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Two notes by NUS lecturer and a petition to MOE by parents.

TOC Perspectives: Views on AWARE

Announcement: The Online Citizen will bring you “live” updates from Suntec City tomorrow of the AWARE Extraordinary General Meeting. “Live” updates will begin from 12 noon. Stay tuned to TOC!

We reproduce Two Facebook notes sent to us by NUS Lecturer Gwee Li Sui, a Christian of 25 years, calling for the withdrawal of the new Executive Committee of Aware, as well as a petition started by parents calling on MOE to review AWARE’s current Comprehensive Sexual Education Programme.

Read also the National Council of Churches of Singapore's stand in the Straits Times' report: Churches should stay out.

Facebook Note One

Gwee Li Su

Christians in Singapore, listen! You should not be this conflicted about the AWARE debacle. It appears that a few churches have already taken the opportunity to preach on the issue of homosexuality from the pulpit. Some Christians have also been rattling on about it being time to make a stand and be counted for what one truly believes.

So this is me making a stand right here. I have been a Bible-believing Christian for 25 years now. I want first to acknowledge fellow believers who, like me, are shocked, angered, and saddened by the takeover and feel that their faith has been hijacked and their views ignored. I know that a lot of such affected Christians are out there. There is also another group which may not agree with the new team's tactics but admires its fervour or sympathises with it for the heat it has been getting.

But, most of all, I want to address a crucial third party: Christian women who have been encouraged to stand up and be counted for their beliefs. I wish to appeal to their good sense in these last hours. You may be one of these and have even joined, or are planning to join, AWARE to help swing the votes in favour of the new ex-co on Saturday. Especially if I am describing you, please read on!

Yes, there are times when a Christian needs to make a courageous stand – but, in every event, always ask yourself: For what cause is this? What context does it serve? The current scenario is not one where we are being asked what our beliefs on certain issues are or whether Christianity and homosexuality are compatible or we are being mocked or discriminated against. It is a simple context where a group of well-meaning Christians infiltrated a secular organisation in order to be in a position to dictate their own values in its daily running. In this light, what a Christian may feel about issues like homosexuality is besides the point!

As a secular body, AWARE rightly cannot have a vision that treats women from different backgrounds through the outlook of just one religious system. Indeed, I dare say that an appropriate Christian response is to resist the actions of these Christians. Just as God gave every person free choice and the opportunity to believe, we ought to support the sanctity of this right for others to make up their own minds and live their own lives. Just as we do not force the Christian faith down someone's throat against his or her will, we should not take over a non-religious organisation for the single purpose of making others unlike us behave as we believe. To do this would be a gross misapplication of the message of Jesus.

If you support the new ex-co's actions, be aware that you are sending a string of possibly irreversible wrong signals to every Singaporean. Consider carefully whether you are willing to shoulder the responsibility of damages that would affect the longstanding good work of Christians in Singapore. Since the government has chosen not to be involved in the matter so far, whatever happens will be seen clearly by all as the response of particular sectors of society.

Here is my short list of obvious implications:

[1] Support the new ex-co, and you are effectively saying that you condone its quasi-corporate act of infiltration, with related strategies of secrecy, disinformation, moral coercion, and fear-mongering. You are saying that you support its less-than-Christian covert moves more than traditionally Christian ones like dialogue, open engagement, honesty, and clarity.

[2] Support the new ex-co, and we will go down a slippery road with wide-ranging repercussions for all. Don’t believe for a moment that the manoeuvring will stop here. What this invites others to see is that infiltration is the most effective way for small groups of like-minded individuals to seize power quickly -- and where will this end? What is to stop any religious or ideological group from doing the same to any social institution at every level? In the long run, who do you think loses?

[3] Support the new ex-co, and you potentially make light of the freedom that is God’s gift to every human being. Against your best intentions, you may send out instead the message that we Christians think that we know better than everyone else and that we are willing to outflank, overpower, and overwhelm if we do not get our way.

[4] Support the new ex-co, and, if they stay and behave as predicted, you will be directly responsible for undoing the trust that many Christians have taken years to build with their non-Christian friends. This is a trust built on mutual respect. You will have made the Gospel of Christ more difficult to hear for years to come because people will think that they know what it is about. You will have created a new generation of Christ-haters.

This matter, in short, is not to be treated lightly. Jesus tells us all to be "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves". There are times to be passionate and helpful in a gungho way, but this is not the time. Christians can be wrong about many things too. So please, by all means, pray for the AWARE debacle to be resolved amicably and for Christians in AWARE, but do not, in the name of our common faith, go in blind support of other Christians because you are Christian!

