So the Singapore authorities decided to ban Watain, a Swedish metal band, from performing, mere hours before it was scheduled to take the stage on March 7, 2019.
Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam told the media that the concert was cancelled out of interest for public order, and religious and social harmony.
This was after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) did a further security assessment a day before the concert on March 6.
Churches welcome the move by authorities
The National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) was the first to respond to the cancellation, writing a letter to Shanmugam on Friday, March 8.
Bishop Terry Kee, on behalf of NCCS, expressed their appreciation to him and MHA for his "swift and decisive action" in recommending to IMDA the cancellation of the concert.
Catholic Church and Cornerstone Community Church praised the authorities
Other church leaders and church representatives have since welcomed the move by the authorities.
While the Catholic Archbishop of Singapore William Goh did not mention Watain or the concert in his pastoral letter to his Catholic congregation, he praised the government leaders for being "enlightened".
Goh said that the government leaders have the "courage and moral integrity" to ensure that arts promoted in Singapore do not "degrade into something banal, destructive and divisive".
Cornerstone Community Church's senior pastor Reverend Yang Tuck Yoong said that the church shared Shanmugam's concerns over the probable cause of detriment to "Singapore's public order, and religious and social harmony" should Watain be allowed to perform.
He also thanked the MHA for making this call and doing what's right to safeguard the well-being of our nation.
Catholic church: promote arts that inspire peace, beauty and joy
In a pastoral letter by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore, Goh provided context to how the church promotes music and the arts.
What did the letter mention?
In essence, the letter spoke about how the church promotes music and the arts for its power to "inspire humanity to appreciate the beauty of creation".
However, Goh observes that art has become a medium for people to mock or belittle anything which they do not agree with, including religious beliefs.
He attributes this with art having become tantamount with pushing boundaries and being avant-garde.
What is the Archbishop's stance on bands like Watain?
The letter emphasises that the Catholic church and its people "must respect that people have different tastes and values".
However, there is a "moral duty" and responsibility that they have to ensure communities have mutual respect with each other and can co-exist in peace.
As such, the letter states that no "religion, organization or form of art" should be allowed to sow discord and division into society by causing "hatred, violence and disrespect", nor glorify a "culture of death, suicide, individualism, intolerance and promiscuity".
Goh stressed that it is necessary to be wary of any attempts or acts that "seek to compromise our Christian values" and promote a "hedonistic and suicidal culture".
Goh also praises our leaders as "enlightened" for ensuring arts in Singapore does not inculcate values that are contrary to "goodness, truth and justice".
In conclusion, Goh called upon all Christians and people of good-will to recover the true meaning of arts and encourage all artists to "promote arts that inspire peace, true love and beauty, give life, joy and hope to our peoples".
The Archdiocese in Singapore has 32 churches spread across 5 districts in Singapore and oversees a congregation of about 360,000 Catholics.
Here is the letter by the Archbishop in full:
An Exhortation to Artists and Promoters of the Arts
My dear People of God,
Since the beginning of Christianity, the Church has always championed the promotion of the arts. Artists, through the use of songs, music, words, sculpture and painting inspire humanity to appreciate the beauty of creation and thereby lead people to connect with the Sacred and the Transcendence. Through his works, the artist communicates his values and thoughts about life. He seeks to fathom the depths of the human soul and the mystery of life. In the final analysis, the vocation of an artist is at the service of beauty, truth and love. Artists, therefore, must use their vocation for the common good. “Artists who are conscious of all this know too that they must labour without allowing themselves to be driven by the search for empty glory or the craving for cheap popularity, and still less by the calculation of some possible profit for themselves.” (Pope St John Paul II, Letter to Artists, 1999, para 4) Rather, true arts must help to inspire and renew the lives of people, giving them hope. That is why the Church promotes music and the arts.
Unfortunately today, art has become synonymous with anything that is avant-garde. It has become the licence for people to push the boundaries of convention. It has become the platform for people to put down and mock anything that they do not agree with, such as religious beliefs, in the name of ‘freedom of expression’, and advocate a nihilistic philosophy that is destructive to the well-being of humanity, confusing good with evil, love with selfishness, truth with lies, beauty with what is repulsive. It is in this context that we need to be vigilant in our discernment of what is truly art, and what is vile disguised as art.
