Who will speak the healing words?

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In the height of social verbalisation of views on Pink Dot and the homosexual discourse and agenda in Singapore, Singaporean literary critic, Gwee Li Sui gives his take, as a Christian, on parts of the Church’s discourse that we have seen so far. As far as we can tell, he has asked for peace, which we think is of paramount importance if we were to progress as a nation. We can disagree, but we should all, Christian or otherwise, do it in the spirit of humanity and tolerance. 

We reproduce his facebook note below:

“At the end of the day, nobody threatens us in our relationship with God more than ourselves. The God I worship dined and communed with all sinners and was glad to die for them, His absolute giving coming with no precondition. Jesus did not make the freedom of others smaller so that they could act right and, in so doing, believe in Him more.”

In a world where so much needs to be done to heal entrenched if not widening rifts among people, right action is always important. But, sometimes, right words are even more urgent because, without them, nothing can proceed; nothing can be done.

It is in this sense that I find myself deeply confused by the recent words of some Christian leaders in Singapore. Under no circumstance do my faith in their character and respect for their office waver, but I remain bewildered with what they hope to achieve with their words.

One has called on Christians to register their disagreement with LGBTs publicly by wearing white this weekend. Another has said – albeit to his own community, and this is a key, positive distinction – that, while every individual is to be shown love, compassion, and respect, Christians should not condone homosexuality.

If only the latter had phrased his words the other way round and said that, while Christians should not condone homosexuality, everyone must be loved, felt with, and respected! Then perhaps his greater message would have been heard a bit better. Perhaps the inner audience of all hearts could have sensed some ground of common humanity and not more rejection, rightly or wrongly!

You see how a little turn of phrase can change everything, fork our paths, orient us towards or away from what we value, what we prioritise. Perhaps no one is free from a little good advice after all. And what I say here goes out to Christians only because I speak as a Christian, knowing that we Christians can be better than this. We ought to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Above all, we ought to beabounding in love.

But how are we showing love when, despite the welcoming table we set up to have fellowship at, we give our guests a small door and expect them to crawl in? What kind of message are we sending? Contrary to what some insist, our beliefs about homosexuality – whatever these are – are beside the point. Words are the door into our home, and the table of Christ is always Love. If we must disagree, let us disagree over a kindly meal and not suspiciously at the door.

The days are long gone, especially in today’s multicultural world, where a single religion manages everyone’s worldview. The House of our Lord is just that, a house, and there are many houses where there are many belief systems. Whatever we may see within our own faith, this social reality remains if we choose peace. In fact, upholding it expresses our religious love towards others.

So, even if ninety-nine such houses disagree with one house on a point, there is still no right to stop that one house from following the goodness it must. Majority claim is not an argument for tolerance or diversity – and this logic, we must understand, cuts both ways.

Once and for all, let us understand such a notion of pluralism in our society and what it entails. It is not about “ganging up” against particular groups of people who are a part of us as a society. It is not about being free to be and believe while failing to allow a larger conversation with others about how they are and what they believe.

At the end of the day, nobody threatens us in our relationship with God more than ourselves. The God I worship dined and communed with all sinners and was glad to die for them, His absolute giving coming with no precondition. Jesus did not make the freedom of others smaller so that they could act right and, in so doing, believe in Him more.

Let us now not invert Christ’s whole procedure and still claim it to be the Christian way. It is long past time that we as Christians act aright for the sake of His spirit, and our right action must call on us to begin with the right words, words that love. If not you, brothers and sisters, who dares to speak these healing words?

Yours in Christ,

Gwee Li Sui

His original post was a facebook note that can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/gwee-li-sui/who-will-speak-the-healing-words/10152093534191541

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Discourse about homosexuality matters and beyond

In view of the recent ‘hype’ over homosexuality rights and its opposition, we would like to state that we support a platform that allows different points of view to surface and be heard. 

All groups have their interests and perspectives, their principle and ideology. And we believe they all mean well. Whether it is to respect an individual’s right to a way of life and asking for greater equality, or to uphold moral and religious prudence and seeking greater peace, everyone is entitled to their views and should be allowed to speak out and make influence on the home to which they belong.

