#RIPJustice

In today’s world, the freedom of speech and religion is especially threatened. Below are some examples of people who are willing to jeopardize their life to stand up for their beliefs and contribute for the greater good of society.

This year is nothing short of tumultuous, already in the region we have seen cases of righteous, innocent people being put to jail for what they strongly believe in, a force and presence beyond human comprehension: God. Imprisoned on the pretense of false allegations. Imprisoned for their faith. Imprisoned for standing up for what they believe is right, which unfortunately society has found it displeasing and harming the nation. In Jarkarta, Indonesia, the country of my birth, controversial ethnic Chinese and Christian governor Basuki Purnama, affectionately known as Ahok, is jailed on false accusations by hardline Muslims that he blasphemes their religion and should be imprisoned, some even called for the shedding of his blood. The repercussions of his arrest reverberated throughout the country, in the region, and the world. On Wednesday, the United States Ambassador to Indonesia Joseph Donovan called on government and religious leaders across the archipelago to speak out against intolerance. He also added that (in accordance to the Jakarta Globe) : “We (the US) do not believe that it should be illegal to express opinions about a particular religion. We believe that blasphemy laws anywhere in the world jeopardise freedom of religion, expression, assembly and freedom of the press.” . My thoughts exactly. It’s preposterous to think that people (Ahok isn’t the first, many have faced persecution in the past) can be tried and sentenced to a morbid life in prison just because a large group of foolhardy folks from the rock bottom of the socio-economic pyramid demanded for him to face the consequences for ‘insulting’ Islam. 

It all started when Ahok was still campaigning for another rerun to be the governor of Indonesia. He quoted a verse from the Quran that said it was not alright for Muslims to choose leaders who are non-Muslim. He freakin just quoted the verse, and that doing what the Quran demanded is a foolish thing to do. Hence, some sciolistic nutheads interpreted it the wrong way, accusing him of blaspheming the state religion, and as for the rest, we all have pretty much have figured it out. The shady Supreme Court judges that presided over his case decided to extend the trial (mostly to break Ahok’s resolve and crush him, which they did to no avail lolz), after which they pronounced him GUILTY. Guilty of a crime he didn’t commit. Guilty of just quoting their holy and most often confusing religious book.  

This is one of Indonesia’s most defining moment in history. Our descendants will remember Indonesians and people who are illogical, uneducated and blind followers of a regime most dedicated to crushing any other individual who holds immense power AND isn’t a Muslim. 

I’m certainly ashamed. My grandfather fought for the independence of this country that has been held captive by their Dutch colonial masters not because the Dutch were overpowering and dominating the Malay archipelago, but because they accepted their fates as merely a slave to their colonial masters. And now, they are repaying the sacrifice of servicemen who died for the country, by imprisoning the only fellow who dared to stand up for his beliefs, who dared to bring a wind-sweeping, avalanche-tumbling, wave-crashing change to Indonesia. 

Ahok cleared up the corruption that has clogged the Indonesian government since its independence. Ahok revolutionized the way Indonesians live and work and play. He and his team improved transportation by following in Singapore’s footsteps. He transformed a once red-light district to a place where hip youngsters skate and play and where families can have picnics etc. His legacy lives on. All foreign news media had access to news coverage on Ahok and his trailblazing campaign and his short tenure as governor, and all agree on several things: 

1. He is a revolutionary leader.

2. He left a legacy for Indonesia.

3. He’s a life-impacting, selfless Christian and ethnic Chinese. Even though he is from Indonesia’s minority ethnic group and religious group, he rose through the ranks as Indonesia’s best, and only useful governor. 

4. He is judged unrighetously in a country that prides itself in religious tolerance (which in actual fact they never did have. They have always hated the Chinese as they’re richer than most ethnic Malay Indonesians lolz and especially Christians. Don’t know why. 🙂 ) 

5. He shouldn’t even be jailed in the first place. All news agencies from CNN, BBC, Reuters, Channel news Asia, StraitsTimes, JarkartaGlobe ( sometimes post a bit too biased articles against Ahok ) agree that hardline Muslims took his comment out of context and therefore press the corrupt government to condemn him to jail, even execution. They agree even more strongly that those allegations are purely evidence-less claims made by a bunch of infuriated folks who are racist towards Chinese and Christians. It’s nuts how they always preach that they’re a bunch of peaceful folks yet cry out for blood and hate everyone that’s not Muslim. 

