When Internal Security Department called, Senior pastor publicly apologised in Singapore

published on February 10, 2010

ISD calls up pastor

SINGAPORE – The founder and senior pastor of a Christian church here publicly apologised last night for being “offensive” and “insensitive” after three video clips of him questioning Buddhist and Taoist beliefs sparked outrage among many Singaporeans. Pastor Rony Tan from Lighthouse Evangelism church posted his apology on the church’s website after being called up by the Internal Security Department (ISD).

The videos showed the pastor addressing two church followers – a former monk and a former nun – in front of his congregation. In the clips, which lasted more than 25 minutes, Pastor Tan, who is in his 60s, questioned Buddhist and Taoist beliefs, touching on topics such as Nirvana, reincarnation and Karma. The congregation was heard laughing and clapping at several points. The videos were uploaded on the church’s website.

Last Thursday, the videos were posted on several social media platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube. They subsequently made their rounds on numerous online forums.

It is understood complaints were made to the Police, ministers and the Presidential Council of Religious Harmony.

In response to queries, a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) spokesman confirmed that the ISD had called up Pastor Tan “in connection with his comments and insinuations about Buddhism and Taoism”. The ministry noted that the pastor’s comments had been “video-recorded and made available on Lighthouse Evangelism’s website” and video-clips “subsequently became available on YouTube and other websites”.

“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,” said the ministry.

“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.

“Pastor Tan has expressed his deepest apologies and remorse. He deeply regrets that he has been insensitive and offensive towards the Buddhist and Taoist faiths, and that his comments have saddened and hurt their followers.

“He has promised that it will never happen again and has also affirmed that he will tell his members to respect other beliefs and build a harmonious Singapore.”

In an “urgent message” posted on the church’s website last night, Pastor Tan said: “I realised that my presentation and comments were wrong and offensive. So I sincerely apologise for my insensitivity towards the Buddhists and Taoists, and solemnly promise that it will never happen again. When we received those emails, we immediately removed the video clips from our website. I urge those who have posted those clips on YouTube to remove them as well.” Pastor Tan could not be contacted.

This is not the first time a video by Pastor Tan has attracted attention. Two years ago, he posted a five-minute music video, The Singapore Song, which sparked a debate in cyberspace on the role of the Government.

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