My Bersih experience

Written and compiled by Chrisanne Chin (CCM Youth Moderator)

Bersih and Biblical Advocacy. Bersih has special significance for me. It was in 2007 when I had my first encounter with biblical advocacy and justice issues. Thanks to Bersih1.0, this led to CCM Youth’s inaugural participation in the rally. The impact was immediate. Within four months, this culminated into one of the greatest “tsunamis” in Malaysian history in the 2008 March elections. That “experiment” led me to realise the vacuum in biblical advocacy, and the need to look into justice issues more deliberately.

Figure 1 Elaine Teh, our media and social justice coordinator, endorses our support for Bersih 2.0

Bersih 2.0 Endorsed. In 2010, CCM Youth became one of the many NGOs that officially endorsed Bersih2.0, also known as the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections. When Bersih2.0 decided to hold the rally, we made a commitment to stand in solidarity with them. My excitement was tinged with a deep sadness, as I watched the government machinery, media and the political rhetoric spiral out of control, demonizing everything good that Bersih2.0 stood for. I despaired at the amount of hate, lies and unfair statements made against the Coalition.

Figure 2 Bersih2.0 peaceful marchers on 9 July 2011

Entering the Matrix. The planning was “interesting”! Text messages and emails to each other were laced with code words from watching too much of Matrix! At the back of my mind, I knew that the group coming would be larger than the first, but I was most concerned for the safety and welfare of the young people who came and joined us from many churches – even independent churches came as well.
Planning included what would go into our bag packs, which we called “The Red Pill”. Each one contained lemons, onions, salt, wet towel, medication – neatly packed in Ziploc bags – with raincoat, bottled water, and identity cards, just to protect us from the tear gas and the water cannons and to prepared for the possibility of arrests! Each of us had a small first aid kit to bless others in case they got wounded from cuts. One brought an inhaler for others to use. The team very reluctantly left their favourite yellow BERSIH
T-shirts behind.

Figure 3 Derek sunbathing in the middle of Federal Highway!

Resting in Prayer. We spent the night together in prayer, praying especially that God would intervene and send rain to wash away the effects of the tear gas and water cannons. The memories of Bersih1.0 were still fresh as I remembered God’s faithfulness and care then too. God gave us a word to rest in Him, and not to be anxious. We even had time to catch a movie together – Transformers! By morning, we spent the time together again in prayer, praise and worship, as in 2
Chronicles 20. The teams were reminded again to go forward in praise and thanksgiving, praying for the nation as we walked towards the city. Very soon, our ears and eyes were peeled to the internet, as news began flowing in from as early as 10am that tear gas had already been fired on people gathering. Text messages and updates were flowing in thick
and fast. The air was thick with anticipation.

Figure 4 Helicopters overhead as marchers got together

The Long Walk. By 12.30pm, we walked out – kept our eyes on the 2pm rendezvous time to reach Stadium Merdeka, but otherwise, the possibility of being redirected to the Istana was also on the back of our minds. A total of nineteen of us were part of this motley crew. Safeguards were put in place, we prayed together once more, and we broke up into 4 teams walking separately. We had “Morpheus” to coordinate and alert us on danger points. I decided to take the last team so that I would be able to monitor those in front. As for me, I decided to take with me only my identity card and my mobile phone. Like David – too much armour had become a burden!
We split our group into pairs as we saw more helicopters overhead, with policemen and Special Branch officers in plain clothes almost every 500 metres. I teamed up with Timothy Ho, from Klang Presbyterian Church member, who also works for Hannah Yeoh. The teams had crossed safely into the city via Kampung Attap route and Brickfields, leaving only both of us to make our way, but we were warned of the police truck ahead of us. As we walked past the Black Maria police truck, one policeman stopped us from entering the city. He explained to us that things were heating up, and it was too
dangerous to enter.

Figure 5 Tim and me in the Black Maria!

The Arrest. When both Tim and I asked again to be allowed to go in, the policeman’s eyes suddenly spotted Tim’s buttoned-up collared shirt. Suspicion aroused, he demanded that Tim unbuttoned his shirt. To my surprise, Tim had indeed hidden his yellow Bersih T-shirt inside! The policeman was totally angered, and scolded both of us – Kek tak nak makan, nak makan ubi kayu pulak You would forgo your cakes, and prefer to chew tapioca? – meaning that we were both foolish enough to give up our comfortable lives for time in prison!) At this juncture, both our identity cards were surrendered, and Tim and I were immediately detained and asked to enter the Black Maria. It was about 1.45pm then.