6. There’s not even enough objective evidence to support the claim that he has ‘blasphemed’ Islam. It’s all in the name of hate. 

7. He’s pretty awesome. 

The above are my opinions, and disclaimer: they’re probably not the opinions of the news agencies stated, although I’ve gotten inspiration from the implied message of their articles. However, judging from their language used in the articles, they obviously see that there’s no basis to condemn Ahok. 

This case is a lesson for us all. Not just Indonesians, but every country in the world: how much human rights are practically non-existent even though human rights watch are claiming that they’re actually doing something, that whatever you say there’s always that guy who will take your comments a bit to the extreme, and how much more we need to stand up to injustice. Ahok’s legacy will live on. 

God’s justice will prevail. He will see it through till the end. 
Features Image courtesy of Jarkarta Post

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CHC Trial 

I’m just going to start off with this: We have the right to free speech — The Straits Times (a government controlled mainstream media) said their lot, as such, I too will say what I want to say. 

I have received eyewitness reports from the courtroom for the past 7 years. All of them confirm a couple of things:

1) Reporters only took down notes when the prosecutors are stating their claim or opposing the defendants

2) Reporters either left the room when defendants were stating their claim or they refuse to take down notes 

The verdict came and much to the dismay of many, the court has condemned them to prison. Yes, OUR judicial system just recently released the verdict that ALL OF THE 6 accused are being sent to jail between 7 months and 4 years. This is the result:

The Court recognized the 3 main mitigating factors:

1. No personal gain. No church loss

2. Project is church’s vision and all members  know of it and supported it

3. They all acted in the best interest for the church and there’s no personal gain

As such they reduced the CBT charge frm penal code 409 to 406, which means there is no CRIMINAL intent and act but rather a technical fault that went against the law. Thus, they ‘reduced’the charges

Kong Hee to 3 yr 6mth

Tan Ye Peng 3 yr 2 mth

Chew Eng han 3 yr 4 mth 

John lam 1 yr 6 mth

Serina Wee 2 yr 6 mth

Sharon Tan 7 mth

Despite the prosecution team appealing for another appeal, the judges rejected it. Effectively, the case has come to an end.

Moreover, with good conduct, all 6 defendants can experience a1/3 remission, meaning in 1-1.5 yrs time they can be out. 

Question is, if there’s no intent of ‘robbing people of their money’ as naysayers on Facebook say, and there’s no loss, then why execute such harsh, cruel and unthinkable punishment? With all due respect, but sometimes I wonder— is it because of the public’s anger? Is it because the government doesn’t want to lose their standing amongst the people? Is it because they want to suppress our religious rights?

Think about this— the prosecutors have no concrete rebuttal that can garner no response from the defendants. Additionally, the defendants have argued their innocence. Why the court has judged them so, I won’t judge because I’m not in the posisiton to first place, but these are my views —and in my view, this is unfair.

When all is said and done, when all the dust settles, at the end of the day, God is unchanging. God remains faithful. God remains omnipotent. The Lord has shown His goodness, and because it’s especially evident in my life, I can’t deny it. Whether the sentence was justified, only the Lord can answer. I believe His justice will prevail. I thank Hid ever enduring grace and lovingkindness. We will not be crushed! We will not be shaken! He has overcome! 

“The works of His hands are verity and justice; All His precepts are sure. They stand fast forever and ever, And are done in truth and uprightness. He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: Holy and awesome is His name.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭111:7-9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Road Trip: USA (Part I)

This week I’m doing a brief overview of some of the not-often-sought-after points of interest in the following cities.

San Francisco:

If you’re looking for some city sights to behold, take the nearest Bay Area Rapid Transit (otherwise commonly known as BART) to the Embarcadero station. If that is too costly for you and your family, another convenient alternative would be Uber. BART is also liable for frequent pauses and minor breakdowns.

Additionally, you can take a short drive up to Twin Peaks, where it gives you the advantageous view of the Bay Area and quite possibly the Golden Gate as well. Just imagine the twinkling city lights beneath your very eyes, ain’t that romantic?

Remember the scene from ‘inside out’ where there was a tram in the background and a building with a clock on it? Take a short walk south and you will spot a clock tower with the flag on its roof. That’s the exact same building you’re looking at — the Ferry Building. It’s one of San Fran’s most iconic and historical buildings, with a plethora of shops and restaurants to indulge in.

