Acts Meditation 1:10-11; 3:21 – King on Clouds

J.J.

“10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”” – Acts 1:10-11

“[Jesus] whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” – Acts 3:21

Why does it matter that Jesus should return to earth in the same way that He ascended to heaven? What is this “same way” anyway?

Continue reading “Acts Meditation 1:10-11; 3:21 – King on Clouds”

Case Update: Liu Huaixi v Haniffa Pte Ltd [2017] SGHC 270 – IPA letter may be evidence of foreign worker’s salary amount

Significance: Singapore High Court rules that monthly salary amount stated in Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM’s) in-principle approval (IPA) letter to a foreign worker is indicative of worker’s salary where written employment contract is absent.

The Court in this case ordered department store company Haniffa to pay $6,500 for salary and payment in-lieu of termination notice to PRC worker Liu Huaixi who had worked as a warehouse assistant and supermarket storekeeper.

The IPA letter issued by MOM had stated that Liu would receive a basic monthly salary of $1,100. Generally, such IPA letters are issued on the basis of the employer’s declaration to MOM as to the expected monthly salary amount.

However, Liu was given in this case a salary of $680. The employer claimed that there was an oral contract, but the evidence was scant and the Court rejected finding such an oral contract.

Justice Lee Sieu Kin noted former Labour Minister Tan Chuan-Jin’s parliamentary speech on IPA letters and stated at [25]-[31] that the IPA letter is intended to keep foreign workers informed of their salary components in clear terms. When applying to the MOM for a work permit, the employer is required to declare the foreign worker’s basic monthly salary, allowances, and deductions. This is one of the bases upon which the MOM approves (or rejects) the application. The second policy objective is to shift more responsibilities of employing foreign workers onto the employers. The reason why IPA duties are added to employers is to broaden their scope of their responsibilities, and in the process, to allow employees to rely less on middlemen. An employer is required to declare the actual basic monthly salary of the foreign worker in applying for a work permit and to maintain the payment of such sum for the duration of that employment unless modified in accordance with the Employment Regulations. Given the statutory intent of the IPA, the court would take as factual an employer’s declaration of the basic monthly salary in the IPA because he must be presumed to be truthful when he made the declaration.

The Court also stated at [33]: “Indeed, I would go so far as to state that even if there was a written contract of employment which provides for a monthly basic salary of less than the sum stated in the IPA, the burden would lie on the employer to show why the IPA figure does not reflect the true salary. For example, the employer may adduce evidence to prove that the sum stated in the IPA is different from the amount declared by him in the application for the work permit and somehow an error had been made in the IPA by MOM. Or the employer can admit that he had made a false declaration in the work permit application, thereby attracting other consequences for himself”.

Comment: It is needless to say that employers should be truthful in making declarations in their applications for work permits to MOM. For a long time prior to this case, it was unclear what the status of IPA letters is in salary disputes. From my volunteering work with migrant worker NGOs, I have heard anecdotally that in many cases in the (former) labour courts, the IPA letter was sometimes treated as neither here nor there.

Now it is made clear that the IPA letters have evidential effect and arguably almost quasi-contractual effect. Of course, this is where there is no written employment contract, or good evidence of a binding oral employment contract. In any case, MOM regulations now require that key employment terms are in writing. This is helpful for foreign workers. At the end of the day, the starting point for justice and fairness has to be in clear expectations on all parties, and the clarity of these expectations (assuming there is no intentional exploitation, misrepresentation or otherwise) is best brought out where there are clear written documents which every party understood and signed on.

It is hoped that this decision will go some way to promoting clarity and certainty for employers and foreign workers. I hope also that black sheep employers will not now try to force foreign workers to sign on documents (e.g. to agree to lower the salary only after arriving in Singapore) the workers would likely disagree on but have no bargaining power to say no to.  I think it is important that workers should in such cases collate evidence of such instances if they are ever forced into them. For example, record the conversation with the employer where they voice our their objection and the employer pressures them to sign the documents anywhere and threatens to repatriate them if they do not.

Have We Disintegrated Mission and the Gospel? 

