Honour in Singapore Q&A – Religious issues

As TOC’s “Honour in Singapore” series drew to a close, we sent a number of queries to Honour (Singapore)’s chairman Lim Siong Guan and executive director Jason Wong to clarify on some of the issues we raised. They declined a recorded interview, opting for an email response instead.

The following are their answers, which we have presented in two parts due to their length, according to the question type. All answers are attributable to Mr Lim Siong Guan unless otherwise stated. They have requested us to present their answers without comment, so that you may make your conclusions about them on your own.

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Question specifically for Mr Wong: As the executive director, how would you ensure that the ideals of Focus on the Family do not interfere with what Honour (Singapore) is doing? This is with the view that Focus on the Family, or yourself personally, is already active in MOE’s initiatives.

Response from Mr Wong: Most of my life and career has been spent working with prisoners and drug addicts (17 years in the Prisons Service), and with the at-risk children and youth of our nation (6 years in the Ministry of Social & Family Development). Having personally witnessed the downstream effects of broken families, I volunteered my time to help parents and families, such as speaking to parents in schools and sharing what I had seen firsthand.

I have worked in many organizations and sat on multiple boards and committees. When I serve a particular organization, I perform my function according to the organization’s mission, vision and objectives.

When I wear the hat of Chairman of Focus, my goal is to “Help Families Thrive”. When I am invited by schools to speak to parents, I do so in alignment with their guidelines and values. As the Executive Director of Honour (Singapore), I seek the well-being of our nation by promoting a culture of honour and honouring in Singapore. I do not confuse my roles. Together, they represent the various passions of my personal journey. It is an honour to serve my nation.

One of your board members, Mr Khoo, have publicly made references to “prevailing over the gates” – a term also used in FGB Singapore’s literature – to describe Mr Magnus’s Public Transport Council appointment, to which Mr Magnus did not publicly object. Does this not indicate their intention to influence public policy using FGB values? How will Honour (Singapore) prevent such influence from happening at an organisational level?

All work in Honour (Singapore) must conform with its secular approach, and fit the multi-racial and multi-religious context of Singapore.

Singaporeans are so fortunate to have freedom of religion, where religious affiliation is treated as a personal and private matter. Singaporeans should work with each other for the well-being of the nation, irrespective of race or religion. It will be a sad day for us all if people are prevented from doing good because of their religious affiliations and beliefs. We should never discredit someone or cast aspersions on them because they are of a particular faith, whether they are a Buddhist, a Christian, a Muslim, or an atheist. If a person’s religious beliefs inspire him to do good and to care for other people and the country, it is a good thing. It is negative only if they desire to do
something that is detrimental to society.

Question specifically for Mr Lim: You have categorically denied that Honour (Singapore) has no connection with FGB Singapore. Given that all your board members are also senior members of FGB Singapore, what due processes do you have in place to keep the influence separate?

Response from Mr. Lim: All the board members of Honour (Singapore) have worked, or are working, in secular organisations. They are involved in multiple roles where every role has its specific responsibilities and limitations. They know the boundaries between secular activities and religious activities. We are sensitized and are sensitive to the multiracial and multi-religious nature of Singapore, and the absolute need to maintain social and religious harmony. We know that we have to reach out to all sections of Singapore society, and we cannot do this if we carry out our object with a religious thrust.

Given the current situation of religious influence in secular Singapore – for instance, the NLB “Penguingate” incident – why did the Honour (Singapore) board not see the need to be upfront about their FGB affiliations, and instead only chose to respond when the relationships were highlighted by online media?

If we had wanted to hide, we would not have listed all our board members on our website. All of them have established track records and are well-known in their respective fields. There is no way to hide what other endeavours or causes they are committed to. We should hope that their religious beliefs, which in Singapore is regarded as a personal and private matter for each Singaporean to decide for himself or herself, would not be a disqualifier for them to participate in secular activity or to do good for the society and country. Mercy Relief, for example, started as a Muslim initiative that has done Singapore proud. When the board members of Honour (Singapore) take on multiple roles, they need to be clear what each role is, and maintain focus and clarity on the role in their words and actions.

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Top image – Honour (Singapore) website.

The “Honour in Singapore” series includes:

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