Next, check out the Ghiradelli Square. As its name suggests, it is home to the former Ghiradelli Chocolate manufactory. It’s rich in history but also has a row of boutiques and restaurants.

Besides that, another tourist destination and point of interest is The Fisherman’s Wharf, home to seafood galore. If you’re an avid seafood consumer, this is the place to pop by — you’ll definitely love it. Major. Check out Scoma’s or Sabella & Latorre or any of the restaurants between a 2 block radius, you’ll do your tummy a huge favor.

Likewise, if you have more time in your hands, do head to Pier 39, another iconic tourist destination which exudes a very San Franciscan vibe.

Carmel:

A beautiful seaside town on the Monterey peninsula with fairytale-like cottages and galleries. A recent census showed that there were about a few ten thousand residents residing in the area, so that gives you a clue to the crowdedness of this city/town. It can be really misleading at first because you aren’t really sure where to categorize this place under. When I first cast my eyes on Carmel, it was as if I was transported back in time to when I first visited Europe, and a wave of nostalgia just hit me. It was almost seemingly identical to most European countries.

However, before you head down to Carmel, drop by 17-mile drive. It is privately owned so you have to pay an entrance fee of USD10, but rest assured it is worth it. Take the Pebble Beach exit from Highway 1 (exit 339A) towards 17-mile drive. Alternatively, you can head over to Pebble Beach straight if your schedule is packed. Both offer scenic (and if you’re fortunate enough) empty viewing areas overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean. Priceless. (unless if you’re talking about 17-mile drive, then maybe not so)

This small quaint town is a must-see for art enthusiasts, as this city boasts one of the most sophisticated and elite art pieces in Monterey County. These art galleries are synonymous with retail shops _ they kind of go hand in hand. When you see a retail shop, you are bound to discover an art gallery next to it. Its rich aesthetic history is credited to its early founders who were also artists. The early city council was also largely dominated by artists, even some of the mayors were artists! I wasn’t surprised to find the art galleries filled with crowds as the locals have a flair for appreciating the arts.

The Carmel Plaza isn’t really humongous as other malls are but it should accommodate most of your needs (or wants, depending on your perspective). Brands such as Anthropologie, J. Crew, Cole Hann, Khaki’s and other small boutiques are some shops located in this cozy plaza, which caters more for Generation X than Y.

Walk along Ocean Avenue and you will spot some famous brands like Coach. However, most of the other shops are high-end boutiques which will mostly suit the shopping habits of the rich. Coach has some pretty good service staff who try their hardest to fulfill your every request, and the prices aren’t crazy sky-rocket high like in Singapore (*wink wink*). Haha.

Stop by one of the wine houses for a short wine tasting session along Seventh Avenue and Lincoln Street. Carmel is widely known for their rich wine (same as Napa Valley, but only slightly lower in terms of quality) so popping by one of the shops wouldn’t be a waste of time.

Carmel has numerous newly-opened Meditarrean and fusion restaurants, so be sure to check them out. Dametra Cafe is one example. It serves a fusion of Italian and Meditarrean (more specifically Turkish) dishes and they definitely will send your taste buds soaring. If you’re heading out for a road trip, another option would be the Little Swiss Cafe. They serve authentic Swiss food, down to the sauces. For your next stop, head by Carmel Bakery, where they sell Starbucks-like coffee and tea and huge sweet pastries. Wrap up your food trail with dinner at the very cozy Village Corner. They have overhead heaters and if you’re a South-east Asian (like I am), you may request a table around the round fireplace. Overall, they all provide excellent service. And do not forget to tip. They love tips, especially the generous ones. (Most recommend a gratuity fee of 15% at least.)

Boutiques also somehow always feels crowded. I’m unable to comprehend it, but somehow everyone still ends up with a personnel attending to your every whim. You want a size bigger? You just ask it. You want another color? You name it. I’m just beyond speechless at their service, it truly inspires me and relieves me that there is still hope in the dying retail sector. (Well, at least in Singapore). Anthropologie is one great example, but other boutiques do provide great service as well. An extremely friendly bunch. Lastly, make sure to visit the Toy Store. Yes, it literally is called that. They also have unique California-themed souvenirs and countless other US-made toy products.

