Singapore is a multi-religious and multi-racial society. Its citizens cram themselves daily onto the public transport system, and HDB flats – the preferred public housing – ensure they live in close proximity to each other. Most public schools have a good mix of races. You would have thought that living day-to-day in close contact with members of other religions in the 21st century would be enough to force one to observe and question his/her own beliefs on faith. And in doing so, gain a measure of understanding – that we are not so different after all. Yet despite the best efforts of the administration, fundamentalism and bigotry raise their ugly heads all too often for anyone’s liking. We have so far been spared the likes of Pat Robertson and Westboro Baptist Church, but events in recent years indicate an undeniable streak of hard-line religious thought. The most vocal, repellent and worryingly active culprits are evangelical Christians (no surprises there), but this does not mean Muslims, Buddhists or Hindus can rest on their laurels. The latest episode of Christian bigotry occurred at the National University of Singapore, where I studied years back. Even back then, I knew the type of Christians affiliated with the now notorious Campus Crusade for Christ. I would have been heartily embarrassed if any of my friends were one of them. Take a look at this piece of mawkish propaganda that appeared on their notice board on campus.
and more of the same here:
Sadly in the furore that followed, all the CCC could offer in way of apology was this highly dubious piece of sycophantic, insincere official-speak:
“I am a NUS CCC representative from NUS. With reference to the closed thread:
[GPGT] NUS group “Campus Crusade for Christ” insults Thai Buddhists and Turkey – http://www.hardwarezone.com.sg
We would like to post an online apology as follows:
We humbly apologize for the distress we have caused you through the poster of ours that has gone viral online. We recognize that our choice of words used should have been more sensitive and tactful. We acknowledge that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and it is definitely not our intention to force anyone to believe in what we do. We have since removed our posters and websites, and will be watchful of future actions. Thank you for your understanding and our deepest apologies again for the distress that this incident has caused you.
With sincere apologies,
On behalf of NUS Campus Crusade
We seek your permission to post this up personally.”
The apology only made things worse as it had dismissed the central issues of religious bigotry, and passed them off as mere semantics, a matter of “choice of words”. When several people condemned the farcical apology, some went so far as condemn the condemnation, accusing people of “not forgiving”, “fanning the flames” and “causing unrest”. This was what really rankled me and prompted my posting the following reply on The Online Citizen.
“@Joanne: you say that, “it’s even more disheartening looking at the comments on this page. shame on your guys. do you know what starts an unrest? NO FORGIVENESS.. by condemning the students from NUS.. you guys are just flaming the fire.”
I find it more disheartening that you have completely missed the point of most of the comments made on this page. The fact is that the apology from the CCC revealed their complete ignorance of why people were offended by the posts in the first place. The apology skirted the central issues and came off as insincere, sycophantic and frankly demeaning.
It was not an issue of “choice of words used should have been more sensitive and tactful”. The obvious intention of the poster was, to convince fellow xtians, that there is an urgent and desperate need to convert people in these “heathen lands”. The fact that the poster linked Buddhism to a lack of true joy in Thailand, i.e. Buddhism makes Thais unhappy- not only demonstrates poor logic and bad judgment, but also a malicious intent to spread lies and deceit about everything under the sun, so long as Christianity prevails. You can sugar-coat the message and be as sensitive as you like, but with such a twisted, outdated and fundamentalist outlook, all the best PR agencies in the world will not be able to help you.
As for forgiveness, would you forgive someone who not only apologises insincerely, but for the wrong reasons? The CCC clearly has not acknowledged the error of its ways, and it is the duty of others to ensure the flames do not die down until a more convincing apology is issued at the least. Accepting the current apology and “moving on”, might sound like the decent thing to do, but it is in fact irresponsible. You suggest that “NO FORGIVENESS” starts an unrest? I argue that allowing unresolved issues to fester under layers of convenient forgiveness, leads to more unrest and hatred in the long run.”