SINGAPORE DISSOLVES CHRISTIAN CONFERENCE OF ASIA, DEPORTS ITS LEADERS

Singapore
1987-01-06 00:00:00

The Singapore government has closed the office of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) for alleged involvement in politics and ordered its executives, all Asian missioners, to leave the country by Jan. 11.

The sealing of CCA records and expulsion of its leaders left the future of the organization in doubt. The umbrella solidarity group represented 113 Protestant churches in 17 Asian countries.

But Doctor Feliciano Carino, who became general secretary of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP) Jan. 3, joined Protestant Bishop Laverne Mercado, his immediate predecessor, in suggesting a new home.

"There is no country better suited to the CCA´s needs than the Philippines," Carino told UCA News Jan. 4.

Carino, whose wife is from Singapore, expressed eagerness to have the CCA based in the Philippines.

Support also came from other quarters. "I am sure the CCA is not linked with any communist movement," said Protestant Bishop E. B. Muthisami of the Council of Churches in Malaysia.

Doctor Fridolin Ukor of the Union of Indonesian Churches, however, supported the Singapore government Dec. 31, saying CCA leaders deviated from CCA principles by being "confrontative" instead of "consultative."

Fridolin Ukor, who had opposed the leaders´ support for East Timorese seeking independence from Indonesia, wants the CCA itself to continue.

Singapore´s Home Ministry said Dec. 30 that the CCA broke a promise "not to indulge in any political activity or allow its funds to be used for political purposes." The CCA had moved to Singapore from Bangkok in 1974.

The ministry accused the CCA of backing liberation movements and financing pro-communist movements in other countries, and giving financial support to Vincent Cheng, a Singapore Catholic Church worker detained since May 1987.

Cheng, one of 22 people detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA), allowing detention without trial, for an alleged Marxist plot to overthrow the government, is under two-year detention.

The others were freed conditionally during 1987.

-- According to a CCA staff member, Singapore Special Branch officers entered the office Dec. 30.

"Your society is no longer in existence. It has been dissolved," they were told. "Please tell your staff to clear out because we will seal the place."

CCA associate general secretary Reverend George Ninan told reporters Dec. 31 that the charges were without foundation.

"To the best of my knowledge these are wild allegations and I don´t know how they can substantiate it," the Indian Anglican missioner said.

Besides Ninan, the government expelled CCA general secretary Reverend Kenichi Otsu, Japan; Park Sang-jung, South Korea; Pura Calo, Philippines; and Nelun Gunasekara, Sri Lanka.

Families of Ninam, Otsu and Park were ordered to leave Singapore by Jan. 29.

CCA spokesperson Stephen Webb denied any CCA meddling in local political affairs, and told reporters it avoided involvement in the ISA case.

He said it was involved in politics in other countries only insofar as local churches were involved.

Considered a solidarity group, CCA was popular with churches involved in justice issues, while some conservative churches objected to its thrust.

The ministry issued the following statement in announcing the action:

"The Singapore government does not presume to judge the rights and wrongs of liberation theology movements in other countries.

"But by promoting political causes in the region and supporting radical activists in Singapore, the CCA has clearly breached its undertaking not to engage in political activities."

END

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