"Honour in Singapore" is a mini series by TOC following the recent formation of the Honour (Singapore) non-profit organisation, made up of distinguished individuals closely related to the government and a far-right Christian group. The series will explore some of their profiles, and bring to light what the group meant by "promoting a culture of honour and honouring" in Singapore.
When local non-profit organisation Honour (Singapore) was first announced, one of the key personnel identified was its executive director, Mr Jason Wong.
Wikipedia’s definition of executive director states that:
“The role of the Executive Director is to design, develop and implement strategic plans for the organization in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner. The Executive Director is also responsible for the day-to-day operation of the organisation. This includes managing committees and staff as well as developing business plans in collaboration with the board. In essence, the board grants the Executive Director the authority to run the organisation.”
This essentially means that Wong would be responsible for planning, overseeing, directing and executing the initiatives that Honour (Singapore), an organisation that claims to be for all of Singapore, deems in its charter to undertake.
Wong is no stranger to the local community. He is the chairman of Focus on the Family Singapore, an organisation that is known for taking hard lined Christian stances to social issues. For instance, it has consistently proliferated the view that a family is made up of a man, a woman and children – an approach that can have a very divisive effect in multi-faceted Singapore.
TOC as also noted earlier that Wong was identified as an elder of Full Gospel Business (FGB) Gatekeepers Singapore’s Strategic Gatekeepers’ Family Gate. It is understood that Wong continues to be heavily involved in FGB Singapore, a group known for its religion-led perspectives for social development.
Wong has spoken openly about his convictions towards family values, which has been a key driver for the various initiatives he undertook at Focus on the Family. He has similarly expressed a desire for the nation to adopt a more concerted view on the family. He was also formerly a senior director with the Ministry of Social and Family Development. It is evident that the family constitutes a great part of Wong’s motivation and his work, and we should expect him to carry those same convictions to Honour (Singapore).
While Focus on the Family Singapore is run separately from its American counterpart, it remains associated to the American evangelical Christian organisation. For example, Focus on the Family Singapore received S$45,477 in grants from its American counterpart in 2009. On the assumption that funding is an indication of alliances and shared goals to a certain degree, I can safely guess that the two organisations have very similar objectives. Given the extremely conservative and draconian reputation Focus on the Family, America has, it would again be safe to assume that Focus on the Family Singapore will not be too different in agenda.
The mission of Focus on the Family Singapore as stated on its website is to "help families thrive at every stage and phase of life", and it envisions "transformed families, communities and societies". It has six guiding principles: the sanctity of life, the permanence of marriage, the importance of outreach, the value of children, the importance of social responsibility, and the value of male and female.
Notably, Focus on the Family has contributed positively to society through events and initiatives such as Dads for Life and the Yellow Ribbon Project. However, we need to be concerned about its very limited definitions of what constitutes “family” and how it insidiously discriminates against groups that do not fit into their idea of what society should be.
Arbitrarily making pronouncements on what constitutes a family can have a very polarising effect on a multi cultural and multi religious society. It can be tantamount to imposing its own beliefs on cultures that may not necessarily share their view. In some instances, this imposition has led to the break up of family units, which is ironical in the face of the organisation’s belief that family is the building block of society.
Singapore has no lack of stories about non-heterosexual individuals being turfed out of their homes because their families are unable to understand their sexual orientation. Websites such as that of Focus on the Family serve to deepen the chasm of misunderstanding. Many of these families, which had strong bonds before, are then torn asunder by ignorance.
To what extent will a prominent member of an organisation, well known for taking certain positions on the family, have an influence on another organisation that also wishes to focus on spreading “honour” by “starting with the individual, then family, then others in society”? Honour (Singapore) is also interested in engaging “a broad spectrum of Singapore society - schools, families, businesses, workplaces and community groups”. How might Wong’s personal convictions on the family influence the activities he will have an active hand in planning and executing for Honour (Singapore)?
Understandably, Focus on the Family and Honour (Singapore) are two separate organisations. But the fact that Wong is the executive director should suggest to us that Honour (Singapore), which now claims to speak on behalf of the nation, needs to be closely monitored for how it balances cultural relations, and if influences from Focus on the Family is seeping in through its executive director.
In its bid for a more inclusive Singapore, will Honour (Singapore) led by Wong result in a more excluding definition of family and society? Is the rest of the board of Honour (Singapore) going to be influenced by Wong’s Focus on the Family slant? In sitting on the same board, are the other board members giving their silent seal of approval to these narrow interpretations of family?
More worryingly, does Honour (Singapore) see the upholding of a traditional family unit as part of upholding honour in Singapore? Given that “honour” is a phrase that is so subjective and with scant information on the precise actions Honour (Singapore) will take to promote “honour”, one cannot help but wonder if this is an organisation whose aim is to “christianise” Singapore under the guise of a government endorsed organisation patronised by the elite of Singaporean society.
I certainly have nothing against Christian organisations. Singapore is a land of many religions and each has equal right to believe. But if you are a Christian organisation wanting to spread pro Christian values, be upfront about it, and be open about potential lines of influence. Does Honour (Singapore)’s silence on this issue, until uncovered by online media, give the public confidence that it really has no Christian agenda?
Top image - Honour (Singapore) website
The “Honour in Singapore” series includes:
- Part 1 - Defining honour, for what purpose?
- Part 2 - About chairman Lim Siong Guan
- Part 3 - About executive director Jason Wong
- Part 4 - Keepers of the “gates”
- Part 5 - Strong government endorsement warranted?
- Part 6 - Relooking objectives and funding
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