Singapore denounces pastor for ridiculing Buddhists

Tue Feb 9, 2010 12:48am EST
 
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SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Singapore has warned a Christian pastor that his online videos are offensive to Buddhists and Taoists, underlining the city-state's concerns that religion is a potential faultline for its multicultural society.

Pastor Rony Tan, of Lighthouse Evangelism, apologized and pulled the video clips off the internet after being visited by the government's Internal Security Department on Monday, the pastor and the government said on their websites.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement on Tuesday Tan's comments were "highly inappropriate and unacceptable," and could "give rise to tension and conflict between the Buddhist/Taoist and Christian communities."

The clips are no longer available online, but the Straits Times said they involved ridiculing beliefs, including Buddhist concepts of rebirth, karma and nirvana, drawing laughter from Tan's audience.

Singpore's move comes after rising religious tensions in neighboring Malaysia, where churches and mosques have been hit by arson and vandalism in recent weeks amid a row over the use of the word "Allah" by Christians.

Singapore last week arrested three youths aged between 17 and 18 for posting remarks on Facebook that have been deemed to be racist, local media reported.

They are likely to be charged under the Sedition Act, under which anyone found guilty of promoting feelings of ill will or hostility against other races or religions faces fines of up to S$5,000 ($3,520) as well as the possibility of being jailed for up to three years.

Singapore, which saw deadly racial riots in the 1950s and 1960s, is a base for many multinational companies which value its stability, infrastructure and proximity to fast-growing Asian markets.

Buddhists and Taoists account for half of Singapore's nearly 5 million population. Muslims and Christians account for 15 percent each.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a speech last August that religious and racial tensions were the country's biggest potential social faultlines.

(Reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan; Editing by Neil Chatterjee)