My Part in Social Resilience

The following blog post was written by Stephanie Hayag Gascon, a Yr 1 student from the Diploma In Communications & Media Management.

Last Friday, I was one of 17 Temasek Polytechnic students who attended the Inter-agency Aftercare Group (ACG) Student Leader’s Symposium, along with some 200 other secondary and tertiary students from other schools.

The theme for this symposium was ‘Fostering Social Resilience for a Secure Future’.

For a multicultural country like Singapore, social resilience is important to ensure a secure future. During the symposium, speakers facilitated discussion on the dangers of taking decades of relative social trust among ethnic communities for granted, and how to maintain that trust to prevent insensitive remarks or actions and radical ideology from threatening our social fabric.

There were four thematic workshops. I participated in the third workshop: “The Importance of Racial and Religious Harmony in Fostering Social Resilience”, led by Mr Salim Mohamed Nasir, an Associate Research Fellow at the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

In our various groups, we were given some scenarios that could lead to racially or religiously-charged conflicts. These were not extreme cases, but ones which could happen in our daily lives. For example, a family member’s asthma which was triggered by thick smoke from the burning of paper money during the Hungry Ghost Festival or a Malay couple and Chinese family wanting to use the same void deck during the same period for a wedding or funeral wake. We put ourselves in the shoes of the parties concerned and discussed how to resolve such issues respectfully and amicably.

During the workshop, social resilience was defined as the capacity to foster positive relationships in the face of life stressors. It is the combination of inner strengths (“I am”), skills and behaviour (“I can”) and social support (“I have”).

I learnt that a virtuous cycle could be produced in which every individual can help others be more resilient by using their strengths and skills to provide support, which would translate into helping others develop their own strengths and skills. Hence, when fostering social resilience, we all benefit and become better prepared for threats as a whole.

I realised that for us younger generations who have not lived through the instabilities of the past, highly-publicised insensitive remarks by local users on social media in recent years are reminders that social fault lines and conflicts are not bound to Social Studies textbooks or news of hate crimes and speeches in other countries. We should think about what we encounter in our daily lives, our attitudes towards groups we are not a part of and think about how we can deal with tensions in ways that are less likely to cause conflicts.

During the dialogue session with representatives from MOE, MHA and the Religious Rehabilitation Group, Singapore’s changing demographics and increasingly diverse interests were cited as potential causes for social friction. But I believe that with cool-headedness, inclusivity and keeping sight of the bigger picture – harmony and respect among diverse groups – we can work towards resilience and a secure future for all.

I thoroughly enjoyed this symposium and will take away the invaluable lessons learnt through the various discussions that were targeted at giving us a better understanding of such situations.

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