Good News For Your City: Kuala Lumpur

Good News For Your CityThis entry is a part of an on-going blog series called The Good News, which is taking place throughout the Easter Season, from Easter to Pentecost. A full list of the contributors can be found here. Sivin’s local city newspaper is The Sun of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia . Here is Sivin Kit on the Good News.

THE GOOD NEWS

There has been a lot of bad news in Malaysia for quite a while. Perhaps more will come. The fabric of Malaysian society in public and in private are faced with forces pulling people apart and pulling people down, crushing dreams and aspirations, and sowing seeds of distrust or destruction.

We are moving into the 6th By-election in the coming month after a roller coaster ride in Malaysian politics since the last 12th General Elections March 8, 2008. Corruption, power play, law suits, racial religious sentiments played up, political coups and turmoil occupy our newspaper every day until I have concluded subscribing to cable TV is a waste of money when reading the front page has more twists and turns.

We have had a new prime minister sworn in during April 2009. But we don’t know whether it means we are geared to a better future. That is front page news.

Out of the sight of the public eye, there battles with cancer, struggles with credit card debt, shaky marriages, children at risk, no job security, refugees on the run, the list goes on and on. Life must go on, somehow. Of course, there are those who will say it is not that bad. Maybe, but we have to tell it as it is. In all honesty, we all know it is not that good either. Let’s agree it is a mixed bag of news for now.

So, What is the Good News for our city? What is the Good News for the people living in Malaysia?

The story is not over yet.

As a Christ-follower, I do not want to and cannot slip into hopelessness, numbness or worst cynicism. On Easter Sunday, I heard the good news again – in the form of a personal reflection after meditating on the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to a young church found in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).

“Everything can change, will change, or more precisely has changed because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every change we desire, or better God desires for the good of the world and all people works through us not out of obligation but from an overflow of the grace of God in us, and working out through obedience and an ongoing re-orientation to the reality of our Living Lord.”

It is good news when after I sat and listened to my new Buddhist monk friend share about how and why she became one, the parting words were, “How did you become a pastor?” We will continue this conversation again as we work together to share strategies on Religion and Society for common good in a project directed to the government and the public.

It is good news when more than a few Muslim friends who are unhappy with the way Islam is used for political mileage in our country, have begun to sit down and work things through with respect in small steps. It begins as simple as an email exchange on a controversial topic on the use of the word “Allah” to translate “God” in the national language Bahasa Malaysia which we have done for ages.

It is good news when two car loads of people could sit with new friends who ran away from their home country and have been stuck here for the past 5 years weaving palm crosses celebrating Christ and God who has not abandoned them. There was no short term possibility yet, mere presence of people who cared enough to be there was sufficient for now.

It is good news when the life story, convictions and dreams of my 23 year old friend and fellow Christ-follower, Markus impacted almost every sphere of society that is fragmented by race, religion, national identity, economic standing, and politics. He died in his sleep on February 4, 2009.

Yes, even death cannot stop this change where glimpses of the kind of world God is dreaming of is caught by those who stop and take notice. A fresh look at Christ’s resurrection invites us to stop and take notice of the influence and ongoing impact of this person Jesus Christ – his life, his death and most of all his resurrection, who’s story is not frozen in the past but continues in the present.

There’s something good in this story of Jesus. The good news is there is something good which can and will happen here and now even in the midst of a world full of bad news, death and destruction. God is not finished with us yet. I think the good Archbishop of Canterbury says it quite well:

“Resurrection has started. How do we know? Not by working it out and adopting it as well-founded opinion, not by deciding that this idea suits us, not by getting all the arguments straight, but because we are dimly aware of something having changed around us.”

The KitsSivin is the Husband of one wife May Chin, and Father of three children Gareth (7), Elysia (4) and Ewan (1). He’s the pastor of Bangsar Lutheran Church, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia which was resurrected in 2000.

He finds some time to be involved with Friends in Conversation and The Micah Mandate. He is wondering whether he will ever finish his part-time Masters of Theology with The South East Asia Graduate School of Theology. Finally, He is addicted to Potato Chips and blogging at his garden. He needs prayer is all areas.

Originally published at JR Woodward’s Dream Awakener. Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India. Republished with permission.

The Washing Of The Feet

Washing Of The Feet

The whole practice of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet has always been intriguing for me. Occasionally, I read about it in the papers where a prominent church leader does the ritual before the watchful eye of the media. I’ve done it a couple of times myself in various church settings. In fact, I was just telling my Muslim friend the other day, while chatting on Facebook, that we would be adapting the foot washing ritual during our Maundy Thursday Meal. First, she asked me what Maundy Thursday is. Then, she asked what I understood by the foot washing practice itself. Here’s our little conversation…..

Friend

wats maundy

Sivin

let me find a link
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maundy_Thursday
wiki as usual
shorter one
http://www.thisischurch.com/christianinfo/maundythursday.htm

Friend

i’m checking it out

Sivin

hahah
what we r doing is adapting it and we’re having a full meal just like Jesus did with his disciples before his crucifixion

Friend

owh…ok..

Sivin

we got lamb, homecooked food and we have some story telling, some toast

Friend

sounds real gud!!!

Sivin

but in our case wine lah
then footwashing

Friend

do u hve re-enacment of the washing of the feet?

Sivin

im adapting it too
trying to get a boss to wash an employee
parent a child
and then vice versa
as a symbol of breaking hierarchy

Friend

cool!
that wud encourage the break of feudalistic attitudes

Sivin

jesus did it
so follow lah

At the very least I wanted to show that the whole practice of washing the feet of others is not merely a mindless, meaningless ritual and if I were to take it one step further, I would also want to show that this practice performed by Jesus has tremendous implications for life and leadership today.

I don’t deny that many Christians do things without appreciating its origins but once we heal the disease of historical amnesia then we can rediscover everything we do and practice as followers of Jesus Christ is full of meaning and mystery instead of succumbing to the temptation towards transforming everything into cold tradition.

