Two weeks have passed since Pastor Kong Hee and his associates were arrested for allegedly misusing church funds and breaching laws that cover the Charities Act.
This has split Singaporeans into two separate camps – one revolted by the purported actions of their church leaders and the other, staying true to their faith in the pastor.
Read also: The contradiction of City Harvest
Such fragmentation is unusual – compare this to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) saga in July 2005 when donated funds were used for the CEO’s personal gain, or the Ren Ci Hospital incident in 2007 when its CEO gave unauthorized loans. NKF’s T.T. Durai and Ren Ci’s Ming Yi received almost no sympathy from the public.
Pastor Kong Hee’s side
Around 200 from ‘Camp Kong Hee’ pulled out all the stops for the pastor from day one of his ordeal. They turned up at the Subordinate Courts to show their support and protect him from the media mob.
Another 9,000 Kong Hee supporters worshipped with him some days later, wholeheartedly maintaining his innocence. They carried signs which read: ‘I love Pastor Kong’ and ‘We Believe’, among other motivating placards.
Nanz Chong-Komo is one person who is standing by Kong Hee, and speaks fervently about the power of his prayers.
“Pastor Kong’s weekly messages have been practical and uncompromising to the whole truth of the Gospel. They have taught me to think, to give and to sacrifice for others first,” she said.
Read Nanz Chong-Komo’s testimonial here.
Believers have let their feelings blossom on Facebook, requesting for supporters of Kong Hee to pray for his protection showing their trust and faith in the pastor.
Julie Vincent wrote: “(Pastor) Kong and Sun, we love you! Be of Godly courage, our God will not put us to shame! We believe and trust in both of you and City Harvest leadership! God is (on) our side, no one can stand against us!”
“I believe they are innocent, those evil-doers are trying to frame them, (stopping) them from saving innocent souls. God (please) help them win,” David Zheng wrote.
On the opposite side of the fence are citizens and netizens displaying their dismay towards Kong Hee and his crew for their alleged scandal. A vast majority of these folks feel cheated by the pastor because they donated ten per cent of their monthly earnings to the church.
They believe that two years of investigation can’t be wrong.
What riled them up even more is the allegation that Kong Hee used donors’ money to fund his wife’s - Sun Ho’s - music career.
Read more: The city of Sun Ho
The countless postings of her videos ‘MR BILL’ and ‘China Wine’ made matters worse.
Alvin Koh, a netizen, questioned the moral fabric of a pastor who supports such acts.
“This Kong Hee is a clown. His wife promote(s) this kind of a lifestyle and he, as head of the family, should stop the wife. But did he? Of course not! His wife brings in good money too and he enjoys watching his bank accounts grow! (Is) he a pastor? If you are a strong Christian you should know that he is not, but a fake.”
The pastor’s lavish lifestyle got incensed people further. He was arrested at his penthouse in Sentosa Cove.
Thomas Tan feels that the whole misuse of funds boiled down to his greed. He wrote on Facebook: “Who can we trust next? Pastor(s) have greed too.”
Harry Boey angrily calls attention to the sum of $23 million and its origins: “If you God-fearing folks take out this god for a moment and consider where did Kong gets his $23 million to spend on expensive rented home, etc… Always remember he was poorer than a church m(o)use when he got married not so long ago. This is wh(y) we are in this discussion - NOT ABOUT GOD. BUT where did these $23M came and went. Period!”
Roland Seow shared his thoughts about religion becoming an avenue to make capital gains. “It’s nothing new! Religion is one market product that can turn (its) followers blind. Religion followers can sacrifice everything, some their money, some their bodies, some their families, and yet pledge strong allegiance to their leaders,” he wrote.
Mr Seow drew references to mega churches in the US where many religious leaders have been found to be corrupt.
“So, all who call for prayers are right. Pray that the Lord will remove and banish all corrupted church leaders. And don’t ever blame our government leaders for taking action. Ours is a fearless and righteous government,” he added.
In a church service on 30 June, Pastor Kong Hee uttered the now famous words, “I maintain my integrity.” He believes that he will pull through this ordeal intact – after all, everyone is innocent until proven to be guilty.
Amidst the hodge-podge of opinions, the church and the state, can only wait for 25 July, when the court hearings will begin, to gain closure.
If given the maximum sentence, Kong Hee could be sentenced to jail for life and/or fined.
Get the full details on the City Harvest scandal here.