Tuesday, January 22, 2013


During an interview with the influential Time magazine in July 2003, the then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong announced that his government does not discriminate and now openly hire gays and lesbians even in sensitive jobs although homosexual acts remains illegal under Section 377A of the Penal Code (Singapore). However, the government promised that they will not prosecute anyone under this provision. When I read all these enlightened views, I wrote a letter supporting the stance of the government to the Straits Times which was published.

It was an opportune time for gay Christians who had been meeting in fear and secrecy to sum up courage to come out and organized the Free Community Church in the same year. They invited me to help them after they read my letter. I willingly and gladly stepped forward to volunteer as its Pastoral Advisor. Its website (freecomchurch.org) declares the Church welcomes all people regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or economic status. The Church is an inclusive community that celebrates diversity in living out God’s love and promise of abundant life for all.

Since the FCC is the only officially gay-affirming church in Singapore, I have been asked frequently the question why I am involved with such a community. I just happen to be the first and only "straight" pastor who has publicly declared my support of lesbians,gays, bi-sexual and transgendered people. Yes, they are people with the same desires and passion, hope and aspirations like you and me. I have got to know them personally and they are really normal human beings too. There are a few of my fellow pastors who share my perspective and will follow me in course of time.

I do not recall any real discussion about homosexuality until I began my Christian ministry in the mid-fifties. The subject was not in the curriculum of my seminary training even in Boston University known for its liberalism in the United States. The official teaching of my Methodist Church here did not declare that homosexuality is a sin until the twenties.

A number of pastors and laypersons have referred their LGBT members to me for advice and counselling. People with homosexual orientation have been around us everywhere from time immemorial. How they must have suffered silently in their lonely isolated closets. Abuses have been hurled against them. In pain and anguish they have shed torrents of tears when confronted with rejection. Too many have taken their own lives to end their quiet misery. I am guilty also for that conspiracy of silence and have ignored their cries for help far too long. I ask my God for mercy upon us.

At the age of 84 next month I have not grown senile or developed amnesia. My friends tell me that I am not stupid. I believe I am still sane and maybe a little wiser. I seek no reward or awards but wish to have your friendship even though you disagree with me. Trust me as I share with you as honestly as I can.

It was only when there was public discussion of homosexuality that I began to explore the issue more extensively. My initial casual reading of the Biblical text revealed a few passages about same-sex relationships which were recorded in that historical period as abomination. The same Bible was quoted to justify the teaching of the Church on political domination, religious bigotry, racial discrimination, gender inequality, sexual stigmatization, economic disparity, capital punishment and specific issues of slavery, anti-abortion, violence and warfare. Our interpretation of the sacred texts is always personally directed, time bound, historically determined and cultural conditioned. We must learn the lessons of yesterday to face the challenges of today.

It is only when I studied more carefully the life of Jesus and his ministry that I discovered that he had associated himself more with the poor peasants, despised women, sick and wounded. He exercised a preferential option for the victims in his society. He exposed and opposed the religious and political authorities that exploited the people in order to maintain their power and control. He was engaged in a liberation movement. In the midst of the struggle he gave the great commandment to his followers to love even those that hated him and crucified him.

The passion for social justice grew in me and my commitment to be in solidarity with the oppressed led me to the LGBT community as well. In my involvement I found meaning for my existence and sense of my Christian ministry.
There is no turning away for me. I searched my heart and I am at peace with God.

In the current controversy sparked by Pastor Lawrence Khong's recent encounter with Goh Chok Tong about homosexuality and the repeal of 377A, I feel there is so much hatred instead of love, condemnation instead of compassion, contradictions instead of understanding, conflicts instead of harmony. Are we aware that gays and lesbians are people of sacred worth and created by God like you and me? They want to express their love for one another in marriage like you and me. It is ironical that while so many marriages are broken they want to clamour to get married officially and recover its value of stability in family life. They are not demanding for more rights but equal rights with the others. It is a mystery that we cannot give birth to more homosexuals and they cannot even reproduce by themselves. Yet there will always be a significant creative minority in spite of the accusation of promoting homosexuality. Despite the claims of reparative therapy there
are few, if any, genuine or permanent change of sexual orientation. Celibacy is a choice and cannot be forced upon by others. Homosexuality is not a choice and none that I know have chosen it. Our Creator who knitted us in our mothers' wombs has created them also and they were born that way. Their religious faith have reconciled them to their sexuality and they are as religious as you and me.

