Taman Medan: Evangelistas and church crosses – the S’pore and China experience
Does this shoplot in Taman Medan, Petaling Jaya (below) have a proper building permit to operate as a church?
Is the organization calling itself a ‘church’ one that is registered as a religious society with the registrar and not an RM2 company?
Evangelistas running amok on social media
The Malay residents in the area who protested the cross on the church are predictably being vilified by evangelistas as a group of extremists, religious bigots and haters.
Nothing however happens in a vacuum. The Christians should reflect in what way they have contributed to the distrust and suspicion of them by Muslims (and Hindus and Buddhists) in our country.
It is not only in Malaysia that evangelistas are considered problematic, and crosses frowned upon.
Look at the latest news from China.
China cracking down hard on evangelical Christians
As recently as this month, crosses have been removed from at least three places of worship in the Chinese cities of Cixi (south of Shanghai), Ningbo and Lishui, The Gospel Herald reported last Friday. Photos can be viewed @ The Telegraph.
On April 16, Christian Today reported that some 400 churches in China’s Zhejiang province alone were demolished or damaged in the last year by the authorities.
The New York Times reported on March 24 that a pastor in Pingyang county, Zhejiang was sentenced to a year’s jail for the crime of “gathering crowds to disturb social order” in relation to China’s campaign to remove crosses.
The evangelistas are calling the China government “evil” and “anti-Christian”.
It is a crackdown on Chinese Christians by the Chinese authorities – hence any accusation of “racism” can be dispelled. Similarly another Chinese-dominated government, i.e. Singapore, has similarly taken stern action against its trouble-making citizens who are the Chinese evangelistas.
The Chinese running the government in China and Singapore know how to be strict with these Born Agains. The Malay government in Malaysia has been very tidak apa.
In Singapore, the evangelistas are proselytizing to Muslims
The Singapore government is very much aware of the “aggressive and insensitive evangelisation” carried out by churches among the country’s Muslims.
Extract from its White Paper on the Maintenance of Religious Harmony published in 1989, below:
“In the last five years, the [Singapore] Government has received numerous complaints about aggressive and insensitive evangelisation, carried out mostly by some Protestant churches and organisations. Some religious groups have also carried out acts and practices which offend other groups.
“University students have been harassed by over-zealous Christian students. In hospitals, some doctors and medical students have tried to convert critically ill patients to Christianity on their deathbeds.
“In August 1986, officials and devotees of a Hindu temple found posters announcing a Christian seminar pasted at the entrance of their temple. The Hindus also objected when Christian missionaries distributed pamphlets to devotees going into temples along Serangoon Road.
“Some Muslims also received extracts from an unidentified book containing inflammatory remarks. Feeling their religion threatened, the Muslims embarked on their own campaign to counter the Christian effort. Talks and sermons in mosques and Muslim gatherings harped on the danger posed by Christian evangelists.
“In 1986, ISD [Internal Security Department] called up the leaders of 11 Christian organisations which had been evangelising among Muslims, to advise them to avoid activities which could cause misunderstanding or conflict. A few ignored this advice.“
“Convert critically ill patients to Christianity on their deathbeds”
Note that even Lee Kuan Yew’s father was converted on his deathbed. The following is what the Singapore legend had to say about the episode.
Transcript of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s interview with Seth Mydans of New York Times & International Herald Tribune on 1 Sept 2010
Mr Lee: “My youngest brother baptised my father as a Christian. He did not have the right to. He was a doctor and for the last weeks before my father’s life, he took my father to his house because he was a doctor and was able to keep my father comforted. I do not know if my father was fully aware when he was converted into Christianity.”
Q: “Converted your father?”
Mr Lee: “Yes.”
Q: “Well this happens when you get close to the end.”
Mr Lee: “Well, but I do not know whether my father agreed. At that time he may have been beyond making a rational decision. My brother assumed that he agreed and converted him.”
Note also that DAP evangelistas Tony Pua and Ong Kian Ming are mission school products of Singapore secondary education.
In Singapore, offensive evangelistas are jailed
To recap, the Singapore Muslims felt that their religion was under threat.
