09 Oct Faith in A Pluralistic Society
A reflection by Immanuela Asa from NUS ISCF on “Faith in A Pluralistic Society” held on 14th August 2019 at National University of Singapore
People often take faith and its contributions to pluralism for granted. It is indeed the multiplicity of faiths that gives society its contour, and it is what makes a society ‘pluralistic’ in the first place. Furthermore, faith is often constrained within the private sphere when faith can in fact foster civility in dialogues within a pluralistic society.
The first panelist, Professor Miroslav Volf, related the point that Christianity is a ‘public faith’. It is assumed that society avoids the confluence of religion and public life; specifically, it does not want religion to influence the public sphere. Nonetheless, Volf argued that Christian faith is an exception, if not, incompatible with this view. The mission of Jesus Christ was public; he led a life that was visible to many people, was engaged with social issues, and his teachings were profoundly critical of public institutions such as the Sanhedrin and Roman rulers.
Volf further elaborated that faith can positively contribute in giving a basis for fostering civil discussions between various components that make up the pluralistic society. Faith establishes the status of human lives as being intrinsically invaluable, which in turn acknowledges the inherent equality of man before God. This implicitly demonstrates the right of every man to express and exercise his beliefs and opinions in a pluralistic society. Simply put, faith justifies and protects the right to self-expression.
The second panelist, Professor Kevin Tan, gave an overview to the state of pluralism in Singapore. Singapore is indeed a pluralistic, and there has been a precarious balance maintained by the state to ensure that religion and the public life does not negatively influence each other. While the strategies taken by the government often draws controversies, it is generally agreed that the state is responsible in maintaining a society in which each person can exercise his faith freely and responsibly.
The talk has prompted me to reconsider the definition of ‘secularism’ that I had believed all this while. Secularism does not mean that aspects of personal faith and beliefs cannot transpire into public display to inspire and effect positive developments. In a more concrete sense, I am encouraged to live out my Christian faith through loving people regardless of their personal beliefs, while also boldly professing the tenets of the Christian faith that I believe in.