It is time for us to deal with the issue of homosexuality rationally and fairly. It is necessary for us to act justly and wisely. Now is the moment for us to commit ourselves to work together to strengthen family life and to seek the welfare of our community. Together in spite of our diversity we can live in unity and shape a better future for all of us.


Sunday, November 18, 2012


When I heard that Sekolah Tinggi Teologi Jakarta (Jakarta Theological Seminary - STT Jakarta) was having its annual Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual Trans-sexual Inter-sex Queer (LGBTIQ) Week in November 2012, I immediately contacted Rev Miak Siew, Pastor of Free Community Church. We both without any hesitation decided that we must attend to express our solidarity with the seminary. This is the first Asian seminary that is courageous enough to have such a significant public event.

I recall that when the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), organized an Asian Conference in Surabaya, Indonesia in March 2010, it was cancelled even when the 150 delegates  representing 100 organizations from 16 Asian countries were scheduled to attend.

Gaya Nusantara, one of the oldest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations in Indonesia, based in Surabaya was the local sponsor.  The National Human Rights Commission gave their full support.

Seven radical Muslim groups led by Islamic Defenders Front (FPI)  joined forces and protested, demonstrated and even threatened violence against the delegates. The irony is that Surabaya is an open city.  Surabaya’s residents are used to seeing gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.

Grace Poore from Malaysia, the Regional Co-ordinator for Asia, filed this report:
"Indonesian police ordered the cancellation of the conference in response to pressure from Islamist fundamentalist groups. The conference hotel refused to permit the conference to proceed.  ILGA Asia found alternate venue, but fundamentalists tracked them there.  One of the groups occupied the hotel lobby for several days. After threats of violence and hours of negotiation, Indonesian activists were forced to leave the hotel and foreign attendees forced to disperse until they could leave Indonesia."

Rev Dr Joas Adiprasetya, President of STT Jakarta, warmly welcomed us and in his letter of appreciation when we left wrote: "We started the program with faith and dream and your gift is helping us believe in the future of this initiative. We understand that to initiate such a program in the Indonesian context is very risky; however we realize that we do not walk alone."

STT Jakarta  was founded as early as 1934. It is the oldest seminary and established to train pastors to serve the Christian churches in Indonesia. It is especially significant that an old established seminary had been moving with the times and had the vision to address the LGBTIQ issue and train the Christian leadership to support the movement.

LGBTIQ Week was organized by a committee of students whose sexual orientation was not identified nor regarded relevant. It was apparent that some of students and the public who attended are members of the LBGTIQ community. The faculty members officially supported the event and Rev Stephen Suleeman, from its Sociology/Communications Department represented the faculty. He has his first degree from Trinity Theological College in Singapore in the seventies. At that time I was working with his father who was on the faculty of STT Jakarta in the ecumenical work in Indonesia.

Rev Miak and I were asked to share about the historical development of Free Community Church (FCC) and its mission and ministry in Singapore. In a second session Rev Miak gave a lecture on Queer Theology which was well-received. We brought as a gift  about 70 books relating to the studies of the LGBTIQ issue and they were appreciative.

The other sessions conducted included presentations by a panel of gays, lesbians, and trans-sexuals.   
A recent woman graduate pastor shared her programme of pastoral care to the LGBTIQ members in the congregation and in the community. It was important to see that secular groups supporting them were present and contributed financially to the event. In each daily session there were around 100 participants. Some of them came out to the audience and shared their personal stories.

