Along Waterloo Street, a devotee from the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple walks two doors down to the neighbouring Sri Krishnan Temple to offer prayers. This is a common sight in the area, where temples, churches, a mosque and a synagogue are all within a stone’s throw of one another. These houses of worship stand as testaments to the diverse communities who lived, worked and played side by side around Queen, Waterloo and Bencoolen Streets in Singapore’s Bras Basah.Bugis precinct. Come savour local cultures through the new Harmony Walks Singapore.
Harmony Walks Singapore – Launch Of New Guided Walks
With the launch of a new programme titled Harmony Walks by the National Heritage Board (NHB), Singaporeans will be able to embark on free guided walks along Queen, Waterloo and Bencoolen Streets and learn more about the commonalities shared by diverse communities in the areas of religion, culture and built heritage. Harmony Walks comprises three guided walks that will cover the following designated areas:
- Harmony Walks: Queen, Waterloo and Bencoolen Streets
- Harmony Walks: Telok Ayer (To be launched in 2020)
- Harmony Walks: South Bridge Road (To be launched in 2020)
The first of the three walks is Harmony Walks: Queen, Waterloo and Bencoolen Streets, which covers a total of seven religious institutions – Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, Sri Krishnan Temple, Maghain Aboth Synagogue, Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Kum Yan Methodist Church and Masjid Bencoolen. The two subsequent trails will be rolled out progressively in 2020.
Mr Alvin Tan, Deputy Chief Executive (Policy & Community) of NHB, said: “Through Harmony Walks, we hope to contribute to ongoing efforts to build and boost trust amongst different communities, and encourage Singaporeans to embrace racial and religious diversity. In doing so, we hope to further strengthen Singapore’s racial and religious harmony and bring Singaporeans together to build a more cohesive society and a more united nation.”
Harmony Walks Singapore – Uncovering Commonalities Across Communities
Queen, Waterloo and Bencoolen Streets were originally part of a European quarter according to the Raffles Town Plan, which was published in 1828. However, by the mid-1800s, significant numbers of Eurasians, Chinese, Indians, Jews, Malays, and other communities had settled in the area, bringing with them their respective religions and cultural practices. These communities engaged with and embraced one another, and continue to do so to this day, establishing a brand of cultural and religious harmony that is integral to Singapore and its people.
Participants of the walk can look forward to discovering more about the following commonalities that have helped bridge the gap between the different communities:
- Community Interactions – Hear about the everyday interactions between communities that have helped cultivate a better understanding and acceptance of their social and cultural differences. For instance, the Maghain Aboth Synagogue is served by a family of Hindu cooks and custodians, who have become masters of kosher cuisine.
- Cross-Cultural Motifs – See how the interactions and shared practices of different communities have manifested in physical forms, through the mixed architectural features and designs of their houses of worship. For example, the Church of Saints Peter and Paul features lotus motifs, representing purity and enlightenment in Chinese culture, which can also be found on the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple.
- Common Practices – Discover common practices found across different spiritual and cultural traditions. Both Muslims and Christians practise fasting, the former during the month of Ramadan and the latter during the period of Lent.
- Coming Together to Do Good – Learn how different religious institutions reach out to the less fortunate from their own, as well as other communities. The Sri Krishnan Temple used to provide financial support to needy Hindu students, but since 2011, it has opened this programme, entitled the “Sri Krishnan Temple (SKT) Study Award”, to students of all religions.
Harmony Walks Singapore – Registration For The Walk
Harmony Walks: Queen, Waterloo and Bencoolen Streets’ two-hour guided walks will be held weekly from 23 November 2019 to 31 March 2020 (not inclusive of public holidays and with a break between 9 and 31 December 2019). Registration for walks from April 2020 to June 2020 will be available from February 2020. The dates and timings are:
- Saturdays at 9am
- Sundays at 4pm
- Last Friday of every month at 4pm
Registration for the guided walks will be available here from 14 November. Please refer to the Harmony Walks Street Map for more information about Harmony Walks: Queen, Waterloo and Bencoolen Streets.