Tue, Mar 24, 2009
my paper
Good faith behind $19m donations


IT WAS tantamount to a tsunami. Once again, the Internet community erupted into a wild frenzy after my paper reported recently that the New Creation Church had raised $19 million within a day from its congregation for its new building.

In just a week, forums on AsiaOne and sgclub.com attracted hundreds of comments, which ran the gamut from praise to cynicism, anger and downright irrational hostility.

This brings to mind the vicious comments that emerged in forums after Member of Parliament (MP) Seng Han Thong was attacked.

It led to a comment in Parliament by Rear-Admiral (NS) Lui Tuck Yew, Senior Minister of State for Education and Information, Communications and the Arts.

He expressed his disappointment with netizens for not rebutting online attacks on the MP.

It was no different when the Internet community reacted to the fund-raising by the church. After ploughing obsessively through the forums with a perverse compulsion to know what was going on, I was filled with consternation.

I was responsible for the report. Incidentally, I am also a member of the New Creation Church. I do understand why the article caused an uproar, given the current circumstances.

The economy is not ship-shape, people are getting laid off, and many feel hemmed in by their circumstances. But I also found many comments harsh, accusatory and lacking in adequate information.

This led me to want to address and debunk some of the remarks garnered from forums: The people in the church are conned into giving This is untrue.

As a part of modern society, many of us have been trained to analyse and critique situations we are faced with.

I believe we have enough intelligence and sense to think for ourselves and to be strong enough to reject something if we find it questionable.

Also, the fund-raising by the church was akin to any other fund-raiser, such as one by a school's alumni. It is extravagant to build a church with a mega-mall The land has to be large enough to house a building which can fit all its members.

The only suitable plot was the one at one-north, which happens to be expensive prime land. Building just a church on that pricey piece of land is not something a church can afford to do.

After all, a building costs millions of dollars to construct. So, a partnership was established with property developer CapitaLand, hence the retail options.

Also, the church is renting the Rock Auditorium as well as levels four and six of Suntec City Mall and rooms in Suntec Convention Centre.

This is not cost-effective in the long run. The money is wasted and should be given directly to the needy instead Yes, the poor truly need help and nobody should ignore efforts to lend them a hand.

The church does give aid to the needy. Still, that's not the point of contention. In the end, giving to a church is based on its congregation's beliefs.

In this case, the congregation spent their money on something they believed in. It is similar to how people thronged the IT Show this month and spent $58.5 million at the four-day event.

All religions have different beliefs and modes of worship.

As a multi-religious society, perhaps we should try to accept these things as part of their faith and respect their decisions.

Only then can we take a step towards becoming a more loving and gracious place we can call home.

For more my paper stories click here.

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