The worship service was an impressive one with a fusion of songs and dances of religious music accompanied by musicians which included traditional drums and gongs. The liturgists danced as a processional bearing the cross, bible, candles, and bamboo trays of local bread. They were in line with local cultural elements in the act of worship. The worship center setting had rainbow drapes hanging from the ceiling, flanked by rainbow flags and a local painting of the crucified Christ in front. It was indeed a meaningful experience.

Rev Miak and I returned inspired and enriched by our participation in the LGBTIQ Week. In spite of the difficult context the LGBTIQ people are in within the church and the community in their country, they were able to witness to the truth and the necessity to form a Church which is truly inclusive regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation and economic status.

The special tee shirt has a bright rainbow emblem with the words Love is a Rainbow.

To God be the glory.

Yap Kim Hao

When we lose the right to be different in diversity,
we lose the privilege to be free in captivity.



Saturday, November 10, 2012

Levels of Support for Causes

People are motivated differently to support various causes. For people of religious faith, we make the choice or born into one religion over other religions. Much is due to the time and place in which we were born and the way we react to our  conditions. As a result we are now surrounded by a diversity of faith communities. The challenge before us in our globalized world is that we have to exist with people who relate to different religions and with no religion and those who sense they are spiritual but not religious but do not belong to any particular religious community.

Even within each religion with its own sacred text there are differences of interpretation of their holy writings leading to various schools of thoughts and sects in each religious community. I was fortunate to attend recently the lecture of Professor Farid Esack organized by Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS)  on "Text and Context" relationship to inter-faith relations and solidarity.

In all our sacred texts there are some "awkward" passages or even "clobber" verses attacking others within and outside the community itself who hold different interpretations. There is conflict within and without. All passages have to be scrutinized and evaluated by critical thinking especially by credible scholars of the text.  Our personal study and reflection lead to acceptance of a certain view or position.

In my own religious development, I had the privilege to study with professors who pursue critical analysis. I learnt to ask the question "Why." I was taught to deal with doubts and not resort too easily to suspend them and accept contradictory views in "faith." Are we honest enough that in spite of claims of revelations and loyalty to creeds, we as human beings admit that we can have approximations of truth. Only the Creator has the ultimate truth.

With our understanding of our experiences in life, we with our limitations need to plunge into the struggle  in controversial issues with faith knowing that it is only our claims of truth which often is not that of the majority of people.

When we offer support especially different causes there are nuances of the kind of support. For instance when I wrote about my impressions of Professor Farid Esack, I made the general statement which I want to correct so that it is more specific and precise and more accurate of the stance that he makes rather than the impression that I received.

My sentence “He supports the rights of gays, lesbians, bi-sexual, transgendered rights” should be corrected to 
"He showed considerable insights into the challenges faced by gays, lesbians, bi-sexual, transgendered individuals when it comes to addressing the question of HIV.”

The degree and kind  of support need to be clear. However the support must show the degree also of consistency in order to gain credibility. To give full and total support to any cause is almost impossible. This is especially true in the political arena, it is generally known that compromises are expected to be made for the sake of security, harmony, economic growth. Yet, we need to evaluate how much we can accept the trade-offs in pursuit of our goals.

In the light of this perspective of support for causes and issues we must be realistic and weigh the consequences of our involvement. To engage we must. In faith take sides. Who we serve is the important criterion - the systems of domination or the poor, marginalized and oppressed.

Yap Kim Hao

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Impressions of Professor Farid Esack

Meeting personally Farid Esack for the first time, I was significantly impressed. He carries impeccable  credentials as an influential Muslim scholar and cleric, acknowledged prolific writer and articulate passionate speaker. He is recognized as a courageous Muslim interpreter of the Qu'ran, voice for the marginalized and oppressed, campaigner for social justice.

