Should the church have a media office?
Don't you think that Archbishop's comments on the tsunami published today in the Straits Times looked totally inadequate beside the comments of the pastor from City Harvest Church? This is not the first time that I am getting this impression. I seriously think that the Archibishop's office and the Church needs to have a media relations person.
A little light to heal a darkened world
As the world sympathises with victims of the tsunami, Life! asks religious leaders here how faith can heal sorrow
By Jill Alphonso and Sujin Thomas
Straits Times: Jan 5, 2005
MOHAMED KHAIR RAHMAT, 35, Imam of Al-Falah Mosque at Bideford Road
'What happened is awful, especially considering that so many of those who died were women and children. The congregation at the Al-Falah mosque was naturally shocked by the disaster.
However, Muslims believe that this world is a place to be tested, and that all trials come from God. As a result, we do not blame God.
We believe that we have been created for a purpose - to do good in this world. With each trial, we should reflect on whether we have done good deeds in our lives and whether we have essentially been good people.
We also believe that those who have died were fated to. The Prophet also says that those who die traumatically - through accidents, burns or drowning - will have a place with Allah because their suffering is great.
It is our responsibility to help the surviving victims through prayer. In our sermons, we try to deepen the congregation's empathy and compassion for the victims.
We encourage them to do what they can, be it through prayer or through giving to charity.
The principles in Islam lead us to believe that there is something to be learnt from every situation, no matter how awful it may be. We believe that there is always a blessing to be found.
For example, we can see that the world's commitment is now to help the victims, with so many nations rallying to give aid. We can take some comfort there.
At the end of the day, we try not to dwell on the tragedy itself, but to see what we can do.'
REVEREND KONG HEE, 40, senior pastor and founder ofthe City Harvest Church in Jurong
'The Christian community is very much saddened by the earthquake and tsunami disaster. For the Christians, we accept that we live in an imperfect world. Bad things do happen to good people.
In light of the disaster, this is a time for great spiritual introspection. Our faith teaches us to always put our trust in God, and even when we can't see his hands, we can always trust his heart.
The Christian faith makes it clear that in this world, there will be trials and tribulation. God did not promise life without struggle. The Bible teaches that suffering, disasters and all order of human difficulties are unavoidable.
We believe that every hardship can be overcome. God promises us provision in need, strength for the day, healing and comfort in our darkest hour.
If we go through the disaster with our faith intact, we will become better people at the end of the day.'
REVEREND MONSIGNOR NICHOLAS CHIA, 66, Archbishop of Singapore
'We are saddened by the calamity and are relying on our faith to get us through. We are encouraging people to be compassionate, and to donate and pray for the victims.
Mass prayer sessions, for example, will be held at most Roman Catholic churches next Friday.
We try not to dwell on the tragedy itself, but concentrate on aid and prayer. As Jesus is merciful, we believe that we ourselves should follow in that vein.'
THE VENERABLE SHI MING YI, 42, abbot of the Foo Hai Ch'an Monastery at Geylang East and chief executive of Ren Ci Hospital
'The tsunami disaster is something totally unexpected. Such a disaster serves to wake people up to realise that life is impermanent and unexpected.
In the Buddhist faith, we believe in karma. Karma is basically explained in the sense where when you do good, you receive good fruits for your deeds. Likewise, when you do bad deeds, you receive punishment. Bad karma can also be due to what people have done in their past lives.
However, in this instance, I am not indicating that the people who died had bad karma. Rather, we should look at it as the collective karma of the world. To have a better future, we should all do good together.
It really takes time to get over losing somebody close to you or even seeing such a tragedy of a major scale. From a religious point of view, we can say prayers for the victims as they move on to another life.
The main concern for the living is to treasure your relatives, friends and loved ones. Do not wait for the moment to come before doing good deeds such as charity work or expressing your love to your loved ones.
The tragedy has already happened. What we can do is to transfer some merits to the departed ones by doing things that benefit the people affected as a whole.'
RABBI MORDECHAI ABERGEL, 36, spiritual leader of the Singapore Jewish community
'Our first reaction should be: 'Where can I help or contribute?' When people witness a tragedy of such proportions, their faith is affected.
We should not let the sadness affect us to the point that we lose our focus on the main issue at hand and that is to extend our assistance. Even a letter written by a small child can go a long way to bring comfort to the bereaved.
In these moments of sadness when we are most vulnerable, we must strengthen our resolve to reach out and help, one act of kindness at a time.
In our Bible there is a saying: 'A little light dispels a lot of darkness.' We can change the world one small deed at a time. Now, more than ever, we must realise we are worth what we are ultimately willing to share and give.'
MRS RANJANA NANIKRAM, 54, secretary of the Sandhu Vaswani Centre
'Hindus believe there is this life and after that there is rebirth. There is what we call 'prakriti', which is like 'nature'. Nature takes its own course and has its own place in the universe, which is always balancing itself.
Hindus believe that they are made up of more than one body in the sense of it being composed of physical, subtle and universal bodies.
If we did not have spirituality within us, there would be no life. If you see a dead body, it is just a physical body. What is missing? It is the spirituality.
It is very difficult for people stricken by the disaster. You must remember not to lose your faith. Let it be your anchor. These people who are helping the affected people in Asia are instruments of God because they are inspired by goodness. Goodness can come only from God.
I think it will take a long time for people to get over the disaster. It is not only a physical wound, but also an emotional one that has to heal.
On top of that, the fear will always be there because the waves came when they never expected them and could come again in future.'
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Should the church have a media office?