S'pore church leaders shocked by case of teen who planned mosque attacks

The 16-year-old student, who had purchased a tactical vest, is the youngest person detained under the Internal Security Act for terrorism-related activities. PHOTO: ISD

SINGAPORE - The National Council of Churches (NCCS) and other Christian leaders in Singapore on Wednesday (Jan 27) expressed sadness, shock and concern at the revelation that a local teenager of Protestant faith had plotted to attack two mosques and kill Muslim worshippers here.

They also decried his actions as unrepresentative of the Christian faith and its teachings.

The student, 16, is the youngest person detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for terrorism-related activities, and the first to be inspired by far-right extremist ideology.

The NCCS expressed its appreciation to the authorities for its swift action, which it said could have led to serious injury to Muslims.

"NCCS treasures the special relationship it has with the Muslim community... It wishes to assure our Muslim friends that there is no animosity between our communities, and that we remain committed to defeating hatred and violence," it said in a statement signed by its president Reverend Keith Lai and general secretary Reverend Ngoei Foong Nghian.

The Council told The Straits Times it would meet Mufti Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, the highest Islamic authority in Singapore, and Muslim leaders on Thursday.

It will also address the matter with church leaders during a scheduled quarterly meeting the same day, and plans to speak with the pastor of the detainee's church and offer help to the congregation.

In its statement, the Council highlighted the Christian scripture of "love your neighbour as yourself" as it said: "We totally reject any ideology - even if they should come fictitiously under the label 'Christian' - that promotes or incites violence against another, especially if they are of a different religious community.

"We believe that this is an isolated incident, and that the youth developed his extremist ideology on his own rather than from any teaching from his church or other churches in Singapore."

Nevertheless, NCCS added, all church leaders and Christians should be vigilant and carefully nurture the youth in their midst.

The Methodist Church, the largest Protestant denomination here, also issued a response from its Bishop Gordon Wong.

"It is especially disheartening to learn that it is one of our fellow Singaporeans; a son who grew up in a safe and harmonious community such as what we enjoy in Singapore," said Dr Wong. "Through the pain of the news, we are reminded of how easy it is for external forces to influence our flock."

Dr Wong also encouraged Christians, Muslims and other faiths to live together in compassion and consideration for each other.

The Catholic Church of Singapore expressed its strong belief that Islam is a religion of peace, and said: " Violence has no place in society, let alone misperceived martyrdom through taking the lives of others... We must appreciate the goodness in every religion. No peace can ever come out of hatred and bigotry."

The Alliance of Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches of Singapore (APCCS) similarly expressed solidarity with the Muslim community in the light of what it described as a "disconcerting development".

Noting Singapore is a safe place for people of diverse religious beliefs to live together in mutual respect, its chairman Reverend Yang Tuck Yoong said: "We are committed to safeguarding this aspect of what makes Singapore unique in an era of polarised religious views."

Meanwhile, a spokesman from the Heart of God Church in Eunos stressed that the youth's actions were not a reflection of Christianity or Christian values.

"We have reached out to the mosques in our community... We told them, as Christians, we do not condone such violence and extremist ideologies," said the spokesperson, adding the church will continue to focus on encouraging and creating opportunities for its young people to collaborate with other religious organisations.

Said APCCS co-chair Reverend Dominic Yeo: "At such a time, it is even more vital for Christians, churches and everyone in Singapore to come together as one united people."

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