It was a special privilege for Singapore Interfaith Network on Aids (SINA) to organize the meeting on October 8,,2012 in which the distinguished Professor Farid Esack spoke on "The Challenges of HIV/Aids."  Professor Esack is a prominent advocate for the victims of Aids and initiated the movement known as "Positive Muslim" in South Africa.

Born in South Africa in 1959 to a poor family, he had his early education in  the traditional Islamic Studies program, in Madrasahs in Karachi, Pakistan. He secured his PhD at the University of Birmingham and post-doctoral work on Biblical Hermeneutics in Frankfurt-am-Main. He has taught at the University of the Western Cape, at Amsterdam, Hamburg and Gadjah Mada Universities and Union Theological Seminary in New York. He is a former Distinguished Mason Fellow at the College of William & Mary, and the Besl Professor in Ethics, Religion and Society at Xavier University in Ohio. Just before his current appointment as a Professor in the Study of Islam in the University of Johannesburg, he held a joint appointment  for two years at Harvard University between the Divinity School and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences as the William Henry Bloomberg Professor.

To participate in this important speech in Singapore were the practitioners who are directly involved in the HIV/Aids issue in Singapore. They represent the government Ministry of Health through its Health Promotion Board and the Communicable Disease Centre. Secular non-government organizations representatives were from  Action for Aids, Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (H.O.M.E.), Pelangi Pride Centre, Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE). Faith-based staff members on HIV/Aids were from Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation, Project X of Student Christian Movement, Catholic Care Centre), Kampong Kapor Methodist Church and Free Community Church. This group of fifty participants are actively and directly engaged in HIV/Aids projects of education, anonymous testing, counselling and healing support to People Living with Aids(PLWA), sex workers, domestic workers, migrant workers, shelters for the abused. They pursue the task advocacy for the rights of the victims to drugs, condoms, employment and housing. They battle with issues of discrimination and stigmatization..

Professor Esack shared his views especially on the broader aspects and the necessity of social justice in dealing with this public health issue. While it is an immediate need to deal with the physical and psychological aspects of people living with Aids, it is necessary to engage also individually and in solidarity with others in social, economic, religious and political problems that interlink with HIV/Aids.

What is the general response of the public to HIV/Aids? Professor Esack identified the levels beginning with ignorance, denial, scorn, pity, compassion, and justice.

He began by illustrating it in the scenario of an car accident in which a drunken driver was involved. We rush to the scene. There are those who ignore it and deny it for fear of being involved in a legal case. There is scorn thrown because the driver was drunk and deserves the dreadful consequences. But there are a few who express compassion for those who suffer physically. The ambulances were called but they delayed in arriving. The streets were not well lighted and there were potholes. Surrounding and leading to the accident are social justice issues which are related to the incident. To prevent accidents we must deal with such issues and must not treat it in isolation from the related factors.

Further he narrated the story of the woman who pick up the babies who were floating down stream and cared them. It is not enough for she needs also to be aware of how the babies were in the river in the first place. Someone upstream has been throwing the babies in the river. That situation must be dealt with too.

We are familiar with the story of the cars that plunged down from the cliff above. We rush to the scene below and provide the ambulance to care for the victims. This is necessary but we have to go up the cliff and find how we can prevent the cars from falling down. We are so busy with our ambulance work or caring for the victims without changing the conditions that cause the carnage.

While it is necessary to have compassion we must be engaged with justice issues. This was the clear challenge that Professor Esack posed to us who are so tied down with the care efforts of the victims of HIV/Aids without addressing the factors of culture, economics, religion. and politics. His compassion is to do justly to those who are afflicted and affected.

As I reflect about Professor Esack and his own involvement, he is not a single issue person or just touching the surface of different issues around him. He himself is hands-on and personally engaged in clusters of issues which are inter-related. He handles them according to his training and personal ability. He is a progressive Islamic scholar of the Koran.  In this minority religious community in South Africa he was active in the battle against apartheid. He is active in inter-faith relations.  He supports the rights of gays, lesbians, bi-sexual, transgendered rights. Nelson Mandela appointed him to serve as a Commissioner of Gender Equality promoting the rights of all women. I can see how he has embodied in his own life and career the inter-connected issues. Coming from a background of poverty and enslave ment, he has developed the passion for social justice. He has pushed the parameters, he has stretched the limits, he has widened the horizons as he got involved in HIV/Aids and other causes in his society.

