International Friendship Day
International Friendship Day is celebrated in schools every year to encourage young people to connect with communities that are different from their own. It is part of a larger United Nations effort to promote a culture of peace between countries, important to small nations like Singapore as we work to safeguard our sovereignty from external threats.
“We aim to be a friend to all, but an enemy of none. This is especially so for our immediate neighbourhood where peace and stability in Southeast Asia are absolutely essential,” said Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan in a town hall meeting in 2017.
Southeast Asia is a region of great cultural, religious, linguistic and ethnic diversity. In a relatively small geographical space, there are over 240 million Muslims, 130 million Christians, 140 million Buddhists and 7 million Hindus with deeper ethnic diversity. But the region’s nations succeeded in coming together in peaceful cooperation, striving to resolve external conflicts without violence, through ASEAN, the association of Southeast Asian nations established in 1967.
“Each of us has different ways of doing things. It is therefore vital that we should know what these ways are and why they are being done that way and not our way. A great many countries in the region have as their national slogan: Unity in diversity. It is a good slogan for ASEAN. But for this slogan to become a reality there must be greater understanding of one another. And there can be no understanding without knowledge about one another,” said S Rajaratnam, Singapore’s first Minister for Foreign Affairs and Labour, on 22 Dec 1970.
Today, 55 years after its founding, ASEAN continues to carefully work through challenges in security, humanitarian aid and disaster relief, counter-terrorism and free trade. The grouping has grown to 10 nations today, cooperating through ASEAN meetings and ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM)/ADMM-Plus dialogues, to strengthen our region’s collective quest for security, prosperity and peace, in an increasingly uncertain world.
📷: Foreign Ministers of the founding ASEAN nations, ASEAN.org