In some ways Singapore is very much in the 21st century and in others it is somewhat behind - in inter-religious dialogue for example. Despite the government's best efforts to promote it, the country's different religions don’t talk to each other very much. As usual, the Catholic Church goes out of its way to promote inter-faith understanding - in fact on the 10th of this month I have been invited to address a seminar at the Church of St. Mary of the Angels, an invitation I was honored to receive and to accept. To be honest, Buddhists don’t really do very much to promote inter-religious harmony, but their lack of an aggressive conversion agenda and their general tolerance does nothing to endanger it either. One person who has consistently worked for inter-religious dialogue over the last 23 years is Venerable Pannadharmvides of the Ananda Maitriya Temple in Bukit Merah. On the 12th of last month Singapore's Inter-Religious Organization awarded him the orginization's prize for promoting trust amongst peoples of different faiths and ethnicities. 'His calm nature and pleasant personality won him the trust, respect and affection of his inter-faith colleagues' the IRO citation said. Ven. Pannadharmvides, who is now 79 and has been in Singapore for more than 50 years, is one of those people who is very easy to like; gentle, smiling and genuinely courteous. Apparently he was born in the far south of Thailand where most of his neighbors were Muslims. This, plus his understanding of the Dhamma has always made him open and accepting of other faiths. Congratulations Chao Khun.
On the 18th January Buddha Dhamma Mandala Society welcomed Miss Jayathri Samarakone, Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to Singapore, the deputy High Commissioner and the First Secretary for the official launching of my book Sacred Island - A Buddhist Pilgrim's Guide to Sri Lanka. Miss Samarakone, who takes a deep interest in her country's religious history, was delighted to receive a copy of the book, signed by yours truly. My good friend Ven. Chuan Guan and a crowd of about 90 people also attended the function.