There is a small shrine on our street next to a construction site. I rarely see anyone tending to it, but it’s always has incense burning or fresh incense sticks at it. But there it stands, I assume keeping an eye on the site or marking a special spot for some family. It’s filled with small statues and ashes and has a charm to it that’s quite nice.
It can be odd at times seeing these small shrines around town. You see them at many shop entrances, along walkways, and at side alleys. I pass by them often and think little of them, other than that I find them charming and interesting.
Yet it occurred to me that if I passed Crosses all over town and saw people kneeling at them and praying, I would think it so strange. I’m not sure why the bias but perhaps it’s that for us, Christianity is something kept in private, shared with the community on Sundays and in the home but aside from small jewellery our faith for the most part is not a public display. People praying over food in a restaurant, or mentioning religion in the office (I have seen and it is not uncommon to have shrine in one’s office here) would seem so…. off-putting? to me. Perhaps this is because under the umbrella of Christianity there are many types. Non Dancing and Non Drinking Baptists might be none to happy about my drinking and dancing. Like wise there are Pentecostals, Episcopalians, Mormons, Catholics and many more all under the general umbrella. Add to that Jewish and Muslim populations and suddenly day-to-day displays of religions artifacts become a minefield in America.
But in Singapore, it seems to work. These humble shrines are a part day-to-day use and not put up with an agenda. They are not there to push a faith. Granted I’m hardly in the flow of religion on the Island, but I rarely here many complaints about religious conflicts around town. We have Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Christians as the main groups but for the most part they seem to get along. The Government has a pretty good policy about keeping thing secular so there is little appearance of bias on that front. After that, people tend to keep to themselves on matters of religion.