by Li Xueying and Ken Kwek (ST Insight, 15 Oct 2005)
Proselytising in public institutions such as schools and hospitals has been in the news. Is it acceptable for doctors to try and save not just the body but also the soul? Should teachers be allowed not just to teach but also preach? LI XUEYING and KEN KWEK search for some answers.
IN 2002, Mr Alvin Choo, 55, suffered a relapse of nose cancer and sought treatment at Singapore General Hospital.
Not only did his nose get attention, so did his soul.
During separate consultations, not one but three, oncologists urged him to consider Christianity.
Religious heads' response (excerpt):
In Singapore, where religion and race remain sensitive topics, there is uneasiness in some quarters about Christians who are perceived to be over-aggressive in promoting their faith. One area where it is felt more acutely is when proselytising takes place in public institutions such as government schools, hospitals or offices.
Up to half of teachers here are Christians, according to the website of the Teachers' Christian Fellowship, whose members 'yearn to see a closer link between our church-based spiritual life and our ministry in school'.
Given that evangelism is a key thrust of Christianity, how might Christian teachers and doctors discharge their evangelical duty without undermining their professionalism?
The Christian Medical and Dental Fellowship, an 'inter-denominational, evangelical fellowship of Christian doctors and dentists', tells Insight: 'Under no circumstances should doctors abuse the professional relationship with the patient and compel a patient to embrace a certain faith'.
But its chairman Dr Goh Wei-Leong believes that 'in a friendly atmosphere', the doctor can share his religious faith when the patient asks.
The Teachers' Christian Fellowship past chairman Irene Phoon says that when discussing religious issues, 'some teachers do refer to what they personally believe without imposing this belief or belittling the views of others'.
Excerpts from Bishop Robert Solomon's response:
'WE HAVE always maintained that evangelism is part of our Christian faith. If you're a good Christian, you have to tell others about Jesus Christ. 'But we have to do that with great sensitivity, especially in our multi-cultural, multi-religious society.
'I disagree with people who use their professional relationship which gives them an advantage to push their faith onto others, whether it's a doctor-patient or teacher-student relationship. That's unethical.
'But I think that if there's an over-reaction to such cases, we may lose out in other fronts.
'We will build walls and erode communication between people of different religious faiths. People will not be willing to talk about religion at all, and I don't think that makes for a healthy, open society.
'I am a medical doctor myself, and you cannot actually divorce faith and religion from health issues.
'When you're treating patients, their religious views are important and need to be taken into consideration.
'That dimension will be cut off from the process of healing if we get to the stage where talking about religion is complete anathema... But if the doctor brings up the issue, and the patient is uncomfortable, then I think a line has been crossed.'
-- METHODIST BISHOP DR ROBERT SOLOMON, who is also a medical doctor
No proselytisation allowed in schools (MOE, 25 Oct 05) - response to the above article