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.