Australian pastor had valid work pass: MHA

An Australian pastor whose past comments about Islam raised concerns among netizens had a valid work pass to enter Singapore to deliver a sermon here, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday.

Netizens on online forum Reddit had found articles penned by Mr Colin Maxel Stringer, who was a guest speaker at New Creation Church, in which he criticised other religions.

In response to queries, an MHA spokesman said Mr Stringer had been granted a miscellaneous work pass (MWP) to deliver the sermon at The Star Performing Arts Centre on Sunday.

The spokesman said: "An assessment was done of his past sermons, including those he had given in Singapore (when he was granted MWPs to speak here) previously.

"MHA has not received information that Mr Stringer had made any statements of concern during his sermon on 10 March 2019."

The spokesman added: "The organising bodies inviting foreign religious preachers, regardless of faith, are under an obligation to advise these foreign religious preachers to avoid any actions or statements that may undermine our social cohesion and racial/religious harmony."

On Monday, a discussion thread on Reddit titled "New Creation Church Guest Speaker's Divisive Views" highlighted a blog post published in 2011 by Mr Stringer, as well as a newsletter published on the Col Stringer Ministries website in 2001.

In them, he was critical of Islam and other religions.

Checks by The Straits Times yesterday found that both articles had been taken down from their respective websites.

Only a blog post published on Wednesday remains, stating that Mr Stringer and his wife are in Japan "enjoying family time".

The blog post adds: "In their field of work, some people try to cause strife, confusion and discord. Their love and respect for all people (shine) through in their everyday lives."

The Reddit user who started the thread had written: "Col Stringer has religiously divisive views. By MHA's standards, he should not have been allowed to guest speak. After all, his case is analogous to Watain's performance ban, which was based on past actions."

On March 7, the authorities cancelled Swedish black metal band Watain's concert here, citing its history of denigrating religions and promoting violence.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2019, with the headline 'Australian pastor had valid work pass: MHA'. Print Edition | Subscribe