Whilst we must respect that people have different tastes and values, yet, we have a moral duty to ensure that peoples of all communities, religious or otherwise, co-exist and live in peace and mutual respect for each other. No religion, organization or form of art should be permitted to incite hatred, violence and disrespect for others. We must be wary of those who promote a culture of death, suicide, individualism, intolerance and promiscuity, and sow seeds of hatred, division and rebellion in the minds and hearts of our people, especially the young.
Hence, governments have an obligation to protect the common good of society by ensuring that arts promoted are for the service of truth, love and unity. 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.
As Catholics, it is equally incumbent on us to be ever watchful of any attempts that seek to compromise our Christian values, our beliefs, and promote a hedonistic and suicidal culture. This is all the more so when there is an increasing number of young people who are attempting suicide today, and falling into addictions of all forms.
I am edified that many of our Catholic parents have risen to their role as guardians of our youths to speak out against the potential dangers of events that may have negative effects on the well-being of our young. I call upon all Christians and people of good-will to recover the true meaning of arts and encourage all artists to promote arts that inspire peace, true love and beauty, give life, joy and hope to our peoples.
Like all Singaporeans of good-will, we desire to live harmoniously with people of all faiths. All of us must remain committed to protecting our society, to ensure the right values are instilled, especially among the young.
We must remain vigilant against the evil forces. Indeed, St Peter warns us, “Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Pt 5:8) And St Paul makes it clear, “Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” (RSVCE, Eph 6:10-13)
Finally, we must continuously pray for God’s grace and protection of our society, that those entrusted with the responsibility to keep us safe be discerning and courageous in making the right decisions at all times. As individuals, we too must play our part and safeguard what we hold to be truly good, beautiful, noble, right and just for the well-being of our peoples.
Most Rev. William Goh
Archbishop of Singapore
09 March, 2019
Cornerstone Community Church: decision made in "good order"
In a letter addressed to Shanmugam on March 9, Yang lauds the call to cancel Watain's performance in Singapore.
Here it is.
The church praised the authorities for making the call to "safeguard the well-being of our nation", stating that they too share concerns with the authorities that the band's concert would cause detriment to the nation's public order and harmony.
Yang also mentions that the derogatory remarks by Watain in their Facebook post following the cancellation serves as a "clear attestment that this decision by the authorities was in good order".
The letter also stresses the balance of the freedom of expression in various art forms.
Yang mentions that this needs to be carried out in a "respectful way" which does not devalue or mock faith and societal morals.
Here's the letter by the church in full:
Mr. K Shanmugam
Minister for Law and and Home AffairsDear Minister K Shanmugam
CORNERSTONE WELCOMES CALL TO CANCEL WATAIN'S PERFORMANCE IN SINGAPORECornerstone Community Church welcomes the call by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the InfoComm Media Development Authority (IMDA) over the recent cancellation of black metal band WATAIN's public performance in Singapore.
In response to public unrest over the notoriety of the band and their scheduled performance on 7 March 2019, we appreciate the due diligence undertaken by the relevant authorities in investigating the messaging, values and views the band espouses and propagates.
We share your concerns over the probable cause of detriment to "Singapore's public order, and religious and social harmony" should the band be allowed to perform here.
While this move has sparked criticism by fans and pockets of the public, the outright defiance of the band shown from the derogatory remarks made on their Facebook post following the cancellation should serve as a clear attestment that this decision by the authorities was in good order and should be lauded. In addition, WATAIN's blatant Satanist views and advocacy, controversial acts in its performances, and provocative messages of violence and religious intolerance are a definite call for alarm.
As citizens of our multi-cultural and multi-religious society built on the foundations of mutual respect and trust, we affirm the need to balance freedom of expression in various art forms in a respectful way that does not denigrate another's faith or devalue societal morals.
Again, we'd like to express our thanks and appreciation to MHA for making this call and doing what's right to safeguard the well-being of our nation.
Rev. Yang Tuck Yoong
Cornerstone Community Church
Top photo adapted via Andrew Koay and Watain's Facebook page