For too long have discourse on race, language and religion (and hence, culture and morality) been too dependent on and/or dominated by the PAP rhetoric. Certain rules are too stringent and rigid to ensure everyone has no say and everyone listens to one ruler, and some others are “flexible” as and when the rulers like it, and then some words can be uttered only by some people with impunity from racist allegations.

Tell me that is not the kind of Singapore you want to live in. Tell me what you want is something freer, something higher than mental slavery.

As long as we do not condone extremism (on either side), everyone should be entitled to his or her piece in a democratic society.

It is on the same tone that we ask that we be allowed greater freedoms of expression and assembly, constitutionally guaranteed and universally accepted.

That is what we at the New Era are fighting for.

Mr Low Thia Khiang’s response to Lianhe Zaobao Chief Editor’s forum letter on 28 May 2012

BROWSE > HOME / NEWS / MR LOW THIA KHIANG’S RESPONSE TO LIANHE ZAOBAO CHIEF EDITOR’S FORUM LETTER ON 28 MAY 2012
刘程强回应早报总编辑“别把主流媒体当箭靶子” (早报5月28日言论版)

吴新迪总编辑说:“这起事件,我们没有在后面暗中操盘,想要破坏工人党。” 我必须在此严正澄清:我所说的是“成为暗箭的有力 射手”,并没有指控任何主流媒体就是那个“放暗箭的行动党打手”。

我在记者会上的完整说词是:“明枪易挡、暗箭难防。意想不到的是,主流媒体竟然成为暗箭的有力射手,一些媒体甚至没有根据, 也没确认事实,就大事报导和藏镜人通过电邮所说的话。”

我所要表达的是,媒体的大事报导,成为了放暗箭者的有力工具, 助长了放暗箭者所要达到的目的。这也同时鼓励更多有心之人在未 来关键的时刻效法。不论所说是真是假,不敢站出来面对自己的所 做所为,为自己所说的话负责任,不但是小人行为,更是胆怯的伪君子。新加坡朝向第一世界国会民主进程迈进的过程中,主流媒体 应该协助清理政坛,不应该允许这类人搅局作乱。反之则等于助纣为虐。这是我的担忧。

更有甚者,如果媒体不查证所获得的消息来源是否正确,甚至在不确定提供消息者的真正身份就大事报导匿名者不利某人或政党的言谈,不但误导读者,更会使媒体失去公信力。

所以,我接着说:“一些媒体甚至没有根据,也没确认事实,就大 事报导和藏镜人通过电邮所说的话。”我所指的是《我报》5 月 24 日的头版“揭秘者接受本报电邮访问”的内容。大标题是“揭秘不 是要害工人党、我也不会退出工人党”。《我报》难道已经知道 “神秘松鼠”的身份?已经证实“神秘松鼠”是工人党的党员?
吴总编辑说:“(我)选择在补选成绩揭晓后的记者会上,突然向媒 体发难,把所有主流媒体说成是暗箭的射手,是人民行动党在竞选 期间的政治打手。”
补选成绩揭晓后的记者会是在 5 月 26 日晚上。但是,我早在 5 月 24 日,最后一场的后港补选群众大会上,在以英语演讲时就已经说:“。。。但是,当主要的资讯来源都被垄断,人民又如何能在真正了解事实之后作出选择呢?到今天为止,新加坡报业控股的主 席还是由前内阁部长担任,新传媒电视的主要股东是政联公司,淡马锡控股。我们能够期待他们到底有多中立呢? 1

我也说:“传媒有潜能成为对付或支持某个政党强而有力的工具。 因此,媒体必须独立,不能受到政府的强力影响,其所提供给人民的信息也必须是可靠的。只有这样,媒体才能够有效审视所有的政 党,包括人民行动党,不单单只是反对党。我们不能够让媒体被政 府利用,成为政治工具。” 2

所以,记者会是我对这次补选媒体整体表现质疑的总结,以及进一步更具体的表达我的看法和担忧。不是选择在补选后突然向媒体发难。

同样在 5 月 24 日的最后一场群众大会上,我也说:“。。。许多记者和摄影记者都有使命感,也负责任。尽管它们在写报导时尽力做到公平,但最终所刊登出来的,是超越了他们的权限。” 3