(7-10 minute read)

A Singaporean Christian was on his way for a short-term mission trip to a village outside Phnom Penh. He saw an injured man lying along the road. He thought to himself, if I can preach the gospel to him after I help this man, then I will go help this man. As he approached the injured man, someone else came and tended to the man. So the Singaporean stopped in his track, and continued on his way to his short-term mission trip. Was this Christian a Good Samaritan?

No? But that’s what many Singapore Christians and churches do in missions–a false view of missions which we inherited unthinkingly.

Continue reading “Have We Disintegrated Mission and the Gospel? “

Injustice is our problem: Why indifference is not an option

Have you been bullied in school or witnessed someone getting bullied?

I have.

Have you met employees who have been unfairly treated – not paid their hard-earned wages, not given adequate rest, mentally abused, physically abused?

I have.

Have you ever spoken to a foreign lady who was promised a job as a waitress in Singapore only to find herself working as a prostitute?

I have.

Have you heard from a person whose loved ones have been attacked, thrown in jail or even killed for their faith?

I have.

Have you ever ostracised someone — whether because of race, beliefs, dressing, mannerism, language, disability, gender or the colour of their skin?

I have.

I hope you see then we have a serious problem of injustice. Social injustice. All around us, there is injustice.

This has been the case since the fall of man in Eden. The first story we read of after humanity’s eviction from Eden is the murder of a sibling. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” was the defiant defence of the murderer.

Today, we are seeing unprecedented levels of modern slavery and human trafficking. The number of people displaced by conflict is larger than that during World War II. Wealth and income inequality are at an astounding level, with 1% of the world owning 99% of the world’s wealth. In Singapore, many migrant workers are systematically and individually unfairly treated, certain people groups like people with disabilities are economically marginalised, and yet other groups are socially marginalised.

The sobering news is that we are all participants of the injustice.

Today, the number of people displaced by conflict is larger than that during World War II. Wealth and income inequality are at an astounding level, with 1% of the world owning 99% of the world’s wealth.

We who lust after women and consume pornography act by the same cause which drives human traffickers exploiting women and girls for sex.

We who greed for that little bit more wealth, for that harder bargain, act by the same cause which drives exploitative employers and perpetrators of forced labour.

We who perceive people different from us with disdain act by the same cause which drives terrorists to kill people who do not share their same views.

We who say or do nothing about unfairness and injustice to people around us act by the same cause which resulted in the Holocaust: The genocide of about 11 million Jews, Poles, people with disabilities, people with same sex attraction, people with differing worldviews.

The worse news is that those of us who try to rectify the injustice are still doomed to be partakers of the injustice.

“WHAT DOES THE LORD REQUIRE OF YOU?”

Henri Nouwen wrote that in fighting injustice, we will realise that the wounds and needs underlying the injustice we fight against are the same wounds and needs – insecurity, bitterness, desire for affirmation, etc – underlying our own actions. “We too are part of the evil we protest against,” Nouwen wrote in his book, Peacework.

Throughout the time of God’s relationship with humanity, God has constantly demanded that they seek justice. The prophet Isaiah relayed God’s word: “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:17)

The prophet Micah summed up all of God’s demand of humanity as follows: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

The bad news is that none of us can meet this demand for justice. We are ourselves partakers of injustice.

There is however good news. Very good news. The good news is that since as long as humanity has been steeped in injustice, God has promised that a perfect King would one day come to bring perfect justice.

As Christians, our response to Jesus’ gracious sacrifice and salvation must be grace-fuelled justice-seeking.

This King is Jesus Christ. He was perfectly just. In all his relationships, he did right. His love for people brought inclusion and restoration.

Even so, that doesn’t solve the problem of pervasive injustice. King Jesus’ plan to bring justice to the world is this: By bearing the suffering, shame and spiritual consequences of injustice through bearing and dying on the Cross on behalf of the whole world, he released those who are found in him from God’s demand for justice. They are then free to pursue justice in the world in response to his grace. In other words, Christians are justified in Christ to be just.

This justice is to be first established through the community of King Jesus’ followers. Because they shall be transformed inside out by his grace.

The just community is then to go out into the world to establish justice and bring others into its fold.

Cosmic justice enables social justice. As Christians, our response to Jesus’ gracious sacrifice and salvation must be grace-fuelled justice-seeking.

