Lee Kuan Yew with Mark Jacobson of National Geographic
Q: “Actually, it’s an interesting question that just came up recently that I was going to ask you about. I know that you put a premium on racial harmony and religious harmony and it’s actually more or less legislated here, right?”
Mr Lee: “Yes, because you can have enormous trouble once religions clash.”
Q: “Well, the two things I’ve been interested to ask you about that because I agree with you is number one, the recent rise of Evangelical Christians in Singapore.”
Mr Lee: “As a result of American efforts.”
Q: “I don’t know if it’s American efforts but I went to the New Creation Church and you might as well have been in Tennessee, it was exactly the same. As soon as you walked through the door, it was exactly the same but it seemed very popular. Is that a new monkey (?) ranch [wrench] in there?”
Mr Lee: “No, I don’t think so. You see most Chinese here are Buddhists or Taoist ancestor worshippers, I’m one of them, so it is a tolerant society, it says whatever you want to believe in, you go ahead.
“And these youngsters, the educated ones, Western-educated especially, now they are all English-educated, their mother tongue is the second language. Therefore, they begin to read Western books and Western culture and so on and then the Internet. So they begin to question like in Korea that what is this mumbo-jumbo, the ancestors and so on? The dead have gone, they’re praying before this altar and asking for their blessings and then they have got groups, Christian groups who go out and evangelize. They catch them in their teens, in their late teens when they’re malleable and open to suggestions and then they become very fervent evangelists themselves. My granddaughter is one of them. She’s now 28. My wife used to tell her look, don’t go for any more of these titles, just look for MRS. It’s just around the corner, God will arrange it.”
Q: “Well, in the US, as you say, it’s import from the US or an export. These people have been very politically active.”
Mr Lee: “Well, they know here that if you get politically active, you will incite the Buddhist, the Taoist, the Muslims, the Hindus and others to do similar response.
Excerpt of transcript of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s interview With Mark Jacobson on 6 July 2009 for National Geographic magazine January 2010 edition. ( Source: http://www.news.gov.sg/public/sgpc/en/media_releases/agencies/pmo/transcript/T-20091228-1.html )
Chinese Christian women took over
Excerpt from ‘Singapore’s multiculturalism unravels’
“But, in March 2009 pent up religious resentments came to the surface in dramatic fashion, when a secretive group of conservative Chinese Christian women surreptitiously took over the executive council of AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research), an advocacy group that has done much to promote women’s rights. Half of the new council attended the same church. They were jolted into action by AWARE’s alleged pro-gay agenda, particularly in sex-education courses taught at some schools. The evangelical Christian group snatched control from a group of liberals who had served AWARE for years.
“The conservative new council and the liberal old guard traded barbs, exposing an ideological divide. Critics questioned the new lot’s shady tactics as well as their religious motives.
“The old guard tabled a no-confidence motion, forcing an extraordinary general meeting two months later mobilizing thousands of Singaporean women to attend the meeting. Ahead of it, politicians called for calm. At a stormy meeting the new council lost the vote and resigned. A new liberal committee was restored with a Buddhist at the helm, a Muslim secretary and a Hindu treasurer. There were also Christians in the committee.
“This episode brought to the surface strong resentments within Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu communities in particular about aggressive tactics used by local Christian evangelical groups rich with cash to lure in young people to their churches. In an unprecedented move Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong dedicated more than half of his 40 minute National Day Speech in August 2009 warning Singaporean about religious intolerance and social exclusion.
“Though he did not mention any religion by name most Singaporeans knew he was referring mainly to Christian evangelical groups.”