In a subsequent meeting organized by the Centre for Contemporary Islamic Studies in which I am the only non-Muslim who was invited to be a member, I got a further insight about Professor Esack. To an audience comprised mainly of young progressive Muslims he conducted an open discussion with them. The theme of the talk was announced at different times to be "New Muslim" then "Modern Muslim" and finally publicised as "Good Muslim."  This indicated how the event could be interpreted differently. However Professor Esack shared on the topic of being a "Controversial Muslim." He emphasized that it is his willingness to take a stand and be different and not for the sake of just being different all the time. It is more of being courageous to deal with controversial issues even when it is not popular or in favour with the systems of domination by those in power. It is to be authentic and honest with his own convictions and to serve those who are voiceless, marginalized and oppressed. He made the further insightful observation that all the prophets of our religions have associated themselves with the hopes and aspirations of the downtrodden and showed the ways for their liberation. Being controversial is the perception of others but it has to be viewed positively as being courageous and prophetic.

It was an inspirational evening for those of us who were fortunate to be present and be enlightened by such an eminent personality.

Yap Kim Hao

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ponderings over disasters

In the midst of the raging storm and surging seas erupting from Hurricane Sandy, we ponder as we do when natural disasters once again strike us. In the wake of the havoc that Sandy caused in the heavily populated northeast of the United States how do we make sense of it all. Atlantic City is enriched and survives by its casinos and its mayor Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford told CNN: 

"When Mother Nature sends her wrath your way, we're at her mercy, and so all we can do is stay prayerful and do the best that we can"

But how do we pray in such tragic times? Who do we pray to? We are used to believe in the All Powerful God. It is hard to reconcile such a God in disasters. The toll of suffering humanity is beyond human comprehension. The destructive force paralyzes the bustling busiest city of New York in the world. Mercilessly damage is done to saints and sinners, innocent and the evil. Cities are  submerged by the waters and all economic activity ceases.

The Divine whom we call God is affirmed as the Creator of the heavens and the earth. The earth and its environment is but a tiny speck in this vast universe. We would imagine that this Creator can stop the destruction but as in all natural disasters God did not. On the contrary it is regarded as an act of God. But how do we reconcile God's action or inaction with such widespread destruction.

As we face this harsh reality, how real is our God? Too readily we say that it is God's punishment but that is so arbitrary for it affects those who do not deserve it and it is an overkill to those who have done wrong. God is not a cruel Judge or a Destroyer. Once again we are called to reconcile what we believe about the loving and powerful Creator with the disasters that we experience around us from time to time.

It has been observed that out of love for created beings the Creator has placed self-limitation of power. The Creation is alive and the process is not completed. It is still evolving and anti-creative forces are at work. Freedom is gifted to all created living beings. We are not robots programmed to act in a determined way. Freedom is integral to us and the exercise of freedom must necessarily be with responsibility. Otherwise we have to deal with disasters.
Do we over-populate the world, do we exhaust earth's resources, do we get into community conflict? Do we conserve or destroy, do we care or ignore, do we compete or co-operate? There is a long list of responsible activities that we ignore at our peril.

In our created environment we have a web of interactions and inter-relationships. Intentionally and unintentionally in the exercise of freedom we cause disruptions to the order. The Creator cannot intervene to stop the effect of our actions. There is much around us that is mysterious waiting to be unravelled. But when we do understand and work along with the order that exists, we can send a man to the moon and dock a craft in the station out in space. The Creator patiently waits for life to discover its secrets and exist in harmony with them.

Meanwhile we do not have straight forward easy answers to natural disasters. Our faith does not protect or prevent us from the whirlpool of suffering. The Creator stands with us and shares our pain and our grief.

