Marking Buddha's birthday, Singapore prime minister stresses tolerance

Posted: Friday, May 31, 2002

SINGAPORE (AP) -- Religious tolerance remains critical for Singapore's diverse ethnic groups after the Sept. 11 attacks, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said at a celebration of Vesak Day, the Buddha's birthday.

''We must prevent religious conflicts from ever arising in Singapore,'' Boh said Sunday. ''Our freedom to practice our own faith and Singapore's religious harmony will disappear if one religious group tries to assert itself over the others.''

Officials have regularly urged tolerance since arrests last December in Singapore of more than a dozen al-Qaida-linked Muslims on charges of plotting to blow up U.S. Navy ships and personnel, foreign embassies and other buildings.

Buddhism is Singapore's largest religion, with more than a quarter of the population, according to the latest census, compared with 15 percent Muslims, 15 percent Christians and 4 percent Hindus.

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