Church-goers locked out in dispute over lease

Other News Materials 22 March 2008 05:49 (UTC +04:00)

Members of a Greek Orthodox Church found themselves locked out of their place of worship in Singapore while other Christians were observing Holy Week leading to Easter, news reports said on Saturday. ( dpa )

The congregation of the Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church numbering 50 Greeks, Russians and Singaporeans found the locks to their place of worship changed on Wednesday and movers carting away items.

"We saved some things like church relics, but they took away the rest, including the pews and the holy table from our altar, which only the priest could touch," The Straits Times quoted Seraphim Lim, the church committee's president, as saying.

The parishioners have been renting the first floor of a three-story shop building from the Cheng Fong Company for 2,000 Singapore dollars (1,459 US dollars) a month since 2001.

Han Ong Guan, whom the church-goers claimed was their landlord and to whom they paid rent, denied they had been paying him and told the newspaper the building was sold years ago, and was then sold again a few months ago.

A typographical error on the lease appears to be at the root of the problem, the report said.

The tenancy agreement said the church had the unit for 36 months from February 2006, but the stated dates that follow put the expiry as January 31 this year.

Lawyer Rakeh Vesu said the error on the lease was "very clear" since the contract explicitly says the lease runs for 36 months, the report said.

The church's services have been suspended while the congregation looks for another meeting place.

However, the parishioners will not miss Easter Sunday services because Orthodox Christians go by a different church calender than other Christian denominations and celebrate the holiday April 27.