We resort to prayer for the understanding that we are perpetrators or victims of anti-creative forces and we must align ourselves with the creative forces for the shaping of a safer and better future for all. The road that we travel together will be littered with the debris of disasters. When we learn our lessons of history and understand partially this mysterious life on this planet earth we will do better. Such a faith allow us to hope in spite of our pain when we face the disasters in our lives.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Inclusive Community
Last weekend I went up to Kuala Lumpur to conduct a Marriage Blessing Ceremony in a Garden Pavilion in a residential resort complex. It evoked a tsunami of memories from my boyhood and teenage days. 

The bride is the grand-daughter of a family friend in Kampar in the early forties and the groom is the son of a dear friend of mine in Ipoh since the fifties. I buried the grandmother of the bride in the sixties in Kuala Lumpur and the father of the groom a few years ago in Kuching. The groom is a Indian Methodist and the bride is a Chinese Catholic. They found no pastor but me to convey God's blessings.

They had earlier given me a number of Scripture passages to base my wedding message for the occasion. But I gave them the choice but they did not inform me. Coincidentally I used Colosians 3:12-17 which was what they had chosen in the first place. It was serendipity. 

The passage was appropriate and conveyed the teaching of "compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience" which are the principles that cement a blissful life of marital relationship of two people. It advises the need of mutual forgiveness and "Above, all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds every thing together in perfect harmony."

I further drew the congregation's attention to the verses previous and following the chosen passage. 
Paul in writing his letter to the followers of Jesus in Colossae spoke of the new life where "there is no longer Greek or Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free, but Christ is all and in all! That was the cultural context in his time.

But if Paul was writing to us in the contemporary scene he probably would say to us that there is no longer Indian or Chinese, Christian or Catholic, rich or poor, gay or straight, male or female, young or old for our Creator made us all different from one another.

Then in the verses there was the traditional call for wives to submit to their husbands. But Paul would have updated that for us today with wives and husbands submit to one another and love mutually. 

This is the way in which we ought to read and interpret the traditional holy writings to serve our present time and situation. 

The groom had the customary bachelor's party with his Chinese and Indian friends the night before. While he was doing that I have my "gay party" with a dinner meeting with gay and straight friends way past midnight. In my meeting were a Christian single mother who brought up three children, Methodist woman taking care of her new adopted grandchild, gay doctor working on HIV/Aids, Korean feminist theologian, Sikh woman who was the daughter of the watchman in Methodist Boy's School in KL, young gay social worker, and a Queer theologian. This group meets weekly and support one another in a new inclusive human community. They were all dis-enchanted with established religions. I felt Jesus was very much present as he was among us.

The same feeling came upon me in the following day in the wedding ceremony and the wedding banquet in the Grand Ballroom in Marriot. 

This is what inclusivity meant for me. Are we able to stretch the boundaries and enlarge the tent to cover us who are each different and embrace one another in love and respect?

