The Independent Singapore and GLBT Voices of Singapore jointly organised a forum yesterday (16 Jul) in the Face2Face@TheAgora series titled, ‘Gays and Conservatives – Commonalities, Non-Negotiables and Possible Compromises’.
We decided to organise the Dialogue for our readers because we were concerned about recent actions by some in the society against a minority in our community. And also how polarising some of the comments had been. The shooting in Orlando and the threat by a Singaporean to open fire on the gay community here also told us that different groups ought to be talking to each other and not at each other.
We organised the Dialogue with those objectives in mind. We had difficulty getting qualified people who will add diversity to the panel of speakers. Several from different camps were either discouraged by others, or simply did not want such a dialogue to be held.
Some also took issue with the wording in the write-up, inviting participants to the Dialogue. They felt that there were too many labels and stereotypes in it. We agree. But it was impossible to have such a Dialogue without taking such generalisations by the horn, and trying to deconstruct them later.
We thank the panelists who felt that this was an important Dialogue to have and participated in it. The panelists were:
Viswa Sadasivan – Viswa is a former Nominated Member of Parliament. He is the founder and CEO of Strategic Moves, a television production, communications training and strategic consultancy organisation based in Singapore. He is a much sought-after host / moderator for dialogues centered on topics of public interests. The highly profiled Inconvenient Questions (IQ) was his brainchild.
Pauline Ong – Pauline is one of the executive pastors at Free Community Church. She grew up in the Methodist Church and served as a missionary with an evangelical Christian organization for 4 years. In her long journey towards reconciliation, she has grown to understand the wide spectrum of views Christians hold towards faith and sexuality. She holds a Master of Arts (Intercultural Studies) from Singapore Bible College and a Master in Counselling from Monash University.
Crispus Ratnam – Crispus is an ordained Minister and has been serving as a church planter and a missionary since the late 1970s. He is the founder of Worldwide Victories, a Christian ministry. Being a born again Christian, he holds firmly to the fundamentals of evangelical Christianity. Crispus is a respected and well-received preacher of the Christian faith.
Nicholas Lim – Nicholas is the founder and administrator of GLBT Voices. What started out as a “confessions page” in 2013, GLBT Voices Singapore has grown into the largest gay community on Facebook in Singapore and Malaysia. In just over 3 years, it has published over 30,000 personal stories from its readers. Nicholas was featured as a speaker Pink Dot 2016, where he talked about the importance of family ties for the LGBT community. He was also the organizer for Singapore’s candlelight vigil for the recent Orlando shooting tragedy. It’s turnout of over 700 people attracted both local and global media coverage.
The panelists were asked several questions including on his/her worldviews and belief-systems, and several others like:
- What is your view of the LGBT community? Please explain why you hold such views.
- What is your view on free speech and hate speech? Please give examples of free speech and hate speech. Please also explain what do you think will be the consequences of free / hate speech.
- What are your view on Section 377A, the law which criminalises sex between consenting men. Please explain why you hold that view.
- What is you view on marriage? Why do you hold this view?
This is how one participant described the Dialogue:
“Much was discussed over a range of contentious positions such as religious (Christian) positions on homosexuality, 377A, gay marriage, and government responses. Despite several “wtf” moments and views that made me cringe, I thought this was an excellent platform to present each other’s views in a civil and mature ways. It allows both parties to start listening to each other, instead of mere hearing. Some things were refreshing to hear and I could sense a genuine desire to come to terms with new information and perspectives that may not gel well with a deeply-held view. But this is where the conversation starts: when we humanise each other and to seek to understand without feeling coerced to compromise, while remaining respectful yet firm (but not arrogant) in our own views.”
The following video is just a teaser on how honest the Dialogue was. Reverend Crispus Ratnam who is an evangelical Christian pastor said that in his view, “Homosexuality is an epidemic that is affecting the human race.”
We are in the midst of cutting the video into several segments and will release them on our website in the coming week.
The Independent Singapore