Advice on Madonna concert not an imposition of values on non-believers: Anglican Bishop

Madonna performs during her Rebel Heart Tour concert in Macau on Feb 20, 2016.
Madonna performs during her Rebel Heart Tour concert in Macau on Feb 20, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - The Anglican Bishop of Singapore has weighed in on American singer Madonna's concert scheduled for Sunday, saying that the Church is not forcing its views on non-believers in asking Christians not to attend the concert.

He said the Church is only calling on Christians to make choices that "decisively show" their love for God.

"In taking a position on the Madonna concert, the Church can be cast as being moralistic or arrogantly prescriptive for everybody else. That is not our intention or motivation," said Rev Rennis Ponniah in a pastoral letter put on the Diocese of Singapore's website on Friday.

"The Church is not simply anti-this or anti-that. Rather, we have a God-given role to bear witness to the values that make for life - values that undergird peoples' choices."

His statement comes a week after the Catholic Archbishop reminded Catholics of their moral obligation "not to support those who denigrate and insult religions", and urged them not to go for the Rebel Heart tour.

Madonna's concert, which has an R18 rating here, has been altered slightly for the Singapore audience, with religiously sensitive content removed.

Archbishop William Goh had said in his statement that he told various government ministries and statutory boards the "Catholic Church's grave concerns" about the concert, to be held at the Sports Hub.

He also told The Straits Times that Catholics who had already bought tickets to the concert should "act according to their informed conscience."

His comments had sparked debate online, with some people seeing it as an attempt to clamp down on freedom of expression.

Others questioned the need for a strong statement of disapproval to what they considered a night of entertainment.

In his statement, Rev Ponniah acknowledged those who were eager to champion artistic license, but said the Church communicated with the authorities out of concern for the "self-indulgent and antinominan values, which, in our view, are contrary to the well-being and future of our nation".

He added: "Bishop Ponniah is also asking fellow Anglicans to make a choice not to walk in darkness but to walk in the light." 

He added that it is not in the spirit of Christianity to condemn. The Church, in making its views public, is adding to the national conversation on what is best for Singapore, he said.

Anglican Colin Chee, 66, a retired manager, agreed with Rev Ponniah. 

"Going to the authorities does not mean we condemn the people who go to the concert, but rather, making sure that content that is offensive to one's religious belief is not given free play in a public space."