The majority of Singaporeans — 56 per cent — “say that having people of many different religions, ethnic groups and cultures makes their country a better place to live”, according to a survey by Pew Research Center. The report, ‘Buddhism, Islam and Religious Pluralism in South and Southeast Asia’, was published yesterday.
Out of all the countries surveyed, Singapore and Malaysia have the smallest percentage of respondents — 4 per cent — who believe that pluralism “makes their country a worse place to live”. People who were indifferent to diversity were 37 per cent in Singapore and 33 per cent in Malaysia.
The dominant religion in each of the six surveyed countries gives people their sense of identity. For instance, Pew Research Center reported: “In Thailand, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, Buddhists see strong links between their religion and country, as do Muslims in Malaysia and Indonesia.” Singapore is unique in that sense, because it has no dominant religion.
Pew reported: “According to the most recent census, 31 per cent of Singaporean adults identify as Buddhist; 20 per cent are religiously unaffiliated (i.e., they say they have no religion); 19 per cent are Christian; and 15 per cent are Muslim. The remaining 15 per cent of the population includes Hindus, Sikhs, Taoists, and people who follow Chinese traditional religions, among others.”
According to the survey: “…on several measures of religious tolerance, Singaporeans express broadly accepting views towards other groups. For example, nearly nine-in-10 adults in Singapore say [that] Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Chinese traditional religions are all compatible with Singapore’s culture and values”.
One of the most interesting aspects of pluralism in this Pew survey is cross-cultural spirituality.
The report said: “…many people pray or offer their respects to deities or founder figures that are not traditionally considered part of their religion’s pantheon. For example, 66 per cent of Singaporean Hindus say they pray or offer respects to Jesus Christ, and 62 per cent of Sri Lankan Muslims do the same to the Hindu deity Ganesh.”
Details of the pluralism report: “These are among the key findings of a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 13,122 adults in six countries in Southeast and South Asia. Interviews were conducted face-to-face in Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, and on mobile phones in Malaysia and Singapore. Local interviewers administered the survey from June to September 2022, in eight languages.”