Racial & religious harmony starts when interacting with actual humans

A space for everyone.

Hannah Martens | July 10, 2024, 02:27 PM

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It's been a while since I attended any Racial Harmony event since I left school.

Even then, my vaguest memory of the celebration was everyone dressed in traditional attire. As a Eurasian, I did not have a traditional outfit, so I was stuck in my school uniform.

That led me to wonder if there were more ways communities could celebrate racial harmony, beyond just dressing up.

Tldr: Yes.

Harmony

As a sceptic, I was weary of attending Harmony Fest, hosted over the weekend of Jul. 6 to 7.

The festival was held at OCBC Square at the Singapore Sports Hub with the theme "It Begins With #YOUnity".

The event was also meant to officially kickstart Racial and Religious Harmony Month in July.

Harmony Fest had numerous booths set up in themed zones, such as "harmony," "cooperation," "trust," and "respect".

This represented the values are instrumental in preserving Singapore's racial and religious harmony, said Kallang Alive Sports Management in a press release on Jul. 2.

Photo by Hannah Martens

However, one booth that stood out to me was the Singapore Kindness Movement and the Kindsville Adventure Trail.

It was meant to engage children in activities that emphasise the importance of kindness in achieving harmony in a diverse community.

Beyond that, the event had a friendship bracelet-making booth.

Photo by Hannah Martens

Hinging on the popular trend by Swifties, the young and old flocked to the booth to create friendship bracelets to commemorate their time at the event and perhaps even share it with others.

Photo by Hannah Martens

Inclusivity

The idea of harmony has also broadened, as society comprises many people in different circumstances.

One that stood out was a simple booth by Runninghour.

Guests would be given a white cane, usually meant for the visually impaired. Guests would have to close their eyes and use the cane to feel their way to a chair and sit on it.

A simple task to show how sitting can become complicated when visually impaired.

It effectively conveyed to the general public the challenges that people with disabilities face in everyday life.

Gif made by Hannah Martens.

In addition, a booth showcased Powerchair Football, where people could try out a unique sport.

Moving a powerchair to hit the ball may appear simple, but it definitely takes skill and much practice to play it well.

Gif made by Hannah Martens

President of Singapore Disability Sports Council, Teo-Koh Sock Miang, noted that allowing the public to try out some para-sports could help change the mindsets of the public and provide a platform for "wonderful moments of interaction, regardless of ability and background".

Photo by Hannah Martens

A space for all

Spending a couple of hours at Harmony Fest enlightened me on the importance of having a space for such community events.

Most people who visited the event were those just casually passing through Sports Hub on a late Saturday morning after exercise or a meal out with family.

Many children weaved through the booths, made friendship bracelets, or participated in other games, such as OTTODOT's interactive games with a special racial harmony theme.

People were perusing a booth that brought them on a virtual reality tour of places of worship in Singapore.

Photo by Hannah Martens

Guests even gathered to watch numerous performances from different cultures, including an all-malay lion dance troupe perform.

Photo by Hannah Martens

Photo by Hannah Martens

Such events during Racial and Religious Harmony Month emphasise the importance of shared experiences where kindness and inclusivity help create a better Singapore.

With Harmony Fest held at OCBC Square, it became a great location as it prompted passers-by to check out the booths and possibly walk away learning a bit more about different cultures through the booths and performances.

Photo by Hannah Martens

During his opening speech, Tong pointed out that racial harmony is more than just speeches and words.

The harmony comes in the deeds that people do.

Top photo via Hannah Martens