God’s Providence. The moment we climbed up into the Black Maria, it began to rain. We rejoiced in God’s timing as He kept us dry in the nick of time. Not only that, we had “front row seats” to what happened immediately after. FRU trucks, police cars and trucks started to stream in rapidly as the people marched in from Brickfields, and flowed in also from town. FRU officers came running with their batons and shields, tear gas being fired rapidly into the crowd coming in. I felt the tear gas in my throat and in eyes, but it was only a very light discomfort as the torrential rain that followed came just in time to wash all the effects away. I was praising God the faithful One! I got busy tweeting and making phone calls. Just as the rain stopped and trickled to a drizzle, Tim and I were asked to leave the Black Maria and both of us were escorted up to the very front gates of the Istana Negara – my prayer came true even under stranger circumstances. I WAS AT “MAINFRAME”! Tim and I were subsequently separated – Tim was told that he was under arrest and would be sent to Jinjang, and me to Pulapol. To be honest, I was afraid as I would then be separated from Tim, and all alone. But I remembered that God was with me. I was taken in a saloon car, and well treated. But the police officer warned me that my phone would be confiscated the moment I arrived at Pulapol.

Tweeting under detention. Pulapol looked like a labyrinth. By the time I got to the detention centre, I was totally overwhelmed by the sea of humanity – what looked like thousands of people sitting under huge marquees. Everyone entering the huge complex was handcuffed, except me. I wondered as to how the police were to work through taking the statements from the thousand people there! It was paperwork headache of mass proportions! I realised how God had granted me great favour. Even my “blackberry” was safe by my side! So I decided to tweet while doing my utmost to conserve as much of battery power as possible, and keep everyone informed. However, I was quite cautious as I had a policewoman by my side. By the time I had given my statement at least three times to three very disinterested, but smiling policemen, I took my place together with the hundred-odd women – all in their “tudungs”. I was the only Chinese woman then. They didn’t ask me to sign anything either. asked God why He brought me here. In that quiet moment of calm and solitude in the midst of noisy chatter, I was reminded what I prayed before we left. I prayed that we would protect, than be protected; to bless, than to be blessed; to reconcile, than be reconciled; to heal, than be healed. I prayed – blessed the police, blessed the detainees, and prayed that they may know true transformation in their hearts. The police at Pulapol were exemplary, kind and thoughtful. Sitting there with nothing to do, we started to pick small conversations that always started with “Hello, how did you get detained?” Some stories were awe inspiring, some were funny, and some were just plain bystanders – wrong place at the wrong time. A few were hauled up just because they were found to have salt in their bags!

Figure 6 New found friends – awe inspiring people – Zulie – far left – who leads an Islamic NGO, and Mak Yah on far right – 65 years old and continues to march alongside anything that’s for justice and Bersih!

I met tough yet articulate women from all walks of life – some from right here in the Klang Valley, from Trengganu, from Johor and even from far- off Langkawi. There was a great air of unity – the laughter, the anger, the pain of watching all this unfold. One lady lamented, “Ini bukan cara layan rakyat.” (Meaning “This is not the way to treat your citizens.”) There were schoolgirls as young as seventeen, and charming old ladies as old as sixty- five. We had a laugh, and joked about our next rally! No doubt we were tired and drained but we hung on together, encouraging each other. Friendships were struck. “Tak menyesal,” was the word – no regrets! Such commitment!

It was humid after the rain. As truckloads of cuffed demonstrators continued to stream in, one on a stretcher, some ladies just whispered, “Kesian”. By 6pm, the police arranged for food for the detainees.

Figure 7 Dinner at Pulapol – but I didn’t eat as I wasn’t hungry.

I didn’t feel hungry – but smiled to myself as I was reminded of the joke we
passed to each other about eating “curried rice’, i.e. being imprisoned. The IGP paid a visit, and I watched his thoughtful look at the mass of human beings in front of him. I was told that lawyers were not allowed entry into Pulapol; huge throngs were outside, including family, friends and lawyers. Several members of Suhakam were given permission to interview the detainees. My new found crazy friend Rosnani was given an inhaler by one of the Suhakam members. I saw two members of the media being allowed to take pictures of the detainees, but under the watchful eye of the police. We were then informed that our identity cards would be returned to us, and that we were free to go. There was much relief as names were read out one by one. By 8.20pm I was released, taken out by truck. Before I got down, I was reminded by the men not to forget our struggle! What amazing unity and solidarity! “HIDUP RAKYAT!”