This is most apparent when it comes to seasons like Christmas, Good Friday and Easter (as well as other Christian festivals), Here on earth, we expertly miss the point in all the adventures that we throw ourselves into. On one hand, we engage in Christian practices with no heart and no understanding. We give bad press to the word ‘ritual’. On the other hand, we start thrashing everything by giving little bits and pieces away, either by reinventing some new ways to do things to or to claim to go back to some former way (usually re-enacting the Old Testament festivals), only to start cluttering the future with our own so-called “better rituals”

I think it is timely for us to draw from the words of Jesus, especially in the Message, from the conversation he had while he was washing his disciples’ feet.

“If you’ve had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you’re clean from head to toe. My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene.”
~ Jesus Christ, John 13:10 (The Message)

I wonder, what are our major concerns today? What occupies our minds and our efforts daily? What do we pay attention to in our waking hours (and in some cases even in our dreams or nightmares)? In short, what are the “hygiene” issues bogging us down?

What if, we follow Jesus’ lead and re-frame the whole conversation in terms of the power to serve, to contribute, to let go, to empower, to be holy and to put others above ourselves? With Jesus leading the way, surely we can turn this whole thing around when we pay attention on his “holiness” concerns, can’t we?

And if we take it even further, on Easter, the Resurrection of Jesus, signifying his overturning of the ultimate “dirt” which would be thrown to the son of God – dead and buried, totally changes the way we look at everything he did during his lifetime. It also changes everything we do in our lifetime. It’s a totally re-framing of life’s meaning, life’s practices, life’s past-present-future, as well as our total being as individuals, in community and in relation to the world.

The Resurrection of Jesus shouts loudly at us, calling us to move beyond talking or complaining about whether or not we can be holy, and surrender ourselves to let him make us holy . . . to make us whole … to make us into his new creations . We believe this awesome power that raised him from the dead is available to us … not as a distant memory, but a meaningful mystery brought most clearly during Easter. Everything changes after Easter, every practice Jesus has done in the past then becomes more than an example for us to follow, through the Spirit it comes a reality that we can enter into.

Welcome to the way of Jesus!

Originally published in the Easter 2009 edition of The Mustard Seed, the newsletter of Bangsar Lutheran Church. Original art by John August Swanson.

Pastor for Palestine, Imam for Israel?

A couple of weeks ago, before our media became pre-occupied with the crisis in Perak and the gutter politics over the last one week, The Nut Graph conducted an interview with me on the Gaza crisis and some wider thoughts on The Israeli-Palestine conflict from a Christian perspective.

Post It Notes

Notes offering support to Gaza (All pics courtesy of Sivin Kit and Eng-Jee Ong)

Some have commented to me that the title (which incidentally was chosen by the editors of The Nut Graph) made me sound anti-Israel. Then again, titles are either meant to draw you into reading the piece or serve as a summary of it. In this case, I think it’s more of the former. Nonetheless, you ought to actually read the interview to find out for yourself what I was actually trying to highlight.

I found this response to the interview on the Malaysian Bar Council’s website interesting and it inspired the title of this post – mainly because it would be interesting for me to meet an Imam speaking up for the concerns of the people/citizens of Israel.

This Time Around
– Tan Peek Guat

What, a pastor for Palestine?
Therefore, an imam for Israel?
These sound like spells!

Let us then, for one moment;
Be spell-bound.
So that no woes are found!

That all woes may be forgotten;
And be collected from their compound.
So that all squares may be made round.

Oh, how good that would sound!
When within both their lands.
No soldiers belonging to the other would be found!

Not many comments were actually found on either The Nut Graph or at the Bar Council’s website. Perhaps you might want to add to the conversation which is already now fading in the background. Here are the few that are currently there:

cruzeiro Posted: 12 Feb 09 : 12.27PM

I do not think we have to necessarily keep religion out of the discourse.

I applaud the participation of Pr Sivin in this effort for Palestine.

However, I’d beg to differ on the above statement – it is imperative that the religious connotations to this conflict, which has absolutely nothing to do with religion, be removed.

If you believe that this war has anything to do with religion, I’d choose to say that you’re ignorant of the facts – as are most who speak on the religious and anti-Jew platform.

Tom Posted: 13 Feb 09 : 11.22AM

“I believe no one is above criticism, …” “I think .. For example, in the Malaysian mass media, coverage was perceived to be very one-sided towards the Palestinian cause.”

Iraq fought with Iran and invaded Kuwait. Citizens kill one another. The main issue here is politics leading to WARS, fighting in the Middle East for centuries compounded by ownership of “the promised” land, oil money and aid money to buy weapons, now rockets and soon nuclear bombs used wrongly will wipe nations and us out of the earth’s surface! Facing this, we should never stop praying but leave whatever happens to GOD’s will, nothing religious really, shouldn’t we?

Muslims Against Sharia Posted: 17 Feb 09 : 2.24PM

Help stop perpetual crisis in the Gaza Strip:

http://muslimsagainstsharia.blogspot.com/2009/02/petition-for-egypt-to-reassert-control.html.

Sign a petition for Egypt to reassert control over Gaza.

Sivin Kit Posted: 18 Feb 09 : 9.53AM

Dear Cruzeiro,

Thanks for applauding my participation.

In my interaction with people of faith, and especially in this case Muslim friends, I can see how one cannot ignore or separate how one’s understanding of religion may affect their views and participation.

I prefer us to bring it out in the open rather than suppressing it. If you read what I’ve said in context, you would have noticed that I clearly stated in that framing it as a religious or racial conflict is problematic. So, I think we are on the same page on that.

What I feel is a lot of talk which marginalizes religion from public discourse only drives uses or abuses of religion underground, and does not allow a more reflective approach to contribute more positively.

Now, I’m referring primarily on our responses and I am not offering an analysis on the reasons and rationale for war especially in this case of Gaza.

Let me add some extra thoughts which I wrote as a reply to an e-mail (with some editing)

On the alleged “Anti-Israel bias”, “Pro-Palestinian Public Relations Exercise” and Alex Awad’s Book “Through The Eyes of The Victims”:

I think there’s a difference between a book which is sympathetic to the Palestinian cause like Awad’s book and one sided propaganda by Palestinians.   To point the finger at them as masters in PR, the fingers are pointed back at Israel and USA.  The cycle of distrust in media is already present.

