt the same about foreigners.10 Also, well-publicised incidents of racism and xenophobia in recent years has lead us to ask whether these vaunted values of “tolerance and respect” have been truly integrated into Singapore society’s fabric.11

Purpose of the Program: How does this fit into RIMA’s mission?

The programme, just like RIMA, aims for a strong, vibrant and progressive Malay/Muslim community in Singapore and is a good opportunity for intellectual enquiry, quality research, as well as intelligent discourse and analysis on the race and ethnicity issue among its members.

The programme is aimed at contributing to the government’s landscape of vibrant 3P (people, private and public sectors) social integration initiatives that comprehensively meet integration needs; a sustainable, active network for effective social integration efforts across Singapore; and the internalisation of core Singaporean values among Singaporeans and other living, working and playing in Singapore.

Endnotes 

1           Yearbook of Statistics Singapore, 2013, Department of Statistics Singapore, Ministry of Trade & Industry, Table 3.1 Population and Growth Rate, p.23.

2           Ibid.

3           Lai Ah Eng, “Citizen unity amid Singapore’s diversity,” The Straits Times, 14 June 2011, sec. Religion and the Public Space.

4           Ibid.

5           Feng Zengkun, “NTU Survey on Race and Religion: Singaporeans more open-minded now; Study also finds that Chinese and Christians are now more accepting of other races, faiths,” The Straits Times, 31 March 2012.

6           Daryl Chin, “9 in 10 comfortable with other races but percentage of young people who welcome foreigners drops to 66%,” The Straits Times, 26 January 2011.

7           Jennani Durai, “racial fault lines ‘not as deep as in 1960s’,” The Straits Times, 10 October 2012, sec. A6.

          Ibid.

9           S. Nikhita, “Building social cohesion: Start them young,” The Straits Times, 18 August 2009, sec. A26, p.25.

10         Wong Pei Chi, Farhan M idris, Desiree Lim and Nadzrah Samsudin, “Tolerance beyond ‘skin-deep’ differences,” TODAY, 16 November 2012, sec. Voices, p.22.

11         Ibid.

KNOW THY NEIGHBOUR INTERCULTURAL UNCONFERENCE

Saturday November 30

10.00am to 4.30pm

Carnation Room, Singapore Polytechnic Graduates’ Guild

Gate 4 of Singapore Polytechnic

1010 Dover Road, Singapore 139658

10.00: Registration & Relationship Building (Refreshments served)

10:30: Briefing of UnConference Format

10.40: Presentations

Speaker 1 – Mr Joshua Borden (Intercultural Communication)

Speaker 2 – Dr William Wan, PhD (Harmony & Friendships)

Q&A

11.20: Ice Breaker & Full Value Commitment

11.55: Suggested Topics for UnConference

12.35: Breakout Sessions

1.40: Lunch & relationship Building

2.15: Summary Presentations of Breakout Sessions

3.15: Dialogue Session – Where Do We Go From Here?

4.15: Closing address by Dr Ameen Talib, Chairman of RIMA

4.30: End of Programme

The Unconference format has taken on the format of the Diversity in Action: Conference on Interfaith Realities and Possibilities @ Nanyang Girls High (16 March 2013) and the International Interfaith UnConference @SMU (19 October 2013). The UnConference format also known as the “Open Space” is an innovative way of bringing people together to work on issues facing their communities. Participants are invited to be open to an extraordinary, highly engaging and deeply meaningful experience (International Interfaith UnConference organised by the Centre for the Study of Religion and Conflict, Arizona State University and the Singapore Management University, Singapore, October 2013)

How does an UnConference look like?

  1. There will be Breakout sessions.
  2. In each of the session is a list of topics that the participants will suggest about any relevant topics that relate to culture and integration in a multicultural and multiracial society.
  3. If there will be 5 relevant topics that participants wanted to talk about, so there will be 5 separate discussion groups.
  4. Participants need to choose a topic of their interest among the 5 suggested topics.

After the concurrent discussion, each of the topics discussed will be reported by a representative of each group of the breakout sessions.

About the Speakers

Joshua BORDEN, BA (NYU/Waseda), MA (Columbia), Postgrad. Research Scholar (London) is the Director of Novator (SG), a Singapore-based international business consultancy. He is also a Part-Time Lecturer at the National University of Singapore and a Cross-Cultural Facilitator (OnePeople.sg & Singapore Southeast CDC). In addition to over a decade in international business and a long-term commitment to teaching, he has served as Coordinator of International Relations for the Government of Japan, as the Intercultural Communication Chair of the TESOL International Association and as a Conflict Resolution Facilitator (Columbia U. & United Nations).

Dr. William WAN, PhD., is the General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement. He is a winner of the Active Agers Award 2011. Immediately before taking on his present assignment 2 years ago, Dr. Wan was MD and Senior VP of a Pyschometric Company.  He was also a lawyer, an academic, a clergyman and consultant,  having worked for more than 2 decades in Canada and the US.  He is a published author of 4 books and contributes  articles to several publications. A grandparent of 3 teenagers, his accomplished bucket list includes skydiving, scuba diving, snipe racing and sport climbing.

About the Lead Facilitator

Mr Farid Abdul Hamid has 25 years of experience in the field of multicultural and experiential learning primarily as a facilitator, trainer and educator.

In 2007, Farid established Ithaca Pte Ltd in Singapore which focused on coaching and training educators and community leaders in the field of Diversity & Multicultural Awareness specifically in inter-ethnic and interfaith dialogue. In 2010, he established Shorea Training & Consultancy in Australia, focusing on similar training and facilitation.

Farid has trained and coached over 120 interfaith dialogue facilitators under the Explorations into Faiths’ initiative of the Southeast Community Development Council. He also trained a similar number of facilitators under the Explorations in Ethnicity Programme by the OnePeople.Sg. He has facilitated diversity, multicultural & multifaith programmes in Spain, Indonesia, Australia, Bhutan, Philippines, Thailand and China  for  corporate, public and not for profit sectors.

In 2013, Farid organised & facilitated UnConferences in Singapore, Indonesia and Australia. His partners include, Arizona State University, Singapore Management University, University of Southern Queensland, Pureland Learning College, State Islamic University (Sunan Kalijaga), Nanyang Girls High School, and Southeast Community Development Council.

Farid graduated with an Honours Degree in Law from NUS. He once served as a Police Officer & Deputy Public Prosecutor; Deputy Director for Training & Development at Outward Bound Singapore; Deputy Director for Inter-Ethnic Engagement at People’s Association; Director at Singapore International Foundation, and Adjunct Lecturer at the National Institute of Education.

Co-facilitator

Ms KAY Chew Lin has been a volunteer with the Exploration into Faith and the Explorations into Ethnicity programmes for a number of years. She feels it is important to understand her neighbours because that makes life so much more interesting.

We would like to say THANK YOU to the 59 individuals who attended the Know thy Neighbour Intercultural UnConference. 18 nationalities were represented at the event, with 30% Singaporean, 13% New Immigrants and 55% non-Singaporeans. We shall be releasing the report soon. This event was made possible by the support of the National Integration Council. Enjoy the photos!

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