The head of the Catholic Church in Singapore reminded the faithful not to take for granted the “blessings” that they enjoy in the Southeast Asian city-state.
“When I reflect on our situation in our country and in our Church, I come to realize how blessed we are, but how often we take our blessings, peace, unity and prosperity for granted,” said Cardinal William Goh.
The archbishop of Singapore made the comment in a social media post while attending the general conference of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) in Thailand this week.
The cardinal said that during the conference, he heard reports from Churches across Asia that are mostly minority religion in their countries.
“Most of them face persecution in various degrees, from suppression to discrimination,” he said, adding that most of the challenges are concerned with “religious conflicts, racial disunity, social injustice, poverty, unemployment, political instability, mismanagement by government, widespread corruption, extreme disparity between the rich and the poor, violence made more difficult by natural disasters.”
“Indeed, we do not have to suffer the effects of natural disasters like earthquake, typhoon, volcanic eruption, hurricane and severe flooding,” said the cardinal.
“We have religious and racial harmony among all religions and races. We have a clean government and civil service that serve with integrity and impartiality. There is little discrimination of anyone because of race, religion or gender,” Cardinal Goh said in his Facebook post.
“We are not a secular state but a multi-religious and multi-racial state. We have a government that sees religions as partners for holistic development of the people. There is close consultation among religions and with the government,” he added.
He said the people of Singapore “are so blessed to have good political, civil and religious leaders who put the common good of the people above sectarian interests.”
“Let us not take all these blessings for granted,” said the Church leader. “We must continue to safeguard these values.”
He warned that if the people fail to take care of the values and the blessings they enjoy, “we can fall into anarchy and division, destroying the peace and unity of our peoples.”
“Once destroyed, it will take many generations to rebuild trust,” he said.
“We must elect or appoint leaders that promote unity and put the common good of the people above selfish and narrow-minded interests,” said the cardinal.
Cardinal Goh earlier urged his fellow Asian bishops to act as “courageous” shepherds and to “stand firm” against what he called as the “erosion” of truth and justice.
“Defending the Gospel requires us to stand up against the erosion of truth, of justice, the fight against discrimination, violence, and to alleviate the poverty of our people,” the cardinal said in his homily on Sunday Mass before the assembly of Asian bishops in Thailand.
He said the present challenges in society call the Church more urgently to act as “courageous” shepherds.
Among the so-called challenges cited by Cardinal Goh is the attack on traditional culture and values of society, of marriage, family, and even gender.
“We are living in a confused state,” he said.
Calling the Asian bishops to be witnesses, the cardinal stressed the importance of prayer, and for the clergy and the laity to journey together.
While there is a time to be silent, there is also time to speak and act, he said.
“Not every time we need to speak. But when the time comes that we have to speak, we must speak. Not to speak will be an act of irresponsibility,” said Cardinal Goh.
“As leaders we need to be firm when it is necessary,” he added.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, FABC president, urged the gathering of Church leaders on Thursday “to let peace-making be the new evangelization” in the region.
The cardinal spoke on “mission of dialogue, peace, and reconciliation” as a “new way for the Asian Church.” He said Asia is a region of “great opportunity, optimism and survival.”
Cardinal Bo stressed the need for the Church to be “reactive, to be an agent of peace, initiating dialogue, advocating for equality, and standing up to power with ‘empty hands’ amid conflicts.
More than 150 bishops have gathered in Bangkok since October 12 for the FABC general conference.
The meeting, which will culminate on October 30, also marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the federation.