We must acknowledge one sided reports on both sides.  And perhaps probe deeper, what is the purpose or underlying assumptions which drive the one-sidedness.  Having said that, one must ask why do people like Awad writes the way he writes as a committed Christian  who is committed to Christ, and the Scriptures. I don’t think it’s so simple as labeling those like him as anti-Israel.  Is being critical of the church being anti-church? Is being critical of Chinese who have rigid parochial attitudes anti-Chinese? Is being critical of the myself being anti-self? (to push it further) The list goes on.  Obviously, No.

Then, it’s about raising important questions where we may be blinded because of our understandings of the role of Israel in God’s plan and purpose for the world which in many cases is part of a dispensationalist reading of the Bible – while has it’s merits – but is not the only way to read the Bible.  And I would suggest, a more Christ-centred approach is more helpful especially in these matters.

On the appeal to Old Testament “the wars initiated by Israel and occupation of the promised land of Canaan by Israel” passages, and God’s wisdom and ways.

While these passages of the Bible are difficult to explain to people.  I won’t use them as a justification of our silence in matters relating to modern day Israel.  If we hear Muslims quote certain passages of the Quran to justify making war against the Jews,  then where does that leave us?

Again, this is a matter of the choice of how we interpret the Scriptures.  I would say one needs to be consistent then with obeying the ritual laws and sacrificial laws in the Old Testament.  But we don’t, we say Christ in the book of Hebrews supercedes that and we don’t need to.  So, Can I say Christ in the sermon of the mount supercedes the use of the Old Testament to justify wars by “Blessed are the peacemakers”, and “Love your enemies”, and the refusal to allow his disciples to raise the sword?

While God’s ways are indeed higher than our ways, we don’t make excuses for that.  But the Way of Jesus is clear – and first and foremost I’m a Christ-follower not a follower of Moses!  Christ is the prince of peace, not prince of war.

On the Gospel, end-time Bible prophecies and helpful or unhelpful authors.

I won’t bang people with the Gospel.  Because when the Gospel is clearly presented, it’s power requires no banging. But I understand what is said. We have heard people comment “that the God of the Bible is a man of war and is the same ‘root god’ for the Muslims and Jews, and alleged that He is the root cause of the fighting in the Middle East”. People like this may not be that wrong to have that opinion and perception, if Christians keep on talking the way we do using texts in the OT to try to justify war. He rightly sees the connection with Muslims who do the same.  Now, I don’t agree with him, simply because Jesus said when you see me you see the Father. so for me, Jesus is the final revelation of who God is.  And when things get confused and blurred, I look to him.  He’s my supreme authority.  That is the Gospel!

As for end time prophecies, let’s be honest.  Most of the popular stuff we have gotten from the USA is problematic in their selective use of passages from Daniel, 1 Thessalonians and the book of Revelation.  Stringing passages together with world events make the Bible relevant on surface, but tragically misses the original intent and distracts us from the original message of these texts.

I believe in Biblical prophecy and God has a plan for all people – including Israel, the church, and also the Arabs … because they are also the ones whom Christ died for. God is the God of history, and indeed his ways are higher than ours.  And i think higher than the details of what many of these popular authors claim to understand in their reading of the events of the Middle East.  Even in our short lifetime, many of them have been proven wrong.  I think as Christians we have to be honest and admit that.  Then what is a better way of understanding the events of the Middle East?

I think Bible believing authors and those who have lived in the Middle East like Colin Chapman to me is one of the more helpful authors I would recommend over those like John Hagee , or Grant Jeffreys, Hal Lindsay, etc. Check out his piece, APOCALYPSE NOW IN ISRAEL/PALESTINE? (and contrast it with positions promoted by Christians United for Israel)

On “God’s higher wisdom and our best reasoning” based on Romans 11 and the book of Job.

I’d like to apply this same principle of “God’s higher wisdom and our best reasoning”  to those who claim to have the middle east end time plan sorted out and presented to the Christian church in their best-selling books.  Because, I seem to get the impression, that if one disagrees with them then we are anti-Israel or not submitting to the wisdom of God.

My sense is these authors who claim to be experts of the end-time prophecies are more like Job’s friends than Job.  So, I’m called to be like Job, I’m not going to listen to them!  I’m sticking with God.

I humbly submit that those who question these best-selling end-time authors are actually pro-God’s plan for Israel and challenging us not to make any form of nationalism our idol. And I humbly submit that Christians do not support any thinking which is against the core message of Jesus for all people, making it harder for our Christian witness worldwide, and becoming a hindrance for the Gospel.

May I say, if Christ is our centre we follow him in preferring the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the one’s imprisoned, the one who is displaced.  Did not the Old Testament say we need to love the aliens in our land? So, if Christian want to honor the Chosen status of the people of Israel than perhaps we need to be prophets who confront the Israeli Government that they are disobeying God?  And by disobeying God’s clear commandment  to take care of those in their land, they are inviting judgment!

If we really love the people of Israel, and honor God;s election of them, in the same way Apostle Paul does in the book of Romans.  Then, we need to be like Paul and break out of any ethnic-centred or nationalistic kind of thinking which is a hindrance to the Gospel.

Paul is right, but he does not excuse anyone’s disobedience … even people of Israel. I’m sure he wouldn’t for modern day Israel as a modern state too. I do think it’s important to distinguish between the people of Israel from the Israeli government and the modern state of Isreal.  Just like I would differentiate the people of Palestine, with the elected Hamas Government in Gaza.

As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

And the final word, from Paul brings our focus on God in all things! A prayer, an intercession, a confession …  it’s  his sense of Mission to the people of Israel more than a blind loyalty.  He sees them clearly as they are, as we should do so today with of any modern state and government.  But his sight is even more focused on God, for the source of one’s wisdom and discernment. Amen!

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!

“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”

“Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Agents of Change – Conversation With Steven Sim

In the light of these trying times that Malaysia is going through, one may wonder what can be done for betterment of society. What’s crucial is who is is stepping out to do what needs to be done. This is especially true when we consider the social and political engagement of Christians post March 8, 12th General election context which will have it’s first anniversary in less than a month’s time. The fact is that there have been many who have already worked hard behind the scenes as week as in the forefront in terms of nation building.

We need to heed a reminder from the late great church statesman and mission theologian Leslie Newbigin – – Christians ought to be “the strength of every good movement of social and political effort.” Bishop Newbigin’s insight is a timely challenge as well as invitation to us all in every sphere of influence we are engaged in.

