FaithWorld

Singapore raps evangelical pastor for ridiculing Buddhists, Taoists

lighthouse evangelism

Lighthouse Evangelism church in Singapore, 11 Sept 2005/Slivester

Singapore has warned an evangelical Christian pastor that his online videos are offensive to Buddhists and Taoists, underlining the city-state’s concerns that religion is a potential faultline for its multicultural society.

Pastor Rony Tan, of the Lighthouse Evangelism megachurch, apologized and pulled the video clips off the internet after being visited by the government’s Internal Security Department (ISD) on Monday, the pastor and the government said on their websites. “I sincerely apologize for my insensitivity towards the Buddhists and Taoists, and solemnly promise that it will never happen again,” Tan said.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement on Tuesday that “Pastor Tan’s comments were highly inappropriate and unacceptable as they trivialised and insulted the beliefs of Buddhists and Taoists. They can also give rise to tension and conflict between the Buddhist/Taoist and Christian communities. ISD told Pastor Tan that in preaching or proselytising his faith, he must not run down other religions, and must be mindful of the sensitivities of other religions.”

Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng repeated that in another statement the next day, adding that Tan had met with Buddhist and Taoist leaders and apologised personally for his coments. “While each of us is free to propagate our religious beliefs, it must never be by way of insulting or denigrating the religious beliefs of others,” Wong said.

The clips are no longer available online, but the Straits Times newspaper said they involved ridiculing beliefs, including Buddhist concepts of rebirth, karma and nirvana, drawing laughter from Tan’s audience. This Buddhist websites has posted what it says are the original videos.

Strains grow in Malaysia as Muslims reassert majority status

(Photo: A Chinese temple in Kuala Lumpur, 7 Feb 2008/Bazuki Muhammad)

Malaysia prides itself on its multicultural heritage, and rightly so. The Southeast Asian nation of around 27 million people is one of the few countries in the world where so many races and religions live together in peace and stability.

Having arrived in July from Hungary, an ex-communist country that has one of the least diverse ethnic makeups in the world, I can attest it is a truly amazing cultural experience and one of which the country should be proud.

After four years of seeing nothing but look-alike Hungarian baroque churches, I now find Hindu and Buddhist temples nestled side-by-side in downtown Kuala Lumpur. A whitewashed Protestant church sits on a square where the country’s independence from Britain was proclaimed. There is a mosque near where I live and the evening call to prayer is still a sound that thrills and intrigues. When you see and hear all that, it is easy to believe the public face of the country.