Monday, 6 July 2015

PM Lee joins Christians at SG50 event

51,000 worshippers prayed for Singapore at multi-denominational, jubilee event
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 6 Jul 2015

The new Sports Hub was awash in a sea of red yesterday as a record 51,000 Christians from churches across Singapore gathered to mark SG50 and pray for the country.

The Jubilee Day of Prayer is the largest multi-denominational Christian event in Singapore's history, and is part of a series of events celebrating Singapore's 50th year of independence.

Joining them as guest of honour was Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who got a warm welcome from those present as they waved red scarves and cheered his arrival.

In a speech, Mr Lee acknowledged that a jubilee year has special significance for Christians.

He noted that in the Old Testament, a jubilee year was the 50th year at the end of seven sabbatical cycles - seven cycles of seven years each - and a year of great joy and celebration, when people spend time with their families, enjoy the harvest, and freely share what they have, especially with the poor.

Mr Lee urged the congregation to celebrate SG50 with family and friends, give thanks for what Singapore had achieved, and said he was glad the collection from the event's offering will go to those in need.

"This is the spirit of the jubilee: togetherness, thankfulness and generosity that we must nurture and that will see us into the future. A future in which all our communities, including our Protestant community, will have full roles to play," he added.

Mr Lee also paid tribute to the Protestant community's hard work in building up Singapore, citing missionary schools which moulded young people of character.

The Prime Minister added that while he attended a Catholic school, two of his sons went to a Protestant Christian school - Anglo-Chinese School (Independent).

He also praised the community for serving the less privileged in Singapore, regardless of race, language or religion.

And he said that Christians have also played a key role helping Singapore maintain racial and religious harmony.

In particular, Mr Lee thanked church leaders for understanding Singapore's multi-religious context and for guiding their flock to practise their faith with moderation and restraint, while respecting the people and practices of other faiths.

Repeating a point he had made at a thanksgiving mass organised by the Catholic community last Saturday, Mr Lee said that while Singapore was a secular country, many people take their faiths seriously.

"The Government considers this a good thing. It has given us right values, it has given us moral compass, it has not stopped us from coming together as one people."

Today, he will join Muslims in breaking fast at the newly renovated Al-Ansar Mosque in Bedok, as well as attend a concert co-organised by the Taoist Federation and New Creation Church, he added.

This was why singing the song One People, One Nation, One Singapore at the end of yesterday's event was apt, he quipped.

The celebration was co-organised by the National Council of Churches in Singapore (NCCS) and the Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore, and also saw leaders from various churches take turns leading the audience in worship and prayer.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife, Mrs Mary Tan, and several ministers were also present.

Said Bishop Wee Boon Hup, who is the NCCS' president: "The gathering of Christians from different denominations, churches and organisations in one day at one place as one Christian community underscores the unity of our community and the love we have for Singapore."

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10,000 Catholics and guests celebrate SG50 at thanksgiving mass attended by PM
By Wong Siew Ying, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2015

They took care of the sick, fed the poor and sheltered homeless children for close to 200 years, leaving an indelible mark on Singapore since the first Catholic priest arrived here in 1821.

These missionaries did not just set up schools and orphanages, but also cared for patients with tuberculosis and leprosy, and set up Mount Alvernia Hospital.

On Saturday, these and many other contributions were celebrated at a Joy SG50 thanksgiving mass organised by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore.

Some 10,000 Catholics and guests gathered at the Singapore Indoor Stadium to pay tribute to these pioneers who gave their lives to serve the people and the nation.

Leading the tribute was Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who said the Catholic Church in Singapore had "brought light and hope to many", whether through education, or helping the poor, the migrant workers and the ill.

Mr Lee, who attended Catholic High School, also thanked the Church for playing an important role in strengthening racial and religious harmony here, and "setting the tone for all communities to live peacefully with each other".

"Our country must always be a place where everybody has their own space... in a world which has too much sectarian strife and bloodshed," he said.

"You have been a responsible, reliable and sensitive partner, helping us to strengthen our multiracial and multireligious society. You have worked with us in the Government to manage delicate inter-religious issues, you have been assiduous in building up personal links and trust between church leaders and leaders of other groups."

"We are a secular country, but as the Archbishop pointed out, many of our citizens hold their religious faiths dearly and deeply, and the Government believes that this is a good thing and encourages this.

"We belong to many different faiths, but this year we celebrate SG50 as one people and one nation," he added.

The thanksgiving mass is among a number of events organised by various religious groups to celebrate Singapore's golden jubilee ahead of National Day.

Speaking before Mr Lee, Archbishop William Goh said the Church will continue to work closely with the State and other religions to "prevent moral decadence, preserve families, strengthen the marriage institution and to promote justice, peace and harmony". The Church is also grateful to a "supportive and responsible Government" for championing religious harmony, "which is especially crucial at a time when religious extremism is threatening the peaceful coexistence of peoples".

There are about 360,000 Catholics in Singapore.

The Vatican envoy to Singapore, Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, also read out a congratulatory message from Pope Francis, who gave thanks to God for the many graces bestowed upon Singapore in the last 50 years. The audience also watched a video on the Church's early days in Singapore, and heard a specially-written song from Singaporean singer-songwriter Corrinne May, Bless Our Singapore.

As part of the Joy SG50 celebrations, Catholics are also invited to offer prayers, fast and feed the poor 50,000 meals.

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