While Singapore is a tiny yet dense country, it is also home to over 10 religions.
When I was child, I lived in Singapore for nearly three years. Later in my life, I realized that my great appreciation for religious and cultural diversity comes from my early years in Singapore. I am so grateful for everything that I learned about others’ spiritual paths along with my own spirituality and I would like to share it with the rest of the world, specifically spaces for the LGBTQ+ community and their allies so that they can find a religious community in Singapore which values and uplifts them.
According to a 2000 Singaporean census, the religious makeup of Singapore is 42.5% Buddhist, 14.9 Muslim, 14.8 without a religious affiliation, 14.6 Christians, 8.5 Taoists; and 4% Hindu. The rest belongs to other religious groups, including: Judaism, Jains, Sikhs and the Zoroastrianists. Mainland Singpaore, also known as Pulau Ujong, is a minuscule city-state that stretches merely 50 km in diameter. While this is quite small geographically, the island is extremely dense, making it the 20th most populated island in the world. Therefore, it is incredible that there are nearly a dozen religions packed tightly against one another, but where does the LGBTQ+ religious community fit within all of this? There are actually several open and inclusive LGBTQ+ communities specifically for Singaporean Christians and Muslims. Below, I will introduce these spaces and discuss more about LGBTQ+ rights in Singapore.
First is Singapore’s F.R.E.E Community Church which made me feel at home as a child and provided a great sense of community that was LGBTQ+ inclusive and diverse. This church is quite special because it is one of the only Christian congregations in this small country to openly serve LGBTQ+ members. Their name stands for First Realise Everyone is Equal – to stand tall and proud for their community and provide a safe space for all to practice their spirituality. Its website states that, at the F.R.E.E Community Church “we find discrimination based on negative judgment of others, fear of difference, and homophobia inconsistent with Christian teachings.” This church is fairly radical when one also examines the social politics of Singapore towards the LGBTQ+ community. Singapore’s laws highly contradict the general culture of acceptance. For instance, male same sex couples can technically be imprisoned for “same-sex activity” for up to two years and no anti-discrimination laws are in place for the LGBTQ+ community.
On the upside, Singapore’s culture and inclusivity towards the LGBTQ+ community is rapidly changing and nowadays, spaces like F.R.E.E Community Church can exist out in the open. Another important LGBTQ+-friendly event is Pink Dot which is Singapore’s largest pride and protest event. Since 2009, straight and gay individuals from across the country wear pink – the product color of mixing red and white from the Singapore flag – and stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. On its website, you can play with an interactive map which displays statements of support by each individual to fight for LGBTQ+ rights in Singapore. Inclusive spaces like F.R.E.E Community Church are essential to the continued protection and pride towards LGBTQ+ people. If you want to attend mass at F.R.E.E Community Church, you have to sign up in advance for one of their 50 available spots here.
For the Singaporean Muslim community, there are two public faith-based LGBTQ+ support communities: Jejaka and The Healing Circle. Jejaka is catered towards specifically gay or bisexual men with weekly support sessions. The Healing Circle offers counseling sessions for all LGBTQ+ identifying Muslims and spreads awareness on the mistreatment of the community especially within religious spaces. These two organizations are extremely progressive when you also consider the official stance of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. According to an article by Yahoo News, The Islamic Relgious Council of Singapore, “stated that it did not condone homosexuality but called on Muslims to be non-confrontational and respectful of others.” This is slightly better when you consider the official position of the Christian Church of Singapore where it views, “homosexual lifestyle as sinful and unacceptable.” For those of the Buddhist faith, the most prominent religion in Singapore, there isn’t exactly an open space just yet. Although, in 2016 the Pelangi Pride Center invited a Buddhist monk, Phra Chun Kiang, to discuss the misconceptions of the LGBTQ+ community and the Buddhist spirituality. You can read about his inspiring talk here.
As you can see, there is still a lot of work to be done in order to create LGBTQ+-friendly religious spaces not only in Singapore, but around the world. These three communities, however, are fundamental to the progressive direction that Singapore and all nations should strive towards to obtain full LGBTQ+ rights. I would now encourage anyone who visits Singapore to support one of these spaces or attend service there. If you also recognize a lack of LGBTQ+-inclusive / religious spaces in your own community, I would encourage you to take the extra step to do something about it.