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The Queen and I: Reflections of a Christian from a Commonwealth state


Singapore was a British colony from 1819 to 1963.(Photo: Getty/iStock)

Since the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, a lot has been mentioned about her religion and the way it has influenced her life. Watching the Queen’s funeral this week has been fascinating. While resonating with the Christian religion which is deeply private to me, the grandeur of Westminster Abbey didn’t instantly resonate with me as the home of God.

The procession following the funeral service jolted my consciousness to the British Empire, an empire that has reigned in lots of elements all over the world for a few years, together with Singapore. In an age that favors equality and democracy, the legacy of this empire, specifically decoloniality, has been the topic of a lot scholarship.

The passing of the Queen is sophisticated. How does somebody from an ex-colony, who shares the identical religion, course of this? I supply a few of my ideas under.

Warm relations with the British

Different colonies have totally different relationships with the British. In Singapore, the British are usually effectively regarded. Singapore was a colony from 1819 to 1963 offering the British a harbor for commerce alongside the straits of Malacca. As a bustling harbor, a big inflow of individuals got here across the area in search of work. My forefathers from China and the close by area have been amongst these.

Today Singapore is a melting pot of individuals from everywhere in the area. With the rise in fortune since starting life in Singapore, the overarching narrative of the British in Singapore has been constructive. In truth, this colonial previous was very a lot celebrated within the nation’s nation constructing train. In 2019, Singapore celebrated the bicentennial 12 months of the founding of recent Singapore which was described because the arrival of British statesman, Stamford Raffles, lieutenant governor of Bencoolen in 1819.

This atypical constructive sentiment in the direction of our colonial previous has not gone unrecognized. CNN not too long ago printed an article questioning why the overall sentiment of Singapore was sadder than in different former colonies the place the response was extra advanced.

Christianity as a legacy of the British

As a British colony, Christianity in Singapore enjoyed the status of an unofficial state faith in Singapore. Terence Chong, writing in Singapore, Negotiating between State and Society, notes that Christianity at the moment was “primarily geared in the direction of serving the expatriate colonial group,” leaving the native populace to their very own traditions and customs initially. At the flip of the 20th century, there have been roughly 2,204 protestants, principally British expatriates residing within the municipal space.

Without the preliminary coercion of the Christian religion, Christianity was not related to the pressured conversion of the populace in Singapore. Mission organizations have been targeted on supporting poor Asian immigrants, providing Anglophone schooling to the native kids. This resulted in a constructive understanding of missionaries resulting in the gradual progress of Christianity.

According to Chong, by 1980, 10 per cent of the inhabitants recognized themselves as Christian and in 2000, 14.6%. By the final household survey in Singapore in 2015, 18.8% of the inhabitants self-identified themselves as Christians. This progress, whereas expedited by Singapore being a British colony, grew organically. Traditionally, there isn’t a resentment in the direction of the Christian religion.

Where can we go from right here?

As Singaporeans, we didn’t develop up “hating” the British. If something, the British have been admired. Personally, there’s additionally some intertwining of my Christian religion with the mission faculties that I attended rising up. Today there are roughly 40,000 Singaporeans residing within the UK. This is a considerable quantity contemplating that the general native inhabitants of Singapore is lower than 4 million. Besides Singapore, there’s additionally numerous individuals within the UK from Commonwealth states.

That we have been as soon as colonial topics can’t be modified. While we can’t change the previous, we are able to chart the long run deliberately. From a post-colonial perspective, I wish to recommend the must be cognizant of the colonial influences and to discern one’s applicable actions.

1) Recognize limitations of colonial affect

The values of an empire have a profound affect on the context the place they’re current in. A giant legacy of the British in Singapore is the adoption of modernization, which sees its roots within the Enlightenment. In Decolonizing Enlightenment, Nikita Dhawan argues that the concept of enlightenment and progress units up a “singular, common purpose for humankind, specifically indefinite enchancment and improvement.” With such an understanding, colonialism exists to beat “backwardness,” whereby steerage and assist of the Europeans would carry a few constructive social, financial and political final result.

Crisis of Empire, by Thomas, Moore and Butler, argues that progress in several colonies advanced within the following means: introduction of Western languages, academic buildings, industrial infrastructure and financial group that led to the emergence of a self-consciously fashionable, Westernized, indigenous elite.

Modernization as a worldview has its limits and its damaging sides. At its excessive type, persons are dehumanized for the sake of the financial system. This is at odds with our Christian religion. As Christians, we affirm that we’re all created within the nature of God. Responding to the God of the universe, we got down to embrace the redeeming work of the gospel, reflecting God’s goodness wherever we’re. As individuals of religion, God’s goodness is greater than financial progress. It includes different social and non secular points which are as essential for the person and the general society.

2) Together a physique of Christ

The physique of Christ is a collective of people. This implies caring for a person’s journey, historical past and context. “If one half suffers, each half suffers with it; if one half is honoured, each half rejoices with it” (1 Cor 12:26).

The first step to caring is to actively take up duty for the opposite, earnestly in search of to know the situation of the opposite. This is especially essential within the dialogue of colonialism the place the oppression of individuals teams is one thing that’s actual and recurring.

Even as we speak, there continues to be present energy buildings throughout the Christian group and on the planet that permits suppression. As Christians, we’re reminded of the omnipotent Christ, who made himself weak and susceptible for the sake of saving humankind. Following in his footsteps, we are able to use our personal particular person energy for the service of the opposite, to combat to alleviate the struggling of the opposite.

This different that we’re accountable for is an actual particular person or individuals group, not an ideology or the previous. It extends past one’s blood household or countrymen, to the broader physique of Christ.

Conclusion

In her Christmas message in 2004, the Queen mentioned, “For me, as a Christian, some of the essential of those teachings is contained within the parable of the Good Samaritan, when Jesus solutions the query, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ It is a timeless story of a sufferer of a mugging who was ignored by his personal countrymen however helped by a foreigner – and a despised foreigner at that. The implication drawn by Jesus is obvious. Everyone is our neighbour, it doesn’t matter what race, creed or color. The must take care of a fellow human being is much extra essential than any cultural or non secular variations.”

The Queen’s private religion has been a lot mentioned. I thank God for the instance of a devoted chief in her.

With the passing of the Queen, a chapter has turned for the British individuals. Symbolically, that is additionally a brand new slate for Commonwealth international locations everywhere in the world. The monarch that bodily witnessed their independence has handed. It is my honest hope that as all of us flip the chapter collectively, we are going to let the gospel story and the duty for one another because the physique of Christ be our principal information.

Peirong Lin is Deputy Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance.



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