When I first met Steven Sim at the “Moorthy” candlelight vigil in front of the high court organized by the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) and supported by civil society groups, I had already sensed he was responding to that call to be “the strength” Newbigin talked about. I was intrigued by his willingness to move to Penang from Klang Valley for work as well as to be with family, which later with the change of Penang state government openned up further opportunities for him to contribute towards the good of society.

Recently, both the Selangor  State Assembly representative for Subang Jaya, Hannah Yeoh and he were selected and sponsored by the United States Department of State for the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on Transition of Power in the U.S. Federal System. Steven two reflections which were published in Malaysiakini:

The Obama Future: Great Expectations (Part 1)
The Obama Future: Great Expectations (Part 2)

So, Steven is one shining light amongst the many younger folk standing on the shoulders of giants emerging today committed to shaping the future of Malaysia.  As we listen to his responses in this interview, we catch a glimpse of the vision he is captured by, the influences that has impacted him, and the motivation which provides him inner strength in an environment which is extremely demanding emotionally, intellectually, physically, socially and spiritually.

As Christians who are concerned to see the Church as a sign of God’s kingdom here on earth, we are grateful that more like Steven have responded to the call to serve in the public square whether behind the scenes or in the forefront. The pressures are immense and much discernment is needed as one works with diverse communities with a mosaic of opinions and convictions.

Since Jesus’ promise is “I am with you until the end of the age” which we all treasure and cling on to. I believe regardless of our opinions in the specifics, in the bigger picture with those deeply in the democratic process of nation building , our starting point and orientating framework is “we are with you” more than “Great that you are there, I support you from a distance”. The fact is, being in leadership and especially for Christians in politics, it is a lonely place to be.

There will be moments when we may offer guidance, friendly critique, and alternative viewpoints, but it is done with a spirit of humility which conveys – “we are in this together” and not an armchair critic’s distance which communicates a condescending, “I know it all”. But, what is more urgent and important, I believe is that we must be committed to intercede for those like Steven as a Church. We need to cheer them on with encouragement for their courage and willingness to contribute. We are called to walk with them when they are facing walls of discouragement withholding judgment.

At the end of the day, all of us are called to be “the strength of every good movement of social and political effort.” All of us can participate, and contribute in a variety of ways. Yes, indeed, we can.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and what are you currently involved in terms of politics.

I am born and bred in Penang, studied at Universiti Malaya, KL. On paper I am a member of the Gereja Presbyterian Malaysia whch I joined through City Discipleship Presbyterian Church (CDPC) when studying in KL. CDPC is still very special to me, and I look up to Rev. Wong Fong Yang, the Senior Pastor, who has been a major influence in my life, even politically. Right now, back in my hometown in Penang, I am attending Bukit Mertajam Gospel Centre, which is part of the Brethren Assembly in Penang.

I am also a member of the Democratic Action Party, a Secretary in my home branch and am currently working with the Penang State Government as a Special Assistant to the Youth and Sports EXCO.

How did you land up doing what you are doing now?

In terms of my political involvement, it has been a deliberate direction since my university days, being influenced by mentor such as Rev. Wong and friends such as John Chung (I notice this name appeared in Edward’s interview as well…) and my experience in campus politics. I ran and was elected into the Majlis Perwakilan Pelajar Universiti Malaya 2003.

I officially joined the DAP in 2007 after meeting with the Member of Parliament in my area, YB Chong Eng (PR – Bukit Mertajam). She has been an inspiration to many people here because of her non presumptous grassroot-driven approach. I started out by helping YB Chong Eng to set up her web-blog (www.chongeng.org) and later was heavily involved in YB Chong Eng’s campaign team during the 12th General Election in 2008.

But as for the job in the State Government, it was actually a chanced opportunity. After coming back to Penang from KL, I spent two years working and building my career and life in a multinational manufacturing company. By Feb 2008, a month shy of the March 8th general election, I resigned from my job with plans to move on to explore opportunities elsewhere.

When the Pakatan Rakyat won the 12th General Election to form the Penang State Government, I was invited to assist YB Ong Kok Fooi, State Exco for Youth and Sports and Women, Family & Community Development in her portfolio at Youth and Sports. I accepted the offer as an opportunity to continue what I have been doing in a greater degree.

There have been complaints that the younger generation are more apathetic to current issues especially civil society concerns and politics in the country; were you once upon a time in that category? If yes, what changed you? If it was an ongoing interest, how was it nurtured?

Until my time in university, I was basically indifferent to politics and public issues. I strongly believe our education system has something to do with this. We were basically taught that, no matter the circumstances, there is and can be no alternatives to the present political arrangement of Barisan Nasional helming the top. There was, in a sense what Antonio Gramsci called cultural hegemony, an attempt by the ruling authority to hammer in certain values into the people through public systems, including the schools and the media. And this was a real challenge to encouraging young minds to be critical of the status quo.

I think you can say that UM with all its political romanticism, if there is such a thing, created the awareness in me to look beyond the system and do something, not just being a passive helpless observer or even critic. And to a large extend, my friends and experience in the UM’s Persaudaraan Kristian Varsiti (Varsity Christian Fellowship or PKV) helped me to develop not only the awareness of public issues but the foundation upon which I engage these issues.

In many ways, my friends and mentors in the PKV showed me that Christianity is not a religion of escapism, not the opium of the masses, but rather the dangerous message of the just and righteous god has finally fulfilled his promise to intervene as the true king of the world. That’s subversive, that’s political. It challenges the values of the powers that be, including their offer of peace and harmony. Finally, as I have mentioned, the Rev. Wong Fong Yang, Senior Pastor of CDPC has been pivotal in encouraging us to think in terms of the gospel as a good news for all, including the poor and the marginalized, what he called, quoting author Franciscan priest Brennan Manning, Ragamuffin Gospel.

Who are some people, dead or alive, who have inspired you to do what you are doing now?

The Rev Wong Fong Yang, Bishop Hwa Yung, Dr. Tan Soo-Inn and Dr. Ng Kam Weng, all who have shown me, whether by direct mentorship or through their writings and sermons, that Christianity is less about the set-ups but rather is about the personal and passionate involvement of God in the business of the world. They showed me in their own way, but especially by their leadership of the Church, how the Church can and must play a role in becoming part of the solution to the problems in this world.

