A CONFERENCE on the role of Christians in nation-building was held at Trinity Theological College on Sept 11 and 12, 2003 for some 90 participants.
Sponsored by the Centre for the Study of Christianity in Asia (CSCA) at the college, 13 papers were presented by well-known church leaders, academics and service professionals covering quite a thorough analysis of how Christians have been engaged in the building of civic society and the nation since independence.
Though numerically small, Christians in Singapore have, over the years, been actively involved in providing the kind of services which have contributed to human resource development that spanned education, medical and health development, youth work, and latterly especially, the care of the elderly.
A paper by Dr Roland Chia that opened the conference was “Rendering to Caesar” – a theological reflection on the relation between Church and State that provided some important principles.
These underpin the two-fold responsibility that Christians have as disciples of Christ as well as citizens enjoined to submit to the rule of the secular state that “fulfils its divine ordained role [by] rewarding the righteous and punishing evildoers”. But, he said, “the submission of the Church to the State must not contradict the Church’s prior, supreme and absolute submission to Jesus Christ”.
That said, the other papers dealt with the process that led to the decolonisation of Singapore (Dr Ernest Chew) and the establishment of independent Singapore and the role played by Christians, particularly in the post-World War II years, in educating and promoting English-educated Christian leadership (Mr Lawrence Ko).
Others dealt with the Church in a multi-racial community (Bishop Dr Robert Solomon), the Church and community relations (Bishop John Chew), the Church and medical care (Prof Lee Hin Peng), caring for the elderly (Dr Fong Ngan Phoon), community service (Asso Prof Tan Ngoh Tiong), education and the church (Dr Chen Ai Yen), Christian women in nation-building (Dr Eileen Poh), the church and young adults (Dr Loo Yeow Hwa), and the role of the Boys’ Brigade (Mr Christopher Lock).
There were also papers of a more technical nature focusing on political economy and nation-building (Dr Lee Soo Ann) and technology (Dr Yap Kian Tiong).
It is anticipated that the papers will be published, perhaps to contribute to its civic development.