Faith In Tolerance

Source: The Straits Times, Apr 9, 2011

After 22 years, my devout Christian mum reconciled her faith with traditional Chinese beliefs

By terence tan, view point
An inter-religious dialogue of sorts took place within my family recently.

For the first time in more than 20 years, my devout Christian mother stepped into a Chinese temple.
Not only that, she also took part in Taoist religious rites and made offerings to the deities at the temple in Macau. These were the same deities that she had previously dismissed as ‘pagan idols’.

All this was to appease the angry spirits who, according to a fengshui master, my father had unintentionally offended when he toured there way back in November 2004.

This religious journey by my mother, made just a week before my father’s death earlier this year, brings home to me how my mother has become more tolerant towards other faiths.

It is a state of affairs touched on only last month in a report in The Straits Times, in which Foreign Minister George Yeo said that Singapore may be a role model of racial and religious harmony, but the Government worries about potential conflicts daily. Maintaining harmony is ‘a daily struggle’ for Singapore, he said at the dialogue attended by close to 50 religious leaders from eight countries in Asia.

The inter-religious dialogue of sorts that took place within my family came about because shortly before my dad died of pancreatic cancer in February, he was exploring other ‘options’ in addition to the chemotherapy that was causing him so much pain and discomfort.

An aunt of mine had recommended her fengshui master friend to us and the fengshui master said my dad’s condition would improve if he made a trip to the temple and perform the necessary rituals. As my dad was too weak to travel, my mum went instead.

In a way, my mum had come full circle. Years ago, our family was Taoist-cum-Buddhist before I led them all to the Christian faith. My conversion to Christianity started when I enrolled in Anglican High, a Protestant mission school.

During compulsory Bible classes in school, I learnt how Noah built his Ark and how Moses crossed the Red Sea. I was also taught that it was a sin to bow before other gods and to worship my ancestors.
As an impressionable teenager, I lapped it all up and back home, conflicts quickly flared up between me and my parents.

They simply couldn’t figure out how I got myself involved with this strange ‘ang moh’ religion that seemed to be at odds with everything that Chinese culture and tradition stood for.

I have not been alone in turning my back on traditional Chinese religions such as Taoism. Once the island’s most common faith, today 10.9 per cent of residents count themselves Taoists, according to Census 2010 figures released in January.

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Faith in tolerance