I guess for me to name those who are not Malaysians, I would need to write a telephone directory – I feel that there’s a need to honour Malaysian Church leaders whose contributions are often unrecognized.

But I cannot resist the temptation to name the Rt Rev Bishop N. T. Wright, the Anglican Bishop of Durham, whose big fat books (or rather works of art) on “Christian Origins and the Question of God” has been an excellent inspiration to me especially in understanding “the god who rolled up his sleeves and got down to business” as described in Isaiah 52:10.

What kind of support are you getting from your local church leadership or the church in general in your active involvement thus far?

My elder, Dr. Khong, is actually quite supportive while the young adults are very excited with my involvement and their prayers and well wishes have been great encouragement.

But generally I feel that the Church has not yet formulated a response to those who are involved in politics, whether Christians or otherwise. We generally do not know what to do with the politicians, Government or Opposition. Besides, some of our theology of not getting involved in the world, the secular and sacred divide, may hinder our giving of support to those who are doing politics. I am hopeful that the situation will change however, although we still need a lot of education and maturity to be able to handle political and public issues prudently.

You are now involved through DAP and Pakatan Rakyat; what made you walk this particular path? Do you have friends who are with the Barisan Nasional component parties, how do you relate?

I joined DAP because I believe in the principle they fought for and admire DAP’s determination all this while as a voice of conscience in our Country’s politics. Incidentally, I didn’t start active politics as an “opposition” voice; in university, I ran for election under the “pro-establishment” camp.

I do have friends in the BN, in fact in my current job, I made even MORE friends, including those in UMNO. I guess the thing about politics is not to treat your opponent and her ideology as strictly one entity. We must engage the issue and not the person. There is a danger to imagine that we are the good guys and the people on the other side is evil. Good and evil are not divided by their seating in Parliament, but rather the fragile conscience in one’s heart. I salute a lot of our senior politicians in Parliament who are able to be good friends (yes!) outside, but fiery debate opponents when in the august Hall.

On a more personal level, yeah, there are mamak stall debates about the difference of political ideas, but usually we close rank on a cup of teh tarik (or in my case, milo kosong panas) before we end.

How does your Christian faith and worldview inform your politics? Are there specific Biblical references or teaching your draw from in your work?

As I mentioned earlier, the dangerous and subversive message of Jesus, the embodiment and fulfilment of god’s promise to finally intervene in our messy world. When God does that, when he takes charge, we follow the values of the big boss, not the little napoleons trying to force their own brands of values. That’s to put it simply.

My favourites including the gospels and the prophets, especially Isaiah.

What are some lessons you have learnt thus far after being actively involved in the last elections and now supporting the MPs or ADUNS who are elected? Please share some highlights, challenges and surprises.

I learnt to think in longer terms, that is, not to be anxious for seeing results immediately. Perhaps this is very Christian, because firstly we do not overestimate our ability; to think that we actually can be saviour of the world; like Superman who can solve any problem at faster than a speeding bullet (now, lightning).

Secondly, it helps to have a perspective of “ages upon ages” or “eternal life” as translated in the bible. Whatever happens in our course of “changing the world” or righting the wrong, or just simply doing our job, it is worth remembering that “it’s never the end of the world” for those who put hope in God.

One of the greatest challenges I face, and I believe this is not unique to me, is the temptation that comes with having power and authority. Especially for us Christians, we can easily feel that our status of power is god-given and a vindication and we may develop a better/holier than thou attitude against others. As they say, power corrupts, we may soon even sell our values and principles when overwhelmed by the prestige that comes with power.

So far, no special surprises, perhaps its my friends and family members who are surprised when I appear on the newspaper giving political comments.

What would be areas of equipping and support from the church which you think would help you be a better agent of change?

Education is of the foremost importance. I believe that most of the time, we have not exhausted the biblical source for public engagement. And for that, we not only missed the richness of the bible but missed the opportunity to be witnesses of God’s kingdom to the world.

Then prayers. This is a must, because our battle, as St Paul said, is not against flesh and blood. There must be space in Church for those who are involved in public engagement or politics or actually anyone at all to come and pray and be prayed for in regards to vocation. I think we are a little short of this, a pastoral and prayer ministry focused on assisting and supporting Christians in their vocations.

Finally, I believe that if the Church is actively playing her prophetic role in the society as God’s agent of righteousness and justice, the Christian politicians would find solace in knowing that he or she is not alone. I mean, the Church does not have to be seen as supporting a political party, in fact she shouldn’t. Nonetheless the Church cannot be silent when faced with social and political issues in this world. Her silence may one day become an indictment against her, as is the case of the Roman Catholic Church during Hitler’s reign of terror.

No More Tears: A Solidarity Speech and Prayer

My new friend Zun from Pertubuhan Jemaah Islah Malaysia (JIM), Selangor whom I got to know at the COMPLETE meetings asked a couple of weeks ago whether I could speak for about 5 minutes at an event they planned to organise on the 31st of January 2009. I responded by saying yes to his sincere invitation, and I am grateful for the opportunity given to speak and share from one’s heart to another.

After spending some time reflecting and praying through what I was going to say, 2 images emerged based on their poster below and provided the theme and emphasis I discerned was important. I presented the speech and prayer in Bahasa Malaysia – our national language in Malaysia. Many thanks to Bob Kee and Erna for helping me with the translation and subsequent improvements. It was indeed a team effort.

The original text in Bahasa Malaysia:

Tetamu kehormat, pemimpin dan penganjur, JIM, PACE, Karisma, COMPLETE, wakil-wakil NGO, rakan-rakan sekalian.

Salam ikhlas saya ucapkan.

Saya berterimakasih kepada pengerusi majlis malam ini, kerana sudi memberi saya peluang untuk bercakap serta berkongsi sehati ke hati.

Berdirinya saya di sini malam ini, ulung sekali untuk solidariti bersama insan-insan yang terseksa di bumi Palestin, dan juga untuk semua mereka yang turut merasa bahana konflik yang berpanjangan ini.

Saya di sini sebagai seorang pengikut Yesus Krisus, yakni seorang Kristian, seorang yang ingin tunduk kepada kehendak dan tujuan Tuhan untuk dunia ini.

