Watain ban: Churches say they respect freedom of choice but will protect social cohesion, sacred beliefs

Watain ban: Churches say they respect freedom of choice but will protect social cohesion, sacred beliefs

URA Awards Cathedral of the Good Shepherd
Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, a 170-year-old Catholic church, was amongst two winners at the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s annual Architectural Heritage Awards. (Photo: Cathedral of the Good Shepherd)

SINGAPORE: The Catholic Church and Cornerstone Community Church have said that while they respect freedom of choice in entertainment, they will raise concerns to the authorities and the public to protect "social cohesion" and what is "sacred to (their) beliefs".

The comments came after the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) expressed its appreciation to the authorities for their decision to ban Swedish black metal band Watain from performing a concert that had been scheduled for last Thursday. 

NCCS is an association of Protestant churches in Singapore, including Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Methodist churches.

"Watain is free to perform the music as they please wherever they're welcome," said senior pastor of Cornerstone Community Church Yang Tuck Yoong on Tuesday (Mar 12), in response to queries from Channel NewsAsia. 

"However, we feel it's inappropriate that their ideologies be given a platform in multi-religious Singapore, given our shared values of mutual honour and respect," he added. 

READ: National Council of Churches welcomes MHA’s decision to cancel Watain concert in Singapore

READ: MHA consulted before Watain concert given the go-ahead - IMDA

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said that while the church does not dictate what people consume in the media, it has a duty to protect its interests.

"The Catholic Church respects freedom of choice (in entertainment) and does not have a policy of dictating what people watch and listen to," Mr Andre Ahchak, communications director of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, told Channel NewsAsia. 

"However, should any of these events trample, belittle or desecrate what the Church and its faithful consider to be sacred to its beliefs, she has a duty to protect her interests by raising her concerns with the relevant authorities," he added.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore oversees a congregation of about 360,000 people across 32 parishes islandwide.

In a letter to Catholics in Singapore, Archbishop William Goh said that governments need to protect society's common good, in particular against those who promote "a culture of death, suicide, individualism, intolerance and promiscuity".

"We thank God for the gift of enlightened leaders who have the courage and moral integrity to ensure that arts promoted in Singapore do not degrade into something banal, destructive and divisive, inculcating values contrary to goodness, truth and justice," he said on Saturday.

Cornerstone Community Church's Mr Yang warned against extreme ideas that may threaten social cohesion.

"(Black metal bands) may have evolved over the decades, but many of their ideologies and expressions remain unapologetically anti-Christian, misanthropic, rebellious, violent and even outright occultic," he said.

"While not all may be as extreme, we believe our social cohesion needs to be protected against those that are (extreme), while informing the public on why their ideas are detrimental to public interest."

READ: ‘I can’t see how we could have agreed to it’ - Shanmugam on Watain performing in Singapore 

READ: Allowing metal band Watain to perform would affect religious and social harmony - Shanmugam

The Catholic Archbishop regularly consults the government and key religious organisations, and vice versa, to maintain peace and harmony in Singapore, Mr Ahchak said.

He also said that the church has a duty to educate its followers in matters of the faith, including "what is harmful for their spiritual well-being".

When asked if Cornerstone Community Church is concerned that the incident has exposed the public to Watain and its ideas, Mr Yang said the black metal genre appeals to a group with "niche tastes".

READ: 'Like a stab in the back' - Anger, disappointment after Swedish metal band Watain's concert cancelled

"While this incident might have created an increased awareness of the band, we believe with the right information and understanding, the public would be able to discern for themselves what is acceptable for the overall good of our society."

On Friday, NCCS warned against Watain’s open endorsement of satanic violence that could harm "impressionable and restless youths".

Channel NewsAsia has reached out to NCCS for comments.

Source: CNA/jt(hs)