Reflection. I have not had the opportunity to follow the YouTube videos that have been posted. When I got back safely home, I was inundated with phone calls, wish wishers, relieved friends, elders, pastors, church leaders, you name it! It took my at least four hours just to clear the phone messages! I was physically exhausted. By next morning, Tim told me that he was safely out of the lock up. A huge relief and a big thank you to God.

Being in it was far better than watching it. Some people call me a hero. I don’t think so really. There are many greater and better heroes out there, those who got in and braved the tear gas and water cannons. There are so many more fine individuals better than myself, for I am but the world’s most reluctant activist – and God can vouch for that! The testimonies and pictures that I saw brought fresh memories of the brew of my emotions coming together – of fear, pain, joy, peace, laughter and tears – all in a day.

I weep for my country’s leadership, so blinded and hardened in heart against its lovely people – for their evil acts of divide and rule, and creating false notions that cause hatred in hearts of men by politicising anything and everything under the sun. I found great joy in being a vessel that can be used by God to bless others. For me, my Bersih march was my personal act of worship to my most high God, who loves justice and righteousness and always has a heart for His created beings. I saw heaven in action. I saw Jesus’ name raised over the nation – to “clean” the streets of demonic presence. And we have such a great God, such a loving prayer-answering God. It’s great to work with Him to bring about justice to the nation.

Am I ready for Bersih 3.0? Definitely. I promised my new found friends at Pulapol. I thought of the song “History maker” by Delirious before I started walking. I asked God if He would give me a chance to be a small history maker in His story one day. And what a historic day 9 July 2011 that was! This is only the end of a beginning. The fight for justice will always be long and hard, and we would never have achieved our objectives if we thought we could do it in a day. There is much to do, and we need to work harder, get tougher, pray and ask God for a spiritual awakening!

And here are just some of the reflections of some of our team members for your benefit:

1.Kirby Teoh – Praise God, you are safe and sound. As for team 2, we detoured to stay free from CID, we lost our way to Kuen Cheng 2 and had to regroup and we were held up from going further. My whole desire is to pray for the city shalom peace. The Lord’s protection upon Bersih, and that righteousness and justice of Jesus to prevail one day in Malaysia. Yeah to me the work of labour has only just begun and all the children
should press on and intercede for the nation in full contrite spirit.

Figure 8 Dante and Brian lying in the middle of the Federal Highway!

2. Dante Lum I’m going to sing NegaraKu to honour the Lord before I sleep. So blessed to march with my fellow Malaysians in solidarity. Praise the Lord! God is teaching me about faith. To always trust in Him by deeds. Words are not enough. That’s what He’s been showing me the whole time. The highlight to me was the holy rain pouring down from heaven. It was too awesome. In life, we either stand up and make ourselves counted or continue to suffer in silence. I choose to stand up. So do more than 50K fellow Malaysians in the rally. And we have not even counted those who couldn't join us, incl. overseas. All in all, there are millions who are saying enough is enough. The rest continue to talk and talk. Today God gave me a compassion for the 5-O for the 1st time ever. Please don't hate/blame them. They get paid peanuts to carry out a tough task. Many were merely following orders & probably didn't have a clue how to handle an overwhelming situation. We'd probably falter ourselves if in their shoes. Except for a few bad eggs, most actually did their jobs v well yesterday. Some were quite polite too. Shocking but true.

3. Darrel Khar Dude we owned them! God bombarded the city with humans! My main take way was that Malaysian is ONE Malaysia when revival comes upon this land. I am proud to be a Malaysian citizen 9th July. Ini baru dikatakan 1Malaysia! And now I see that there is hope. Hope that will change hearts to turn to God. It’s just amazing. And in 3.0 and I want to march among in the groups – with Muslims, Indians, everyone! (The shop owner asked if we were Bersih supporters and generously told us that we didn’t have to pay for our food and drinks after that! Great unity and love, man!)

4. Ashriel Brian – We rocked today! This is why we have to stand up and make our stand. We can debate about the importance of politics all day long, but one day, you will realise these are the people who protected the sanctity of our nation's integrity and institution. Hidup rakyat I’m annoyed at the great majority of people who claim that politics is a waste of time, and how they would rather be fence sitters and water the garden in the process. I'm "simply unhappy" at how the government treats its people as fools. I'm simply unhappy at how this nation is brain dead in recognising the fact that we have ourselves to blame when inflation rises, or when corruption is evidently running rampant. I'm irritated at apathy and lethargy. I'm angry at my own hypocrisy and everyone else's when we talk to so much and we do nothing about the situation. I'm pissed at how videos show police treating the rest of us human beings like trash. I'm furious at how the police stood by watching the same man they handcuffed, just slip away into unconsciousness while they stood by doing nothing, daring to say "tak ada gunting". I'm angry at how Malaysians are so engrossed in our self-centeredness. Not just Malaysians. Every other human being. Because the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference. So yes, that's basically it. Next time we stay in KL itself. I want to be part of the action. MV too far! And too risky. Most of us "perished" before even joining in with the main rally group!

