Festival of Praise concert scrapped over CHC troubles

The Festival of Praise (FOP), one of the biggest Christian concerts to be held in Singapore annually, has been cancelled this year due to the ongoing court troubles of five City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders.

The FOP, which attracts members from more than 30 churches in Singapore, brings together performers from overseas in a glitzy presentation.

Its well-attended shows are also said to be one of the most important events in the local Christian community.

But in a letter addressed to followers on its Facebook page last Friday, the event's founder and president, Canon James Wong announced the cancellation of what would have been the 26th edition of the concert. 

"It is with the heaviest of hearts that the Committee announces that Festival of Praise 2012 has been cancelled," he wrote.

Wong also pointed to the implication of CHC founder Kong Hee in a court case as the reason for the festival's cancellation.

"As you might know, Rev. Kong and City Harvest Church are currently undergoing a challenging period. In view of this situation, the Committee has decided not to go ahead with this year's Festival," Wong said.

The Festival of Praise concert this year was supposed to be held at the CHC auditorium at Suntec City as its usual venue, the Singapore Indoor Stadium, is not available for rental this year.

Kong is the executive director of the FOP, as he has been for the past few years. According to Wong, besides offering its venue, CHC had also offered manpower for hospitality, ushering and security duties for the festival.

Last month, Kong and four senior CHC leaders were charged in court for allegedly misappropriating church funds amounting to $50 million. They are out on bail of $500,000 each and their passports have been impounded. They will next appear in court on 25 July.

With that in mind, Wong urged, "We ask you to keep Rev. Kong Hee and City Harvest Church in prayer — they have faithfully served and supported the Festival of Praise for many years, so let us unite and support our brothers and sisters in Christ in this time of need."

News of the festival's cancellation came as a surprise to regular attendees, with many leaving comments of "sadness" and "disappointment" on the Facebook page.

But in response to some of these comments, organisers said: "It is not just about Rev Kong. His staff and members are heavily involved in this year's FOP. For the best interest of the church members, the Committee has decided to cancel for this year."

Still, some Christians that Yahoo! Singapore spoke they were looking forward to this year's show and are shocked by the latest development.

One of them, assistant creative director Sonny Lim, 37, attended last year's show at the Indoor Stadium with his wife and was eager to go again this year.

"It was entertaining, enlightening and a great opportunity for us to get together to praise our faith, so not having the chance to go again this year is disappointing," Lim said.

Attempts by Yahoo! Singapore to reach CHC for comments were unsuccessful.