WHERE THE CHURCH COMES IN

Look around us. All the brokenness and suffering and oppression is not meant to be. Throughout God’s word to his people, he calls for free and full inclusive participation of every person into a community which dwells with him.

As people of his covenantal community, this is our integral mission: The proclamation and demonstration of the Gospel of King Jesus, the manifestation of the Gospel by good works and good words, that all may be saved into a community of perfect justice and peace with God.

The early Church understood and practised this. When a deathly plague settled on the land in the Roman Empire, the non-Christians threw out their own sick family members to die. The Church not only cared for their own sick members but also the non-Christian people around them. The pagan Emperor Julian was affronted and ashamed by how noble the Church was.

This spirit of justice continued in the Protestant Reformers like John Calvin who established in Geneva, institutions, policies and efforts to care for the poor and sick through hospitals and the creation of employment for poor and refugees.

In Singapore, the early missionaries in the 1800s started with humble efforts of establishing small medical dispensaries for the poor locals, schools for all including girls many of whom were abandoned by their Chinese families, and shelters for the coolies who had been trafficked and exploited. Many local beneficiaries became Christians. They are our grandparents. They are the parents of our church leaders today.

The problem of injustice today is daunting for us. But we take heart in the fact that King Jesus is already there with the victims of injustice, and He calls His servants to join Him.

“Where I am, there my servant will be also” (John 12:26). Are we servants of King Jesus? Will we follow the King of justice who calls us to justice today?

This post first appeared on Thir.st at http://thir.st/blog/injustice-is-our-problem/

Advocating for Survivors of ISIS’s Genocide of Christians and Yzidis in Syria and Comforting the Oppressed and Trafficked in the Middle East

Advocating for Survivors of ISIS’s Genocide of Christians and Yzidis in Syria and Comforting the Oppressed and Trafficked in the Middle East

This short film tells the stories of many Syrian Christians who watched their loved ones tortured and killed at the hands of men who hated their religion and their God. The martyrs were unfazed at the hands of their tormentors. “I am blessed because I am persecuted for my Yeshua,” cried a lady who was tied to a pole in the middle of the street in Aleppo, spat on and punched day after day. A man was crucified in the city, having the glory to die in the same manner as his own saviour. These were the stories I heard tonight from Jacqueline and Yvette Isaac, a mother-daughter team of Egyptian Christians who started Roads of Success, a humanitarian NGO which provides support and care to the downtrodden and oppressed, and advocates for those whose stories have been suppressed.

Continue reading “Advocating for Survivors of ISIS’s Genocide of Christians and Yzidis in Syria and Comforting the Oppressed and Trafficked in the Middle East”

New Horizons

Today, I will be taking a leap of faith.

Yesterday was the last day of my employment with Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP.

Today, I’ll be joining a new firm Covenant Chambers LLC, as a self-employed lawyer, without fixed income, building my own legal practice, finding and relating to my own clients, serving the rich and the poor the man on the street and the SMEs, doing pro bono and paid work; I seek to pursue justice and peace with as much integrity as I can have, empathy as I can muster, and dedication I can afford.

Why did I do this? Because I sensed this to be my calling this season. I am pursuing a motivation not rooted in money but autonomy, growth and purpose as a lawyer, as an advocate and as a counsellor.

Here’s the view from my new office, and here’s to new horizons.

 

newview

Household Incomes and the Future of Jobs in Singapore

I read the Straits Times reports “Household income up, with biggest rise for poorer families“, “Policy changes ‘helped boost wages at bottom’“, “Face up to slower growth and productivity push: Lim Swee Say“, “Better quality jobs in future amid slower growth: Lim Swee Say” (27 February 2016) with interest.

In short, households with at least 1 working adult saw their household income increase in 2014. The bottom 10% households saw the largest increase with 10.7%; bottom 20th percentile was 8.3%; bottom 30th percentile was 7.2%. This was attributable to the Government’s redistributive policies including the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS). The other reason attributable is the tightening of foreign labour. This increased wages especially at the bottom percentile income-earners.

Continue reading “Household Incomes and the Future of Jobs in Singapore”