Singaporean missionary Jonathan Neo sings a Christian song mid-flight. Screenshot from video of Jack Jensz Jr.
A jovial young man with a guitar walks up the aisle with a small choir of other young people. They break into song and serenade those around them with a contemporary Christian hymn familiar to anyone who has been to an evangelical church on a few Sundays.
It’s an awkward but familiar scene, in which enthusiastic believers proselytize their faith to strangers in a public setting. Except this time it takes place 30,000 feet in the air aboard an EasyJet commercial flight, as a widely mocked viral video of the incident from last weekend showed.
“We’re taking this flight for Jesus,” the man, identified as 24-year-old Singaporean Jonathan Neo, captioned an IG reel showing the video. The video was originally posted to TikTok and Instagram on April 9 by teammate Jack Jensz Jr, but went viral over the weekend.
Some passengers – probably companions of Neo and Jensz – sang. Other passengers pulled out their phones to take their own videos. One woman smiled as she watched Neo lead what he called ‘worship’, while others were less pleased with the unsolicited religious performance, with the seated man closest to Neo looking completely unwell. comfortable.
“I asked the stewardess if we could worship on the plane. I’ve never done this before. She says, ‘Wait, I’ll ask the pilot,’ Neo said in the caption. “She’s coming back Let’s go. Got my team. We love. We preach. It’s wild.
Neo’s band then sang “How Great is Our God,” a staple of Christian church services. Jensz took video from a nearby seat, panning across the cabin and out the window, catching a glimpse of the passing clouds. “Worship Jesus from 30,000 feet in the air!” reads his caption. Sharing the video, Neo added, “We worshiped in six languages.”
While Neo’s social media accounts are now private and his IG reel is inaccessible, Jensz’s original posts on IG and TikTok are still live. Images are now all over social media, with at least 35 million views on Twitter, and at least 563,400 views on TikTok. It sparked a flood of comments, with many commenters expressing that putting the church on a plane, where passengers had nowhere to go, was inappropriate and offensive.
“I would be exhausting my flight attendant’s call button”, mentioned a Twitter user. “You wouldn’t be okay with someone who looks like me singing about Allah on a plane so what he’s doing is unacceptable too,” said a TikTok user sporting a beard and mustache. full. “Inappropriate and honestly scary.”
US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American Muslim, retweeted the video with the caption: “I think my family and I should have a prayer session the next time I am on a plane. How do you think this will end?
But amid the vitriol, some defended the impromptu performance. “I got the cast of The Lion King, a military singing group, a quartet of barbers and a few others (mainly amateur groups). Sometimes annoying but not a crime, especially if they asked the pilot” a user tweeted.
In a post on IG on Monday, Australian Pastor Jensz said his team was returning home after a month helping refugees on the Ukraine-Poland border. The team had asked if they could “sing a song to bring hope and joy” as there were many Ukrainians on board. The pilot and flight attendants agreed and introduced them to the passengers before letting them sing, Jensz said.
“I have no comment on what’s going on politically,” Jensz told VICE World News when asked about the backlash over the viral video. “Our heart in all of this was just to share God’s love with people. We spent weeks in Ukraine helping Ukrainian refugees. We helped by donating food, humanitarian aid and praying with them.
Neo could not immediately be reached for comment. In an April 11 article from the Christian The thirstNeo, who recently completed his studies in London, said he had just backpacked through France and Spain and was living in a missionary community in South Africa when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
“The Lord said very clearly: Go. I have never heard anything so clear! Neo said when he felt the need to go to Ukraine.
Neo then traveled to places in Poland where Ukrainian refugees gathered, strumming his guitar and singing for them. A Twitter user recognized Neo in the viral posts and shared his own video of Neo and his band.
“I just spent a week volunteering at the train station in Przemysl, Poland, just across the border from Ukraine and saw the same people there,” the caption reads. “They were playing with Ukrainian refugees stuck for hours waiting for transport, who had just fled the bombings of Kharkiv and Mariupol.”
This video of Neo also drew the ire of commentators, with some saying it was not what the refugees needed at this moment. In the The thirst article, Neo said he and his band offered to sing for the refugees to let them know they weren’t alone.
“People are starting to cry. Literally crying,” he said.
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This story has been updated to reflect that the song sung by Jonathan Neo is a gospel hymn.