从我 30 年从政所累积的经验中,我知道媒体所刊载的信息对公众有很强的渗透力;尤其在政治上,塑造形象的重要性。我也见证了媒体在新加坡政治发展上所扮演的重要角色。 我所要表达的,就如我在记者会上担心的,媒体成为新加坡民主进程的绊脚石,会使我们的政治文明倒退 20 年。

刘程强 2012年5月28日

—–
1 ……. But how can the people make an informed choice when the main source of information is monopolized? Up till today, the chairman of Singapore Press Holdings is an ex-PAP cabinet minister and the main shareholder of Mediacorp TV is a government-linked company, Temasek Holdings. How much neutrality can we expect from them?

2 …… The media is a potentially powerful tool for or against certain political parties. Therefore, it is imperative that the media must become a reliable source of information for the people, independent from the strong influence of the government. Only then can it be an effective check on all political parties including the PAP, not just against the opposition. We must not allow the media to be used by the government as a political tool.

3 …… many journalists and photographers have a sense of mission and responsibility. They try their best to give fair reports of events. However, what is finally published is beyond them.

From WP’s website: http://wp.sg/2012/05/ltk-response-to-zaobao-28may2012/

Mr Low Thia Khiang’s letter to Straits Times Forum

I refer to the Editorial titled “Fallout from the Hougang showdown” (ST, 29 May 2012, p A17).

I share the writer’s view that “anyone who claims to promote the idea of First World democracy should take care to uphold its institutions, including the media.”

At the by-election public rally on 24 May, I said that, “The media is a potentially powerful tool for or against certain political parties. Therefore, it is imperative that the media must become a reliable source of information for the people, independent from the strong influence of the government…We must not allow the media to be used by the government as a political tool.”

At the press conference on the night of 26 May, I reiterated that only with an independent media that presents fair and accurate information, could the people make an informed choice of their Member of Parliament.

In the recent campaign, I detected biased reporting, calculated to damage the Workers’ Party candidate and the Party itself. For example, the front page of The Straits Times on 23 May showed a large photo of Party chairman, Sylvia Lim, and myself talking to each other with grim faces at our rally, with the candidate in between, headlined: “WP faces allegations of dishonesty.” This was after the accusations had already been publicly clarified.

The writer is wrong to suggest that I am unhappy because there were adverse reports about WP. I welcome scrutiny of WP, but when images and headlines are manipulated to mislead readers, is it acceptable?

The media also reported unverified news and anonymous opinions. In Lianhe Zaobao yesterday, I cited the front-page report by MY PAPER on 24 May 2012, featuring an email interview with the “Secret Squirrel”, who claimed to be a WP member, attacking WP. I have asked MY PAPER whether they have established and verified the identity of “Secret Squirrel”.

Based on my 30 years’ experience in Singapore politics, I am well aware of the critical role media can play towards a First World democratic society. The recent reportage of the Hougang by-elections leaves me concerned. The media can become a stumbling block to the progress of democracy in Singapore and set us back by 20 years. Whether this is unfounded or not, I leave it to Singaporeans to judge.

Low Thia Khiang

From WP’s website: http://wp.sg/2012/06/mr-low-thia-khiangs-letter-to-straits-times-forum/

Complaints persist over SingTel’s World Cup package

The late rush comes despite the World Cup package being offered since March, but SingTel had said earlier that it was prepared for last-minute sign-ups and would ramp up its efforts to ensure those who wanted to do so could get their football fix.

However, fans have taken to social media to say otherwise. Many have gone on SingTel’s Facebook page to complain that they have been unable to watch the games after signing up, while others are irked about patchy image quality.

One of those affected, Mr Vikram Mengi, wrote on the Facebook page: “I subscribed to the FIFA WC (World Cup) channel, but now all I can watch is some shaky images. I tried restarting the set-top box, but to no avail. Also, (the) hotline took me for a long joyride and finally disconnected my call.”

He added that he managed to get assistance from the telco’s technical personnel, but the problem did not go away, leaving him with what he termed “frozen images”.

A StarHub customer, Mr Sameer Desai, wrote that he had signed up for the World Cup package via the cross-carriage arrangement, but could not receive the broadcasts.