They started their own campaigns to counter “the danger posed by Christian evangelists”.
Muslims in Singapore offended by these overzealous evangelistas made police reports and caused these dangerous Christian missionaries to be thrown in jail.
Singapore’s authorities show a firm, no-nonsense approach in dealing with evangelistas.
In June 2009, the Singapore court found Ong Kian Cheong and his wife Dorothy Chan Hien Leng (photo below) guilty of sedition for distributing an objectionable Christian tract titled ‘Who is Allah?’ to Muslims recipients.
Ong and Chan were sentenced to eight weeks jail and additionally, the couple were both fired from their respective jobs.
Another one sent to jail for baiting Muslims on Islam
In August 2010, Singapore jailed Andrew Kiong Kheng Kiat two weeks for injuring the religious feelings of his Muslim neighbours. Kiong had left written cards containing blasphemy against Islam on the windscreen of cars belonging to Muslims in his condominium block.
“In Singapore, where Christianity is not native, half the faithful are converts, that is, not born into the religion”, according to an article ‘Religion: The Big Switch‘ in daily paper The Straits Times.
(Note: Hannah Yeoh was not born into Christianity but converted at the age of 19.)
Evangelista memang sah kaki buli
Singapore mega churches like City Harvest, which is “known for using marketing and pop culture to win over the young”, was a factor in the phenomenal growth of Christianity, the 9 Aug 2008 Straits Times article reported.
The threat to social harmony posed by evangelistas is acutely realized by Singapore. Not only is it the Muslims who are upset by these Christian zealots but Buddhists and Hindus too.
In February 2010, Singapore’s Internal Security Department called up senior evangelical pastor Rony Tan – a convert to Christianity – to compel him to apologize to Buddhists and Taoists for his offensive remarks.
The evangelistas bully adherents of all the other religions.
Crossing the line to expand Christian market share
The Singapore Buddhist Fellowship posted a note on its website noting that “over the years, it had been told about incidents where family members who convert to another religion were encouraged by their new faith leaders to damage or destroy Buddhist and Taoist artefacts at home”.
Lee Kuan Yew, when he was prime minister in the 1980s, had already spoken at length on the danger of mixing politics and religion.
In his National Day Rally address on 16 Aug 1987 (the same year as Malaysia’s Ops Lalang), Lee warned churchmen and lay preachers against using “a church or a religion and your pulpit” to belabor the government lest there be “serious repercussions”.
Warning evangelical pastors against dabbling in politics, Lee reminded that they should not harbour misconceptions of what can be achieved in Singapore by thinking to copycat American televangelist Jerry Falwell whose ‘Moral Majority’ initiative had successfully influenced President Ronald Reagan and the Republicans.
Singapore fears religious collision
In his article ‘Religious Harmony: 20 years of keeping the peace’ (The Straits Times, 24 July 2009), Zakir Hussain wrote that “the influence of American charismatic Pentecostal evangelicals has been and continues to be felt in Singapore”.
Following prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s caution issued in his 1987 National Day speech, the Ministry of Community Development commissioned a study of religious trends which then found that religious fervour was indeed on the rise.
A year later, Lee noted that the Singapore Christians, especially the charismatics were in an “evangelical phase”. He added that this evangelism “has sometimes led to friction”. It was mentioned during Lee’s speech to a Buddhist gathering in December 1988, as recounted by Home Affairs cum Law Minister S. Jayakumar.
In 1990, Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong told Parliament that his administration feared a collision between religions or between religion and the state.
Jayakumar, the Singapore federal minister, under whose watch the country’s new law to curb religious excesses was drafted, had worried in 2009 that the foolhardy would take stability for granted because “people don’t realise how fragile racial and religious harmony is”.
Dr Kumar Ramakrishna, in his working paper for Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (Nanyang Technological University) on the challenge of religious fundamentalism in the city state, highlighted the role of the “pugnacious Christian fundamentalists”.
It’s not just the Malays in Taman Medan who are being freaked out. Elsewhere in the world too, evangelistas are viewed with suspicion and distrust.