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Poverty Trap II I continue my reflections on the Poverty Trap with reference to Cambodia and share my personal experiences. I want to show the contrast between the time past when the country was under Pol Pot and the present. In the seventies Cambodia was drawn into the Indochina conflict. The countries began with their struggle for national independence from their colonial masters. They chose to follow the Marxist line. They succeeded at great cost and won the war against the mighty capitalistic empires of France and the United States. They envisioned the building of a new people and a new society. Some of us in the Christian movement understood their fight for independence. During the conflict the global Christian community were offering some relief services of food and medicine for the victims of war. In rehabilitating their communities we provided resources for the re-opening of their hospitals, schools, farms and factories. They were in desperate need to re-build their war-torn countries. The continued systems of domination of the Western powers were still in place. The irony is that it is also from some of the enlightened people from the same countries who dominate them that the resources for assistance were made available for their recovery after the war. They won their war of independence but they have to engage in nation building. The rise of China gave them some hope but the resources among themselves were too limited to effect the change required. Pol Pot who literally drove the city dwellers out of Phnom Penh to the countryside was for the purpose of changing their mind-set and developing the rural sector. It was a form of cleansing from imperialism, consumerism and individualism. In 1979 when the regime was overthrown, a colleague and I representing the relief and rehabilitation programme of Christian churches were granted the first visas to enter the city. It was emptied of people except for their officials and the military. People were still kept outside. Basic infrastructure was not restored for their return to their former homes. A handful of women who spoke English were discovered to work as interpreters to relate to foreign aid agencies. Ms Dany who studied in the Regional English Language Centre was assigned to us and we instantly became friends. She later was responsible for the development of women's work and represented her country in Hanoi. In 2000 she came to Singapore as the wife of the Ambassador of Cambodia. Miss Vuthy went to Thailand for Christian theological training and returned to her country to minister to her people. This only shows how important it is to develop local leadership. Fast forward to the present. Cambodia since the past decade or two began to attract foreign capital. Labour was plentiful and cheap and urbanization and industrialization developed at a fast pace. The new society that was envisaged soon became the resurfacing of the old society with new colonial masters within and without. The same evacuation of the city-dwellers started though less extensively than it was in the past. They have to give way to the new rich and powerful local elites and foreigners. When I met recently some of my Indochina friends whom we have collaborated with during their war of independence, I queried them about the new society that they have toiled and fought and spilled blood for. They smiled but was embarrassed. They themselves have become like those that they fought against before. It is a vision that has evaporated in these days of globalization and economic development. What do we do in such a situation NOW We can help those displaced city dwellers who are scratching the barren land in order to survive. But there will be a steady stream of these people. How do we manage the stream. We need to help them to get better compensation for their homes which are demolished for high rise office buildings service apartments and factories. We need to help them to scratch a living in the barren rural areas. We need to provide them with resources to build a new future in the countryside. Our piecemeal efforts must be changed to concerted ones and taking a comprehensive and sustainable development approach for the rural community. We need to support those who are committed to develop new leadership in the nation. One of the promising assistance that I know is the work of the Turkish community who are being influenced by Fetullah Gulen. This Muslim spiritual leader has concentrated on education for leadership in the 21st Century. They have opened educational institutions in many countries both in the developed and developing world. They are committed not to promote the Islamic faith like in our mission schools but to provide the highest quality of education that they know in our multi-religious world. Their three-pronged goals are quality education in the arts and sciences, character formation with appreciation of universal spiritual values, and promotion of inter-racial and inter-faith harmony in our pluralistic world. Their teachers are dedicated and passionate in selfless service and lead by example to fulfill these noble goals of education. They shared their lives with the people they serve. A little over ten years ago they responded and entered Cambodia. They began by starting a secondary school followed a few years later with a primary one and two years ago the Zaman University. I was privileged to attend the opening of the first local University in the country by the Minister of Education They have in a short space time gained credibility and was able to enroll children of parents who are leaders in business, industry and government. The Rector of the University, Dr Erkan Polatdemir, was a scholarship student in NUS and secured his Ph.D. in Physics. He taught at Republic Polytechnic and resigned with great financial cost to serve in Cambodia. The Turkish people who are part of the Gulen movement are providing support in a count;ry where there is a minute minority of Muslims. In our discussion we were exploring how crucial it is for the students in their educational institutions to inculcate new values, to clarify the new vision, to engage in working together for a new Cambodian society. Students need to be exposed to the issues of poverty and immersed in the life of the poor rural community so that they can be sensitized to the suffering of their own people and later lead them to new future. I do not cease to admire these Turkish people who have been inspired to engage in significant service in addressing the issue of poverty and touching the lives of people without regard to race or religion. They are singularly committed to develop through education leaders imbued with a sense of purpose for the common good and inflamed with the desire to shape a caring and compassionate human communities. They are demonstrating in different parts of the world the key to overcome poverty and the way to live in harmony with one another.