Lastly, the Carmel Mission is another destination for you devout folks out there. They sell merchandise like necklaces and rosaries and bracelets, and for a good sum of money (I’ve forgotten how much) you can pay a visit to the Mission founded by some missionaries from Spain. It has an explicit depiction of the Crucifixion, a very detailed history of the Missionaries and the spreading of the Gospel in California.The restroom is pretty clean too :). It’s a little way off from  Highway 1, but it’s worthwhile.

City Harvest Church: Emerge youth revival (Camp AMP)

CHC youth revival Camp AMP.
Amplify
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HI guys! I’m so stoked to share this with you! Recently, the youth camp that I attended, organized by my church, City Harvest Church (CHC), “Camp AMP”, is such an amazing camp, probably the only camp I will ever enjoy in my entire life (that’s how much I loathe going camps, with the exception of this camp).

I came to this camp, not expecting much to happen, however, quite the contrary, I experienced God in a whole new level, hearing Him speak so clearly to me, praying for each other, and moving in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The activities were exciting, but the session nights were even better. I was encouraged and blessed tremendously by all the pastors, how you reminded us of the fundamental and basics of our faith, which is a relationship with God, being a disciple of Jesus, and moving in the Holy Spirit.

Firstly, I was deeply blessed by Pastor Yi Lun’s word, it was something like a wake-up call for me. Oftentimes, life is uncertain, and the worries of life may distract us from Jesus. Our focus is shifted to our worries instead of God. But just as you said pastor, true wisdom is when we acknowledge God to be in control over everything and there’s nothing else that is certain except God, in other words, the fear of God. When our focus is fixed on Jesus, we are able to follow Him. You know, sometimes, we expected God to follow on our train when we accepted Him into our lives. But just as Matthew 16:24 says, we need to board God’s train because only He knows the plans that He has for us, He knows the route that we are supposed to take. Also, I was encouraged by what pastor shared, that despite the successes and failures, most importantly, it’s about the experience that draws you closer to God. Our successes and failures don’t define us, but it’s the experience we had with God that is above all else.

Secondly, I was really blessed by Pastor Ming Jing’s message about how to move to in the Holy Spirit. It stirred me to be more persistent to press into the presence of God and to seek the Spirit for wisdom for a Rhema word, a fresh revelation. Sometimes when I read the bible, I just pray, and nothing more. Other times when I don’t feel that tired, I just felt a little bit of the Holy Spirit and fall back asleep. Rarely, I fully immerse myself in His presence, kinda like how you’re at the pool, sometimes you go ankle-deep, other times you go fully submerged in the water. I think that I needed to linger longer into His presence to experience Him in a more profound way, to just flow like a river, like in John 7:38, and identify what the Holy Spirit is speaking to me. I felt a very tangible presence of God, and I just knelt down, worshiping and glorifying Him. Actually I went in front but due to time and space constraint, I was not prayed for, but from where I was standing at the back, I could feel the warmth, even though the back part of the room is the coldest part of the room, I just felt the warmth and the love of God.

Thirdly, I really think Pastor Ming’s word was speaking directly to me. The part where he shared how the philistines put back up their god, that only we can put back up the god, not some other external forces, was like something that pierced right through me. Quite a few times, I struggle with past guilt and shame, marvellousand that created fear in me. Sure, I was saved and had the Holy Spirit. However, whenever I felt defeated, I couldn’t feel God, but what I didn’t realize was that I kept putting back up this “god” in my life. I stepped forward to be prayed for and felt a rush of warmth, I couldn’t stop crying. I surrendered this area of my life to God, and slowly I overcome this issue with God’s strength. Then, the Holy Spirit encouraged me to pray with the people around me, and we began to bless each other. Also, I was so encouraged by what he shared, that we need to keep proclaiming God’s word over our lives daily so that we can filter the negativity in our hearts. And lastly, was greatly moved when pastor Ming encouraged us to quieten down our hearts and listen closely to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us, and I got it almost immediately. God reminded me of who I am in marvelous creation, that He knew me even before the foundations of the earth were laid, how He loved me so much. He also reminded me of the phrase “don’t go back”, the word “restore” and Jeremiah 29:11.

What I really took back with me was the power-packed experience of these 3 sessions, conveying with God and the tangible presence of the Holy spirit.