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Pentecostalism and Charismatic Christianity in Southeast Asia: Church – Nation – World (1/2)

Panel Chair: Giovanni Maltese | Monday, August 24, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

Studies on Pentecostal/Charismatic movements in Southeast Asia have so far received only limited attention despite their public profile in Southeast Asian societies. Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians show a rising visibility in the public sphere – may it be via media, public prayer rallies and intercessory marches in mega-cities, through active candidacies in local and national political settings, as well as through community and social engagement. As an effect of the same global Pentecostal discourse that posits believers as vehicles of the Full Gospel to their immediate surroundings and the world, others have opted to stay out of a deeper worldly engagement and found new meaning in concentrating on individual transformation, holiness, evangelization, and building their own congregation and thereby giving them a higher profile in the public sphere as well. The interdisciplinary panel presents current research and case studies that interrogate the role of these religious movements in contemporary Southeast Asian societies.

Esther Berg

“Model Citizens for the Glory of God” – Engaging Singaporean Society

In 1975, Lee Kuan Yew, then prime minister of Singapore, openly acknowledged the contribution of Christian organizations in bringing forth outstanding citizen. The same time witnessed unprecedented growth of Christianity in Singapore in the wake of the so-called “charismatic renewals.” The sheer number of conversions in the 1980s and a perceived growing “religious revivalism” prompted the state to reconsider the role of Christianity in Singaporean society; charismatic Christianity in particular came to be considered a divisive force rather than contribution to nation-building. In 2002, the charismatic City Harvest Church began to pursue what they understood as “Cultural Mandate” aiming to be “relevant to contemporary culture” and to “serv[e] our society […] as successful model citizens.” Drawing onto City Harvest Church as exemplary case, this paper will explore how charismatic Christians negotiate their place within Singaporean society, a place characterized by a peculiar double-relation of symbiosis and opposition.

Matthias Deininger

Negotiating Difference and Belonging in a Plural Society: Christian Imaginaries and the State in Singapore

Over the last decades Singapore has become a culturally-significant hub for Christianity in Southeast Asia and, as such, is commonly claimed to be the Christian “Antioch of Asia”. The continued growth of evangelical Christianity in Singapore and its increasing public engagement and visibility, however, challenge the very ideas of the urban public sphere and the “secular” nature of the multi-confessional and multi-ethnic Singaporean polity. In an environment, where the government exercises strong legal control over all religious matters Christians are thus forced to develop flexible strategies to negotiate and translate their ethical positions and beliefs both within Singaporean society and in relation to the Singapore state. This paper explores how Christians in Singapore realize the imaginary of Singapore as the Christian “Antioch of Asia” and find ways to locate themselves within the nation as a rooted aspect of the national community without losing their evangelical and outward-oriented character.

Esmeralda F. Sanchez

The Weekly Appointment with El Shaddai DWXI-PPFI: A Way of Being Church

This paper discusses the central activity of the El Shaddai DWXI-PPFI, the “Weekly Appointment with El Shaddai” and its function within the broader practices of this worldwide unparalleled indigenous Catholic-charismatic mass movement. The researcher employs participant observation and in-depth interviews with the members of the movement. Findings show that the most awaited part in this activity is the Healing Message of Mariano “Brother Mike” Velarde, the founder of the movement. Healing functions as a symbol that includes individual as well as collective well-being, which translates in social-engagement and nation-building projects. Accordingly, the Word of God are seen as the foundation of any community and of all life.

Giovanni Maltese


Giovanni Maltese will address the issues raised in the previous papers.


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Open Sessions

Thematic Outline

University Map (pdf, 192 KB)