Singaporean nun’s interfaith work honoured by Muslim charity


Commitment to interfaith understanding and cooperation has resulted in Singaporean nun Sister Theresa Seow (pictured) being honoured with an Exemplary Interfaith Award.

Jamiyah Singapore – the Muslim non-profit organisation behind the award – aims to “work and contribute towards the welfare and overall development of the Muslim community and mankind”, according to its website mission statement.

“Inter-religious dialogue is not an optional extra: it is part of the evangelising mission of the Church,” said Seow, a member of the Canossian Daughters of Charity, at the award ceremony.

She said “an effective way of making Jesus known and loved is to be with our sisters and brothers of other faiths so that they will know we are Christians by our love, our acceptance and our words.

“May all of us work quietly for inter-religious peace and harmony in our everyday lives, guided by God’s Spirit of peace, because human efforts alone will not make peace happen.”

Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who presented the award, said interfaith harmony is not just an intellectual idea or attitude of mind.

It is an active and concerted practice in Singapore, he said. This is not just among religious leaders, but also in day-to-day matters of religious institutions.

He gave examples of interfaith cooperation. Of mosques and churches coordinating on practical day-to-day matters such as traffic and the sharing of parking spaces. Those same mosques and churches also invite congregants to their respective festivities.

“Interfaith harmony is a distinctive part of our identity,” he said.

Seow’s work

Seow has been involved in interfaith dialogue since the 1990s.

She is a member of the Singapore Archdiocesan Catholic Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue.

Since 1995 she’s been the archdiocesan representative to Inter-Religious Organisation, Singapore (IRO), an interfaith forum.

In 2003, Seow became the IRO’s first woman president.

She was appointed by Pope John Paul II as a consultor of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue and held that position from 2001 to 2004.

Seow is the executive director of Canossaville, a children and community services facility run by her congregation.

Singapore’s multi-mix

Multi-religious, multi-cultural Singapore has a 5.64 million population which includes about 31.1 percent Buddhists, 18.9 percent Christians (including about 360,000 Catholics in 32 parishes), 15.6 percent Muslims and five percent Hindus, official data from 2021 says.

Followers of traditional Chinese faiths such as Taoism account for 8.8 percent.


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