(Unpublished - Feb 10, 2010)
In light of Lighthouse Evangelism Pastor Rony Tan’s apology for remarks made about Buddhist and Taoist practices, there are still many issues we should consider when forwarding religious harmony in Singapore.
The episode merely teaches us that we should be mindful of making incendiary remarks about other faiths in the public domain, but does not govern what is said within the private confines of our respective religious circles.
We would not be able to account for the internalisation of incendiary remarks by members of the community, or is this a non-issue in religious harmony in Singapore?
Does this not imply that certain religions will end up isolating themselves?
Next, I believe the stakeholders of religious harmony in Singapore are not only religious communities, leaders and the government, but also non-religious people.
Non-religious people are the ones who live with the multitude of practices, rituals and proselytisation that go on around them.
Some also put up with suggestions from others that they might be “misguided”, “broken”, “ignorant” and “in need of salvation”, the kind of persuasions that could have emotional and psychological repercussions.
Even though they may be people of no specific faith, they play a large role in religious harmony by supporting the cause and dialogue. While religious harmony cannot be taken for granted, I believe the efforts of all the stakeholders, religious and non-religious, involved should be recognised.
We need to understand that some religions involve proselytisation, a means to convince and recruit new members into the religious community.
Our constitution allows the practice and expression of religion, but who decides when it does become an invasion of privacy, harassment, or threat to other religions? Is there protection at all from the constitutional right to practice religion?
Can we not be absolutely certain that during the process of proselytisation, there might be an implicit putting down of other religions?
Essentially, while we may not be able to accept religious differences, we should reciprocate the right bestowed upon us by the constitution by being tolerant.
Ho Chi Sam