A pioneer member of City Harvest Church (CHC), Teo Hsin Yi, attended the CHC’s trial at the Court of Appeal last Wednesday (21 Sep) and blogged about how one of the lawyers defending the accused, had a ‘God moment’.
In October 2015, six CHC leaders were convicted of misappropriating millions of dollars in church funds to feed the music career of Sun Ho. Sun is the wife of one of the accused and the senior pastor of CHC, Kong Hee. Sun’s music career was funded through the church’s missions endeavour called Project Crossover.
The court found that the six were responsible for investing $24 million from CHC’s building fund in bogus bonds from music production company Xtron and another firm, Firna; but that this money was actually used to fund the Crossover Project. The court heard that the accused used another $26 million to cover up the initial investment.
The six are appealing their sentences, while the prosecution is appealing for longer sentences. The six are Kong Hee, CHC’s deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han, former CHC finance manager Serina Wee, former CHC finance committee member John Lam, and former CHC finance manager Sharon Tan.
Teo said that as she sat in Court listening to arguments over “genuine or sham” investments, she desperately felt like shouting out loud “No, you don’t understand”, every time the DPP said the words, “having caused wrongful loss to the church”. ]
That was until the lawyer for Tan Ye Peng, senior counsel N Sreenivasan, spoke up for his client.
Teo said: “The “God moment” came in his opening statement.”
She explained how Mr Sreenivasan appealed to the judges to take a step back to understand that the way the church thinks and makes decisions may seem rather illogical to those outside the church – but that it did not mean that they are wrong.
“He cited an example of how, when he saw his mother performing Hindu rites, his educated mind did not agree, yet the fact remained that she was not wrong in what she believed and did,” Teo recounted.
Mr Sreenivasan also told the Court how he had at the start of the trial, visited CHC to understand what goes on in the minds of the accused when they made certain decisions concerning the Project. He urged the Court to not to use a secular yardstick to measure religious intent and actions.
The lawyer admitted that CHC’s way was not easy to accept, but that this was the world the accused lived in since they were 16.
Teo said: “My heart was moved. Here was a man who did not share the same faith as us, yet he spoke with such genuine understanding.”
“The court may demand black and white evidence to prove dishonesty or the absence of it, but in my limited layman’s mind, sometimes all it takes is perhaps what Atticus told Scout in Harper Lee’s novel To Kill A Mockingbird,” she added.
“First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”” (quote from novel)
As the Court session ended, Teo wished that those from the outside would make an attempt to walk in the CHC members’ skin and, “perhaps, see that in the light of eternity, the Crossover was never a loss but a gain.”