Facebook Note 2

This is a follow-up to my earlier note. After posting it, I received -- and am still receiving -- words of thanks and encouragement from many Christians and people with different beliefs and opinions. The Christians specifically said that it was what they needed to hear or would have liked to get across themselves.

But I have also received less appreciative messages. Some of these charged me with having sown discord and embarrassed Christianity in front of non-believers. The irony did not escape me, but then I began to wonder whether I did make one too many assumptions. These comments were probably knee-jerk reactions, meaning that some Christians may actually not have thought it possible that other Christians, a whole lot of us, could be this appalled with the episode.

For this reason, as a brother-in-Christ, I feel that I need to believe that the new ex-co's sadness over its negative reception and its willingness to heal the social rifts it caused are genuine. There has already been too much distrust, and somewhere trust has to re-begin. My appeal for non-support is not about humiliating or condemning any group of individuals on either side. Those who have hoped that I came out in strong condemnation of one, emailing me links to sex education and "the gay agenda", or in clear support of the other, initially mistitling my view as "supporting the Old Guard", know that I won't.

This is not being wishy-washy; it is staying focussed. The simple disagreement is with a course of action pursued by a group of Christians that has caused suspicion between communities and fear within each. If everyone is to set aside his or her own fixation -- gay, anti-gay, faith in practice, fundamentalism, etc. -- and trace back to the source of our current unhappiness, he or she will see that it all started with a single fateful decision. One ought not then to doubt that these Christians intend good from their point of view, but one has every reason to doubt that things could be restored and relationships healed by going down the same road.

As the party involved is Christian, the most amicable solution may well also be the most obvious. In fact, how could we not have seen it? We Christians believe in a God who gives every person second chances in life. Every chance after the first two is still the second: that's how gracious we believe He is! When one makes a mistake or realises that one has followed a bad choice, there is no shame in admitting wrong, so long as one is sincere about changing. The choice to turn back is never a Christian defeat; it is our triumph!

Indeed, paradoxically in this situation, one can also only move on, move forward, by going backwards to the point where the wrong choice was made and choose rightly this time. This is a versatile truth I learnt from C. S. Lewis a long time ago. If the new ex-co will, without contest, give up its seats for a more inclusive shape of leadership in AWARE, it will have regained, I dare say, the faith of many Singaporeans and the admiration and support of every Christian in full measure. These individuals can then go on to pursue in earnest their concern over homosexual teaching in schools and related issues with the right authorities. I want to believe that everyone in that later business will be cooperative and respect the eventual findings, whatever the outcome is.

If the AWARE Christians in current leadership and those gearing up to vote tomorrow will choose this infinitely less harmful route, they will have made us all who are Christians proud of them. Do consider the option seriously: it is as practical and as Christian as it can get. Realise that fellow believers like me who are outraged want peace too and have been praying for it. But, when it comes to making peace a reality, only specific individuals are able to effect it. The ball is in their court alone. We can all avoid a confrontation. We can stun the nation with one simple move that affirms love, faith, and hope, all at once.

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The following is a message accompanying an online petition raising concerns about Aware's sex education programme. 

Dear parents,

We need your help – and your signatures!

Many of us are concerned about recent press reports about ‘comprehensive sexuality education’ (CSE) programmes conducted in schools by AWARE that endorse homosexuality and anal sex as ‘normal’ or ‘neutral’.

For example some statements from the current CSE programme (as reported in “Nothing ’sneaky’ about elections”, Sunday Times, 26 April 2009) include:

Anal sex ‘can be healthy or neutral if practised with consent and with a condom’.

‘Avoid using the term ‘husband’ and use ‘partner’ instead, so it is more inclusive. For example, ‘homosexuals have partners, not husbands’.’

If you are concerned that such programmes have been brought into our schools, and taught to our children, we would like to invite you to join us in signing the letter at

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/parents_sex_ed_appeal/

Please do so by 10 May 2009.

We hope to send this letter, with as many of your signatures as possible, to the good Minister for Education to express our concern about such programmes being actually conducted in our schools.

We are confident he will give it due consideration.

With your help, we hope that our children will get the best value-added education in our home we call Singapore.

We also hope that we will all be able to work with our schools in the wholesome education of our children, not least of all in the area of sexuality education.

Thank you for your support!

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