You can Net surf to your heart's content at Singapore's first Internet coffeehouse. Just don't spraypaint the walls.
The CyberNet Café throws a very different spin on the now familiar Internet café genre: here they serve up Christian salvation with their cappuccinos. Soothing canned music praises Jesus Christ, while over on the reference shelf, alongside back issues of Internet World and Wired, are tracts such as "A Nation Under God" and "The Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus."
"We want to use this as a place of witness," says Allen Lok Fun Luen, one of four Christian college friends who founded CyberNet. "Whenever the door is open, we can share the good news."
Twelve Acer 486 PC clones run Netscape and Quarterdeck browsers on a 64,000-bps leased line. The clean, well-lit café is essentially split down the middle with terminals on one side and gingham cloth-covered tables and chairs on the other, where patrons sip tea and play chess. Just keep your curry puffs, espressos, and Nasi Lemak (a dish of rice, chicken, sardines, egg, and chili peppers) away from the keyboards - Singapore's Ministry of Environment has banned computers and food from sharing the same tables, citing hygienic reasons.
In Singapore, traditional Christian values are revered as much as futuristic visions, and technology is valued for its business - and spiritual - potential. Most patrons are students, teachers, and young working adults, but the shop also attracts its share of pilgrims. Christian missionaries from Malaysia, Indonesia, and the United States, who've heard about the café through word-of-mouth and newspaper ads, often drop in to send email greetings to their churches back home. The café's attendants are more than eager to help them find Christian Web sites.
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H e a d e d t o t h e C y b e r N e t C a f é?
Story and photograph by Helen Chang
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