The IRO was formed in 1949 by religious leaders from different faiths, with a timeless purpose to achieve harmony of faiths in Singapore. IRO has since been growing interfaith ties in Singapore, and nurturing inter-religious connections for over 70 years. Religious freedom is truly unique in Singapore, where all religious groups are able to practice without persecution from any majority faith. Through keeping multi-faith harmony, the people in Singapore have inter-religious peace, awareness of other religious practices and understanding of different customs or ways of worship.
”Singapore is fortunate to be able to enjoy racial and religious harmony. However this happy situation is not by chance, nor the natural order of things. Seeing what is happening elsewhere in the world, we have to be ever mindful that racial and religious harmony for a multi-racial society such as ours should never be taken for granted. This is a value that we must entrench in our society.H.E. the late S.R. Nathan, President of Singapore and past IRO Patron at the Millennium Charity Dinner, 2000.
By continuously developing knowledge and understanding between different faiths, the IRO hopes to constantly generate deeper friendships between groups in diverse Singapore. The IRO is present at local and international interfaith meetings and conferences, and participates in multi-faith dialogues in both Singapore and overseas. The IRO members also visit the places of worship of different religions. A recurring highlight of the many IRO activities is a common pressing concern for peace. The close ties between our religious leaders are strengthened through IRO’s active programmes.
The IRO’s programmes are extended to our community through lectures, seminars and talks that the IRO has been delivering since its beginnings. Audiences from all faiths enjoy the lively discussion at the events as well as their significance. Speakers from Singapore and overseas have spoken on topical issues related to religion and current affairs, as well as fostered dialogues on the perspectives of each religion.
The IRO’s aim is reflected in the IRO’s interfaith Invocation and the national Declaration of Religious Harmony that are both read out and affirmed at every IRO meeting. The Singapore Declaration of Religious Harmony was proposed in 2002 by ESM Goh Chok Tong, the then Prime Minister of Singapore and present IRO Patron. The Declaration was issued in 2003 and has been actively in use by the IRO since.
Singapore rose from a struggling third-world former colony into a developed first-world independent state with interfaith peace, where IRO made many historic inter-religious efforts that have complemented the government’s administration and development of the nation. The neutrality of the Singapore government on religious matters brings interfaith equality and liberates each person to practice their own faith.