Today, President Barack Obama became the FIRST United States President to take part in the celebrations of Deepavali in the White House and I applaud him for that. Traditionally in the United States, because the President is usually a christian, he does not take part in other religions' festivals.
But President Obama is just different. From the day he made his inaugaration speech when he included every religion/belief system in his speech to today when he lit the diya for Deepavali, he has shown himself to want to commit to the equality of all Americans, regardless of their religion.
He wants to please all and ensure whether you are a Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Atheist, you are an American.
In America, it is only the beginning. The idea of religious harmony and equality for all religions are sometimes frowned upon by Americans in a country where most Americans follow one religion.
Over here in Singapore, religious harmony and equality are often taken for granted because Singaporeans think we have "been there, and done that". We take it for granted that our Ministers and leaders take part in all festivals regardless of their religion. It's common to see our Minister George Yeo (who is a christian) taking part in inter-faith dialogues and attending festivals of other religions. But we should thank our government for that and must continue to promote religious harmony and equality on our part.
So we should thank our government for its efforts in promoting religious harmony. For decades, Singaporeans have learnt that no matter whether you are a Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist or Christian, you are a Singaporean and you have the right to practice your religion/belief system in an appropriate way.
For Americans, though it is only the beginning, they are slowly, but surely on their way to understanding the importance of religious harmony and equality, through President Obama and his wise leadership.