Former Cabinet minister Lim Boon Heng was one of several speakers who shared their faith stories at events to mark Mission Sunday
His Christian name is Paul, former Member of Parliament and ex-Cabinet minister Lim Boon Heng shared at a talk to mark World Mission Sunday.
That was one nugget of information the former politician gave to the 300-strong crowd gathered at Blessed Sacrament Church on Oct 16.
The parish had invited Mr Lim and three other speakers to share the importance of their Christian faith in their lives, in talks that had the theme, Why I Believe What I Believe.
The talks were held over two evenings.
Mr Lim, who is now chairman of NTUC Eldercare, shared that though his mother was Catholic, his father was not. As a result, the faith was not practised at home, which also had no religious images.
He attended Holy Innocents’ English School which was later renamed Montfort School, and credited the school environment and his friends for inspiring him to know more about the Catholic faith.
He took catechism in Teochew along with his friends, but stopped when his father found out, Mr Lim recounted.
Later in secondary school, he received one-to-one instruction in the faith but once again his father objected to his baptism, Mr Lim added.
When Mr Lim went to study at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in the United Kingdom, he attended Mass at the small chapel there and the chaplain even encouraged him to serve at Mass.
Mr Lim was eventually baptised at the age of 21.
He shared that some of the teachings he still holds dear today include the Parable of the Widow’s Mite, the Beatitudes, and the university chaplain’s advice to “distinguish between form and substance” – about doing things in the right spirit.
“The Catholic Church not just in Singapore but everywhere has done a lot to live the faith and that is what inspires others,” Mr Lim said.
Her schools have contributed to conversions, and non-Catholic students there learn that the faith is open and inclusive, he said.
Children and faith
Ms Andrea Fang, ex-principal of St Stephen’s School, spoke on the topic, Leaving our Children a Legacy of Faith.
She said that one of the best gifts parents can leave their children is the love of God and the knowledge that God would be there in everything the child goes through in life.
And in order to do that, “we have to know God and what we believe in”, she said. Through the parents’ love for their children, the children will also experience God, she said.
She encouraged parents to be consistent in their values and standards and to be non-negotiable on certain issues, such as attending Mass on Sundays including during examination period.
Ms Fang also encouraged parents to send their children to Catholic schools. “It does make a great difference,” Ms Fang said. Children “don’t have to go to top schools in Singapore. Catholic schools will bring your children up [as] good children, good daughters and sons, good wives and husbands and very loving people”.
The Catholic school also inculcates the habit of prayer, she added.
Burden of proof
A second round of sharings was held on Oct 21.
Assoc Prof Malcolm Murfett, from the National University of Singapore’s history department, said he grew up in a humble Anglican family in the English countryside and enjoyed Sunday school.
He also assisted in teaching three-to-eight-year-olds when he was only 11, and also acted as a guide and prompter for the priest at the Holy Communion service when the priest became blind.
At that age, he “already sensed that God existed”.
“I couldn’t explain why I knew, I just did,” said Prof Murfett, who later converted to Catholicism.
Among his favourite Bible passages were the Christmas story and the story of the Prodigal Son, the history professor said.
As a young adult, he decided to read more of the Bible after learning about the Big Bang Theory and the theory of evolution that seemed to contradict the Book of Genesis.
“In my jousting with the atheists and humanists who stridently championed disbelief in God, we always came back to the ‘burden of proof’ argument,” he said.
“While I couldn’t use a mathematical proof to show God’s existence to them, I felt deeply that Jesus had died as the saviour for mankind and those feelings couldn’t be rejected by plausible, but not definitive, scientific evidence brought by the non-believers in an effort to make me think again and reject God,” he said.
“Faith, evidently, is a gift of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “I’m sure, however, that while it is ours to keep we must also share God’s message of love with as many people as possible.”
Prof Murfett also added that Catholics must be “careful not to denigrate others”, such as other Christians, “who don’t share our Catholic faith”.
The other speaker, Mr Longinus Chew, chaplain of Assumption English School and Boys’ Town, shared with the audience how he converted from Buddhism to Catholicism.
Ms Regina Ong, who attended the talk on the first evening, said the sharing and testimonies helped the audience “understand what the love of God means”.
Faith and public office
His Catholic values and faith have guided his work in public office, Mr Lim Boon Heng told CatholicNews in an email interview.
The same values have also guided him in his work at NTUC, said the former NTUC secretary-general.
“The Catholic Church teaches us to help the poor. Thus I paid particular attention to the lower-wage workers,” he said.
He said he had no problems being a Catholic as well as a politician.
“The only time I faced a conflict was over the casino issue,” Mr Lim said. He added that this led to his “very public expression” of his views on the matter.
During a press conference in 2011 to introduce the PAP candidates for the General Election, he broke down in tears when he recalled his reluctant decision to support having the casinos.
During the debate on Integrated Resorts (IRs) in 2005, Mr Lim said his answer would be “no” to casinos due to the social costs, but he could not ignore the jobs the IRs would create for Singapore.
“The other issue that posed a severe conflict was abortion,” said Mr Lim. “However, on this issue, we go by our conscience. Other than these, I have had no difficulty functioning in public life.” n
By Darren Boon