Singapore is certainly a country of many religions. Its varied ethnic population follow religions from Islam to Christianity and everything inbetween.
With Singapore being a real mish-mash of ethnicities and religions, you can always be sure of racial tolerance here in the Little Red Dot. But I always found it interesting to see the various places of worship across this small island for the different religions available. Officially, there are 10 religions of Singapore, with most of them given equal status in the country. So, let’s take a little look at the 7 most popular religions in the country:
Buddhism owes its origins primarily from Shakyamuni Buddha who appeared in India around 2500 years ago or more. As a religion, Buddhism is introduced in modern-day Singapore primarily by migrants from across the world over past centuries. The first recorded histories of Buddhism in Singapore can be observed in the early days’ monasteries and temples such as the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown, and Jin Long Si Temple that were built by settlers that came from various parts of the world, in particularly Asia. In 2010, out of 2,779,524 Singaporeans polled, 943,369 (33.9%) of them aged 15 and over identified themselves as Buddhists. There are a variety of Buddhist organizations in Singapore, with the more predominant authorities being established ones such as the Singapore Buddhist Federation.
Christianity in Singapore first started after Sir Stamford Raffles established Singapore as a British colony. Within half a year, Protestant missionaries arrived to set up a local ministry. The first Roman Catholic priest came in December 1821 to look into the feasibility of opening a missionary station, and celebrated the first Mass. The colonial administration adopted an official policy of neutrality and non-interference regarding religion. Missionaries established churches and Christian ministries on the island. They also set up welfare organisations and many missionary schools which are well regarded for their high quality education today. Local-born church leaders gradually took over the running of their ministries. Theological colleges were established to produce the next generation of leaders, and more churches and Christian organisations were set up, resulting in an increase in the proportion of Christians in Singapore today. The percentage of Christians among Singaporeans increased from 12.7% in 1990 to 14.6% in 2000, whilst the latest census as of 2010 has showed the Christian population increased again, to 18.3%
According to statistics from 2010, about 15% of Singapore’s resident population aged 15 years and over are Muslims. A majority of Malays are Sunni Muslims. 17 per cent of Muslims in Singapore are of South Asian origin. Other adherents include but not limited to those from the Chinese, Arab and Eurasian communities. While the majority of Muslims in Singapore are traditionally Sunni Muslims who follow the Shafi’i school of thought, there are also Muslims who follow the Hanafi school of thought, Shia and Ahmadi Muslims
Sikhism in Singapore has its roots in the military and policing forces of the British Empire. Currently, there are 12,000-15,000 Sikhs in Singapore. The first Sikh to migrate to Singapore was Maharaj Singh in 1849; he was sent there as a political prisoner by the British Empire after the Second Anglo-Sikh War. The Central Sikh Temple was built to commemorate the 518th anniversary of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh guru. The temple boasts a skilful blend of modern and traditional architecture. The Guru Granth Sahib, or holy book, is enshrined in a magnificent prayer hall which has a 13-metre wide dome.
Hindu religion and culture in Singapore can be traced back to the 7th century AD, when Temasek was a trading post of Hindu-Buddhist Srivijaya empire. A millennium later, a wave of immigrants from southern India were brought to Singapore, mostly as coolies and indentured labourers by the British East India Company and colonial British Empire. As with the Malay peninsula, the British administration sought to stabilize a reliable labour force in its regional plantation and trading activities; it encouraged Hindus to bring family through the kangani system of migration, settle, build temples and segregated it into a community that later became Little India. There are currently about thirty main Hindu temples in Singapore, dedicated to various gods and goddesses. There were an estimated 260,000 Hindus in Singapore in 2010. Hindus make up a minority with about 5.1% of adult Singapore citizens and permanent residents in 2010. Almost all Hindus in Singapore are ethnic Indians, with some who have married into Hindu families. In Singapore, the Hindu festival of Deepavali is recognized as a national public holiday. Some non-Indians, usually Buddhist Chinese, participate in various Hindu activities. Unlike various states of neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia, Singapore places no restrictions on religious freedoms of Hindus.
Taoism in Singapore is the religion of 10.9% of the entire population, growing from 8% ten years earlier. The definition of “Taoism” in the city-state includes the Chinese folk religion. In general, nearly all adherents of Taoism in Singapore are associated with the mainstream Zhengyi school. Owing to the decline in religious knowledge amongst the younger generations, Taoists, like followers of other religion, focus on rituals with little or no knowledge of Taoist scriptures and cultivation. The Taoist Federation of Singapore was established in 1990 to propagate the religion and to promote intra-religious and inter-religious relations in Singapore and Taoist organisations abroad. There are currently about 500 Taoist temples and organisations affiliated to the Taoist Federation.
The first Jews to settle in Singapore were of Bagdadi origin, mainly from India, who migrated to Singapore soon after Sir Stamford Raffles established Singapore as a trading post in 1819. A couple of decades after the Sultan of Johor in 1824 sold a 200sq mile area to the British, the Jewish community was large enough to build a synagogue seating 40 people on what is still known to this day as “Synagogue Street”. The 1931 census records that the 832 Jews and larger number of Arab residents were the largest house property owners in the city. There were over 1,500 Jewish inhabitants by 1939. Many were interned by the Japanese during World War II, and a number subsequently emigrated to Israel, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. As a result, the community numbered approximately 450 in 1968. Due to a large Ashkenazi immigration rate to Singapore in recent years, the population is now between 2000 and 3000 and comprises both foreign Ashkenazi, Sefardi and Eurasian Jews.
(All statistics were taken from Wikipedia).
One thing is for sure: regardless of your religion, you can be virtually certain that you will find tolerance and understanding in the Little Red Dot of Singapore. Majulah Singapura!