Saya di sini sebagai sebahagian umat Gereja sedunia, di mana ramai lagi diantara kita yang turut bersedih, turut berduka di atas keganasan sepanjang bulan yang lepas di Gaza.

Dan saya juga di sini sebagai seorang makhluk ciptaan Allah, seorang suami, seorang ayah kepada tiga orang anak.

Kami berduka bukan hanya kerana adanya mangsa yang seagama dengan kami, tetapi kerana kesemua insan di Palestin menderita akibat gejala peperangan dan kebencian.

Rakan-rakan yang dikasihi sekalian,

Untuk segolongan besar umat Kristian, perayaan Hari Natal kami dipendekkan oleh kerana tercetusnya krisis di Gaza. Dan dari segi peribadi, perayaan Tahun Baru Cina saya juga lebih suram, bukan hanya kerana masalah ekonomi yang mungkin melanda kita semua tetapi juga kerana saya amat tersayu untuk memulakan tahun baru dengan bayangan kematian, dari gambar yang terpapar setiap hari di akhbar.

Bertambah sedihnya apabila dilihat kebencian, kemarahan, keganasan menguasai segala; dan kita tidak tahu bila ianya akan berakhir, atau bermula sekali lagi.

Yang lebih memilukan lagi adalah hakikat bahawa walau sesiapa pun yang disytiharkan juara perang, akhirnya, melalui air-mata kanak-kanak yang tidak berdosa, kami tahu siapa sebenarnya yang kalah. Mereka yang tidak berupaya langsung untuk mempertahankan diri mereka sendiri.

Dan yang paling mendukakan ialah apabila tumpuan kita dikabui analisa politik dan analisis demi analisis sang politikus. Mereka yang berkuasa tetap mendapat perhatian manakala insan-insan biasa dan yang lemah, dengan impian damai mereka yang musnah, tetap diketepikan dan diaibkan. Dengan pengitaran masa, keadaan mereka yang pahit getir ini yang dilupakan.

Sahabat-sahabat sekalian,

Saya pasti tiada seorang daripada kita boleh berkata bahawa masalah di Asia Barat boleh diselesaikan dengan mudah.

Semestinya kita perlu maklum tentang akibat buruk hasil jaringan keputusan yang kompleks daripada mereka yang berkuasa.

Namun demikian, adakah tangisan air-mata mereka yang terhimpit di tengah-tengah medan keganasan gambaran terakhir yang ingin kita melihat di Palestin dan Asia Barat?

Tiadakah gambaran yang lain yang boleh kita melihat?

Saya percaya ada!

Saya ingin melihat anak-anak ini tersenyum semula; seperti anak-anak kita yang selamat dalam lingkungan keluarga mereka!

Saya berdoa …

semoga anak-anak ini boleh senyum semula – bila satu hari nanti, mereka boleh ke sekolah dan berborak tentang masa depan mereka. Satu hari dimana pemikiran mereka tidak dibelenggu dengan memikirkan rumah siapa yang bakal dirobohkan ataupun siapa diantara mereka yang menunggu kain kapan.

Saya berdoa …

semoga anak-anak ini boleh senyum semula – kerana cukup makan-minumnya, dan semua boleh duduk sekeluarga untuk makan bersama.

Saya berdoa …

semoga anak-anak ini boleh senyum semula – kerana boleh kemana-mana tanpa ketakutan ataupun syak wasangka, tanpa sekatan dan boleh bermain secara aman bersama sanak saudara.

Saya berdoa ..

semoga anak-anak ini boleh senyum semula – kerana mereka tahu yang pemimpin-pemimpin bertanggungjawab akan melahirkan dunia yang aman dan saksama, dan juga berkerja keras untuk masa depan mereka.

Seorang pendita Jerman yang saya amat sanjungi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, yang menentang regim Nazi yang kejam pada tahun 30′an dan 40′an pernah berkata ..

“Ujian terbesar sesuatu masyarakat yang berhemah dan bermoral, adalah rupa bentuk dunia yang ditinggalkan mereka untuk anak-anak mereka”

Kita sekarang, yang berada diantara airmata anak-anak yang disaksikan hari ini, dan senyuman mereka yang ingin kita lihat pada hari esoknya .. marilah kita berdoa bersama-sama dan bersama juga berusaha untuk menjadikan impian ini satu hakikat. Demi masa depan anak-anak di Palestin, Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Congo, Somalia dan mana-mana lagi pelusuk dunia dimana dian harapan perlu dinyalakan.

Sebagai penutup, saya, dan ramai lagi umat Kristian yang lain yang turut bersusah hati kerana tragedi yang berlaku di Asia Barat, dan baru-baru ini di Gaza ..

kami didorong oleh apa yang tertulis di dalam Perjanjian Lama Alkitab dan kata-kata Yesus Kristus sendiri ..

Di dalam kitab Mikha, fasal 6, ayat 8, nabi Mikha telah memberitahu bani Israel ..

TUHAN telah memberitahu kita apa yang baik. Perkara yang dituntut oleh TUHAN daripada kita adalah supaya kita berlaku adil, selalu mengamalkan kasih, dan dengan rendah hati hidup bersatu dengan Allah kita.

dan di dalam Injil Matius, fasal 5, ayat 9, Yesus Kristus turut bertitah:

Berbahagialah orang yang membawa kedamaian antara manusia, Allah akan menyebut mereka anak-anak-Nya!

Berikut adalah doa yang diucapkan oleh ramai daripada kami dari seluruh pelusuk dunia. Saya ingin tujukan doa ini khas untuk anak-anak Palestin yang meratap dalam tangisan malam ini ..

Ya Tuhan yang Maha Mengasihani;
Allah yang memberikan rahmat kurnia dan perdamaian;
Limpahkanlah kuasaMu keatas kesemua anak-anakMu di Asia Barat;
Biarlah kebencian berubah menjadi kasih sayang,
ketakutan berubah menjadi kepercayaan;
Putus asa kepada harapan;
Penindasan menjadi kebebasan;
Pendudukan kepada pembebasan;
Semoga pertembungan yang ganas diganti dakapan kasih sayang,
dan keamanan serta keadilan dialami semua.
Amin.