“The channel has gone blank for StarHub subscribers who bought the World Cup package … It went blank before the start of the game at midnight,” he wrote.

SingTel’s mio TV GO application — which allows viewing of the matches on mobile devices — had also been unreliable, said some users.

One user, Mr Lim Ming Chai, said he was unable to log on to the application. He was prompted to key in his particulars several times, but had no success and missed Wednesday’s match between Russia and South Korea.

In response to queries, a SingTel spokesperson said it has responded to those who have posted complaints on its Facebook page.

It added that these are isolated incidents and that customers were experiencing different problems.

Article first published in TODAY, June 21, 2014.

Singapore ‘still not meeting minimum standards to curb human trafficking’

Foreign prostitutes plying their trade along Geylang Road. Advocates say human trafficking remains a worrying problem, contributing to estimated annual profits in Asia of US$10 billion (S$12.9 billion). -- ST FILE PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Foreign prostitutes plying their trade along Geylang Road. Advocates say human trafficking remains a worrying problem, contributing to estimated annual profits in Asia of US$10 billion (S$12.9 billion). — ST FILE PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE — The Republic still falls short of the minimum international standards for the elimination of human trafficking, although it has made significant efforts in this area, said the latest Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report released yesterday by the United States Department of State.

Singapore remains in Tier 2 of a four-tier system, where Tier 1 represents countries whose governments fully comply with the minimum international standards of protecting migrant workers from forced labour or other forms of human trafficking.

The report — which has drawn forceful rebuttals from the Singapore Government in the past for “misrepresentation” — noted that stringent sentences were imposed on two convicted sex traffickers, but no labour traffickers were prosecuted or convicted.

While the Government has developed an improved mechanism for case referral among government, civil society and foreign embassies, it “continued to face difficulties” in identifying and building evidence in cases. “After investigating 294 new labour cases and 53 sex-trafficking cases, the Government substantiated 24 sex-trafficking cases and one labour-trafficking case,” the report stated.

It said the authorities here might have “failed to recognise the elements of trafficking among individuals who reportedly migrated to Singapore willingly or who did not experience physical confinement or abuse” and that the Government and civil societies continued to disagree on whether specific cases amounted to trafficking.

And while the new case referral process introduced in August last year has improved coordination between stakeholders, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and foreign embassies said “a lack of transparency regarding ongoing cases remained a problem”. The Government also did not “consistently ensure” social-service professionals were present during screening interviews with victims, although NGOs reported an improvement in this area.

Singapore has mostly been placed in Tier 2 since the US began publishing the annual report in 2001 but, in 2010, it slipped into the Tier 2 Watchlist category for countries that have a significant number of trafficking victims and which failed to show efforts to combat the situation. That year, the Singapore Inter-Agency Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons was formed. The task force — comprising several government agencies — launched a National Plan of Action in 2012.

In November, Member of Parliament Christopher de Souza is expected to table draft legislation to prevent human trafficking in Parliament.

Article first published in TODAY, June 21, 2014.

No objectionable material in song about acceptance in friendship

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By EDWIN DAI WEIYUN

I refer to the letter “Censorship necessary for event with no age restrictions” (June 18). First, the writer assumes that children would receive objectionable material from listening to A-mei’s song Rainbow.

The lyrics of the song centre on a female protagonist who seeks solace in a possibly homosexual friend, who has similarly been hurt in relationships.

It is a song about unconditional, supporting friendship, no matter the friend’s sexual orientation.

Encouraging one’s children to accept their friends for who they are is not objectionable, not if one is truly concerned about the moral well-being of our children.

Irrational objection to the song shows the true complaint is merely that homosexuals are portrayed as being fit for friendship.

Second, others have mentioned that if the Media Development Authority (MDA) applies the same yardstick to all performances here that do not have an age limit on ticket sales, its advisory would be consistent.

Otherwise, it may be understood, incorrectly, that the MDA is pandering to conservative elements in Singapore, unless it clarifies that songs about drugs and murder are acceptable but songs involving a possibly homosexual character are not.

If so, the publication of clear guidelines would be useful.

Article first published in TODAY, June 20, 2014.

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