Thursday, July 05, 2012
Update: One day after this posting was made, the video below was removed from YouTube. Fortunately, Alvin (of alvinology.com) had the foresight to save a copy of the video. I have restored the video so that the contents can be seen and issues discussed. Remember the issues here are not about religion (which religion). It is about an organisation operating in a manner that is less than sensitive to other religious groups in institutions educating young children.
My initial concerns were the recruitment strategy of this religious groups. However, commenters have pointed out that religious leader is linked to the City Harvest Church as committee member and the organisation is affiliated with the City Harvest Church. Given various controversies surrounding the CHC and it's teaching of Prosperity Gospel, the recruitment strategies of its affiliate will cause deep concerns among parents. In the video, he said that poor children should be encouraged to make sacrifices to give. He told the story of one child in his church who woke up very morning at 5am to make food to sell to her friends in school so that she can give money to his organisation's building fund.
"When young people learn to give, God will prosper them. When they can learn to give when they are poor, they will be able to give when they are rich"
"I wanted a church that is built by young people. Even financially supported by young people. ....God also said to me, 'I want you to raise up a church supported financially by young people, by students, so that you can show the world that I can work, I do miracles with young people." - Tan
I was searching for videos on YouTube related to the City Harvest Church and I chanced upon this video of a Singaporean by the name of Tan speaking to a group of Russians. I do not know exactly who he is but what he said really troubles me. The relevant portion is the first half of his talk.
In the first part of the video, Mr. Tan told the Russians the recruitment strategy for his religious organisation. His primary target - school children. He explained that he would prefer to go directly to the school to recruit them to his organisation but the laws in Singapore forbid him from doing so. To get around this, he used school going children to persuade others to join his religious organisation essentially turning our schools into recruitment grounds. His religious groups have penetrated 70% of the schools in Singapore. Notice in the video that the funds raised by each group of children appears with their photos to highlight their achievement in bringing in donations to the organisation.
While I strongly believe religion plays an important role in our society, the strategy deployed by this religious leader to specifically target school going children in their teens really troubles me. At this young and tender age, a child's exposure to the world is limited and they are high impressionable - they can be easily influenced. Children are also to susceptible to peer pressure. By bringing these children into his organisation and imparting teachings that may be different from those of the children's parents can cause tension in the family at a time when parent-child relationship is critical phase. In a child's teenage years it is the parents that play a key role in guiding them and many will pick the right time to bring their children to mosques, churches and temples to introduce them to the family's religion.
Whatever his intentions are, he is playing a unhealthy game in our multi-religious society. Imagine if other religious groups using the same strategy competing actively to recruit school children- imagine the tension and suspicion it would cause. When I was in secondary schools, I had friends talk to me about their religion but they were never part of an organised deliberate strategy to recruit for a religious group.
Every religious leader has strong conviction that his is the 'true' religion (or the 'true version' of the religion) that will save souls but children are not fair game...please recruit them when they are older, less vulnerable and more able to think for themselves.
Posting Time 4:30 PM
Posted by Lucky Tan