The text in English:

Dear distinguished guests, the leaders and organizers of JIM, PACE, Karisma, COMPLETE, representatives from NGOs, and all my friends here tonight.

Grace and peace be with you.

I would like to thank the chairman of tonight’s gathering, for giving me the chance to speak and share from my heart.

Tonight, I stand before you here tonight first and foremost to be in solidarity with all who are suffering in Palestine and all who are severely affected by this long standing conflict.

I stand here as a follower of Jesus Christ – a Christian, as one who seeks to submit to God’s will and purpose for our world.

I stand here as a member of the Church worldwide, where many Christians are saddened, and distressed by the last month of violence in Gaza .

And I stand before you tonight as a fellow human being created by God, a husband and a father of three children.

We are troubled not just because there are victims who have the same religion as ours, we are troubled because of the people in Palestine suffering the consequences of wa and hatred.

My dear beloved friends,

For many Christians , the celebration of Christmas was cut short, the moment the crisis occured in Gaza. And personally, for me this Chinese New Year was gloomier not just because of the economic crisis which might affect us all, but also my heart was crushed to begin thew new year with images of death, from the pictures showed everyday in the newspapers.

Sadness increases when hatred , anger and violence seems to have won the day; and we do not know when this cycle will end, or start all over again.

It’s even more worrying when the fact is whoever claims the victory of war, at the end it’s through the tears of the innocent children, we know who are the real losers. Those who have no ability at all to defend themselves.

And most heart wrenching is when our focus has often been clouded by more and more political analysis, and those in power get the attention but the ordinary people and those who are weak, whose dreams for peace are shattered, pushed aside and are ignored. As time goes by, their bitter circumstances is slowly forgotten.

My dear friends,

I am certain none of us can say what is happening in West Asia has easy and simple solutions.

We cannot ignore the painful consequences resulting from a complex web of decisions made by those in power.

Nevertheless, do we want tears of those caught in the midst of violence to be the final picture in Palestine and West Asia?

Is there another picture we want to see?

I believe there is!

I want to see the children smiling again; like many of our children smiling in the safety and security of their families!

I pray . . .

That the children can smile again – when one day, they can go to school and talk more about who they can be in the future. One day when their thoughts do not need to be bound by wondering whose house is in rubbles or who amongst them awaits the burial shroud.

I pray . . .

That the children can smile again – when there is enough food and water on the table, and families can sit around a meal to eat together.

I pray . . .

That the children can smile again – when they can move freely without fear or restrictions, and play safely with their friends and family members.

I pray . . .

That the children can smile again – when there they know there are responsible leaders who will give birth to a just and peaceful world, and are working hard for their future.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer , a pastor whom I admire deeply, who resisted the cruel Nazi regime during 30’s and 40’s, once said . . .

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” ((Accessed January 29, 2009, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/d/dietrich_bonhoeffer.html))

Now, those of us who are in between the present tears of the children we see today, and the smile we want to see tomorrow. Let us pray for all this together, and we can work together to make this dream a reality. For the future of the children in Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Congo, Somalia and wherever in the corner of the world where the flicker of hope needs to be lit again.

In closing, I and many other Christians who are distressed by the tragedy happening in the West Asia and lately in Gaza . . . We are motivated by these words found in the Old testament and the words of Jesus himself.

In the book of Micah, chapter 6 verse 8, the prophet Micah has spoken to the people of Isreal.

He has shown all you people what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

And in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 5, verse 9, Jesus Christ proclaims:

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God

And the following is a prayer many of us have been praying worldwide. And I would like to dedicate it especially to the children in Palestine who are lamenting in their tears tonight.

God of mercy and compassion,
Of grace and reconciliation,
Pour your power upon all your children in the Middle East.
Let hatred be turned into love, fear to trust
Occupation to liberation,
That violent encounters may be replaced by loving embraces,
And peace and justice could be experienced by all. Amen. ((From Imagine Peace, a devotional resource from the WCC Decade to Overcome Violence, 2008. Accessed January 29, 2009))

Bilingual text:

Tetamu kehormat, pemimpin dan penganjur, JIM, PACE, Karisma, COMPLETE, wakil-wakil NGO, rakan-rakan sekalian.

Dear distinguished guests, the leaders and organizers of JIM, PACE, Karisma, COMPLETE, representatives from NGOs, and all my friends here tonight.

Salam ikhlas saya ucapkan.

Grace and peace be with you.

Saya berterimakasih kepada pengerusi majlis malam ini, kerana sudi memberi saya peluang untuk bercakap serta berkongsi sehati ke hati.

I would like to thank the chairman of tonight’s gathering, for giving me the chance to speak and share from my heart.

Berdirinya saya di sini malam ini, ulung sekali untuk solidariti bersama insan-insan yang terseksa di bumi Palestin, dan juga untuk semua mereka yang turut merasa bahana konflik yang berpanjangan ini.

Tonight, I stand before you here tonight first and foremost to be in solidarity with all who are suffering in Palestine and all who are severely affected by this long standing conflict.

Saya di sini sebagai seorang pengikut Yesus Krisus, yakni seorang Kristian, seorang yang ingin tunduk kepada kehendak dan tujuan Tuhan untuk dunia ini.

I stand here as a follower of Jesus Christ – a Christian, as one who seeks to submit to God’s will and purpose for our world.

Saya di sini sebagai sebahagian umat Gereja sedunia, di mana ramai lagi diantara kita yang turut bersedih, turut berduka di atas keganasan sepanjang bulan yang lepas di Gaza.

I stand here as a member of the Church worldwide, where many Christians are saddened, and distressed by the last month of violence in Gaza .

Dan saya juga di sini sebagai seorang makhluk ciptaan Allah, seorang suami, seorang ayah kepada tiga orang anak.

And I stand before you tonight as a fellow human being created by God, a husband and a father of three children.

Kami berduka bukan hanya kerana adanya mangsa yang seagama dengan kami, tetapi kerana kesemua insan di Palestin menderita akibat gejala peperangan dan kebencian.

We are troubled not just because there are victims who have the same religion as ours, we are troubled because of the people in Palestine suffering the consequences of wa and hatred.