5. Joyce Thong – My experience: peaceful rally, awesome sense of unity…truly 1Msia! 9 July – the day Malaysians in & outside the country stood up for justice. Glad to be part of it to witness God showing who is really in charge & the maturity of Malaysians. Was at the gathering where the swelling crowd greeted tear gas with cheers. God's favour throughout our prayer walk and wonderful opportunities to testify Him. The rain marks the beginning of cleansing for our beloved Malaysia!

6. Timothy Ho – What I experienced on the 9th of July is Malaysia. We are decent people; we are a people of quality. Those in power who are selfish or bigots or who try to divide the people – that is not Malaysia, and they are not deserving of Malaysia. Those who try to taint and politicize the beautiful events of that day are not deserving of Malaysia. We are a people who deserve much more than that.

We came out and proved that yesterday. It has proved to me, to the marchers who were there, to my friends, what Malaysia is. And so, on 9th July, Malaysia won.

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” John 15:8

Talk is cheap. Anyone can say he is a Christian. In fact, Jesus tells us that on the last day many will say “Lord, Lord” who never really knew Jesus. We must do more than say we are Jesus’ disciples. We must bear fruit like we are Jesus’ disciples. When we look and act like Jesus, it shows that he is good enough to save us, valuable enough to be followed, and strong enough to change us. God is not glorified by nominal Christians who never lift a finger to serve others, or egg-headed believers who never pray or evangelize, or cranky disciples who show zero love, joy, patience, or kindness. God is glorified when we follow Jesus in all of life and bear fruit as his disciples.”

7. Elaine Teh – Never walked this far around KL. Eye opener!!! Amazing!!!! Today we witnessed tens of thousands of Malaysians who have voted with their feet by exercising their constitutional right despite all the threats!

8. Jen Li – Well, to tell the truth, before going I really had lots of fear because of the many negative comments of my Christian friends who knew I was going. But as I stepped forward all fear had just gone. Amazing. I knew it was God who gave me lots of strength and courage to go. At first it was more of going against the Govt. And as we prayed as a team. God keep revealing "Selah" and "The battle belongs to the Lord". On the event day, when I saw more and more people rise up, I knew it was God's doing. It was truly God's battle. We just prayed for rain and it rained. Praise the Lord!! He's a prayer answering God. So amazed at how much God loves us. I also realized at home, God's heart was broken too to see sinners defeated. Why I say this is because God loves the sinners too but not their sins. He loves each one of us very much because He created us. Thank God for our team of prayers for the whole night prayer. It was an awesome all night prayer. Many others also saw visions. All glory and praise to God for the victory!! The Spirit of the living God was upon the hearts of Malaysians. True revival in Malaysia. Can never forget this awesome moment in my life. Thank you for organizing this. Had a great time with all of you. May God continue to bring us together to stand in the gap in prayer for our nation. God bless Malaysia!!! Thank You Father, for helping Malaysians to rise up. So proud to be a Malaysian. Finally God set us free from fear and intimidation. Thank You also Father for giving us the strength, boldness and courage to go for prayer walk on this day. It was truly God's battle. God's hand was upon it all d time. It was a peaceful rally as we prayed for it. Indeed our God is a praying answering God. Thank you everyone for praying!

9. Derek Tan – For starters I felt that we marchers were at a disadvantage to cops with eyes in the sky. If there had been a group of people who had bikes in the city and walkie talkies and could direct the entire crowd to congregate then together march to Istana, then that would have been excellent. I believe that God is shining light and His light is exposing the deeds of the darkness, and many more are coming to light. I also believe it is part of all the prayers that have been said for the nation and God is definitely listening. But now for more Christians it is time to stand up. Evil has triumphed because too long we have laid back and done nothing. Like the rain – physical rain as a symbol of spiritual rain on the land and He is listening. I remember that was one of the first songs “Holy Spirit Rain Down” I felt we should sing at the “MyToast” breakfast place! Christians must rise up and march on like the “unashamedly ethical” movement. And James 4:17 says if we know the good we ought to do and do not, we sin. Maybe we can do something like what the Perlis mufti actually suggested – i think it’s a good suggestion – the Bersih committee should ask people to put little flags, wear yellow every Saturday, put flags on their cars, and we print and distribute car stickers, and so on.

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