Rakan-rakan yang dikasihi sekalian,

My dear beloved friends,

Untuk segolongan besar umat Kristian, perayaan Hari Natal kami dipendekkan oleh kerana tercetusnya krisis di Gaza. Dan dari segi peribadi, perayaan Tahun Baru Cina saya juga lebih suram, bukan hanya kerana masalah ekonomi yang mungkin melanda kita semua tetapi juga kerana saya amat tersayu untuk memulakan tahun baru dengan bayangan kematian, dari gambar yang terpapar setiap hari di akhbar.

For many Christians , the celebration of Christmas was cut short, the moment the crisis occured in Gaza. And personally, for me this Chinese New Year was gloomier not just because of the economic crisis which might affect us all, but also my heart was crushed to begin thew new year with images of death, from the pictures showed everyday in the newspapers.

Bertambah sedihnya apabila dilihat kebencian, kemarahan, keganasan menguasai segala; dan kita tidak tahu bila ianya akan berakhir, atau bermula sekali lagi.

Sadness increases when hatred , anger and violence seems to have won the day; and we do not know when this cycle will end, or start all over again.

Yang lebih memilukan lagi adalah hakikat bahawa walau sesiapa pun yang disytiharkan juara perang, akhirnya, melalui air-mata kanak-kanak yang tidak berdosa, kami tahu siapa sebenarnya yang kalah. Mereka yang tidak berupaya langsung untuk mempertahankan diri mereka sendiri.

It’s even more worrying when the fact is whoever claims the victory of war, at the end it’s through the tears of the innocent children, we know who are the real losers. Those who have no ability at all to defend themselves.

Dan yang paling mendukakan ialah apabila tumpuan kita dikabui analisa politik dan analisis demi analisis sang politikus. Mereka yang berkuasa tetap mendapat perhatian manakala insan-insan biasa dan yang lemah, dengan impian damai mereka yang musnah, tetap deketepikan dan diaibkan. Dengan pengitaran masa, keadaan mereka yang pahit getir ini yang dilupakan.

And most heart wrenching is when our focus has often been clouded by more and more political analysis, and those in power get the attention but the ordinary people and those who are weak, whose dreams for peace are shattered, pushed aside and are ignored. As time goes by, their bitter circumstances is slowly forgotten.

Sahabat-sahabat sekalian,

My dear friends,

Saya pasti tiada seorang daripada kita boleh berkata bahawa masalah di Asia Barat boleh diselesaikan dengan mudah.

I am certain none of us can say what is happening in West Asia has easy and simple solutions.

Semestinya kita perlu maklum tentang akibat buruk hasil jaringan keputusan yang kompleks daripada mereka yang berkuasa.

We cannot ignore the painful consequences resulting from a complex web of decisions made by those in power.

Namun demikian, adakah tangisan air-mata mereka yang terhimpit di tengah-tengah medan keganasan gambaran terakhir yang ingin kita melihat di Palestin dan Asia Barat?

Nevertheless, do we want tears of those caught in the midst of violence to be the final picture in Palestine and West Asia?

Tiadakah gambaran yang lain yang boleh kita melihat?

Is there another picture we want to see?

Saya percaya ada!

I believe there is.

Saya ingin melihat anak-anak ini tersenyum semula; seperti anak-anak kita yang selamat dalam lingkungan keluarga mereka!

I want to see the children smiling again; like many of our children smiling in the safety and security of their families!

Saya berdoa …

semoga anak-anak ini boleh senyum semula – bila satu hari nanti, mereka boleh ke sekolah dan berborak tentang masa depan mereka. Satu hari dimana pemikiran mereka tidak dibelenggu dengan memikirkan rumah siapa yang bakal dirobohkan ataupun siapa diantara mereka yang menunggu kain kapan.

I pray . . .

That the children can smile again – when one day, they can go to school and talk more about who they can be in the future. One day when their thoughts do not need to be bound by wondering whose house is in rubbles or who amongst them awaits the burial shroud.

Saya berdoa …

semoga anak-anak ini boleh senyum semula – kerana cukup makan-minumnya, dan semua boleh duduk sekeluarga untuk makan bersama.

I pray . . .

That the children can smile again – when there is enough food and water on the table, and families can sit around a meal to eat together.

Saya berdoa …

semoga anak-anak ini boleh senyum semula – kerana boleh kemana-mana tanpa ketakutan ataupun syak wasangka, tanpa sekatan dan boleh bermain secara aman bersama sanak saudara.

I pray . . .

That the children can smile again – when they can move freely without fear or restrictions, and play safely with their friends and family members.

Saya berdoa ..

semoga anak-anak ini boleh senyum semula – kerana mereka tahu yang pemimpin-pemimpin bertanggungjawab akan melahirkan dunia yang aman dan saksama, dan juga berkerja keras untuk masa depan mereka.

I pray . . .

That the children can smile again – when there they know there are responsible leaders who will give birth to a just and peaceful world, and are working hard for their future.

Seorang pendita Jerman yang saya amat sanjungi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, yang menentang regim Nazi yang kejam pada tahun 30′an dan 40′an pernah berkata ..

“Ujian terbesar sesuatu masyarakat yang berhemah dan bermoral, adalah rupa bentuk dunia yang ditinggalkan mereka untuk anak-anak mereka

Dietrich Bonhoeffer , a pastor whom I admire deeply, who resisted the cruel Nazi regime during 30’s and 40’s, once said . . .

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”

Kita sekarang, yang berada diantara airmata anak-anak yang disaksikan hari ini, dan senyuman mereka yang ingin kita lihat pada hari esoknya .. marilah kita berdoa bersama-sama dan bersama juga berusaha untuk menjadikan impian ini satu hakikat. Demi masa depan anak-anak di Palestin, Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Congo, Somalia dan mana-mana lagi pelusuk dunia dimana dian harapan perlu dinyalakan.

Now, those of us who are in between the present tears of the children we see today, and the smile we want to see tomorrow. Let us pray for all this together, and we can work together to make this dream a reality. For the future of the children in Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Congo, Somalia and wherever in the corner of the world where the flicker of hope needs to be lit again.

Sebagai penutup, saya, dan ramai lagi umat Kristian yang lain yang turut bersusah hati kerana tragedi yang berlaku di Asia Barat, dan baru-baru ini di Gaza .. kami didorong oleh apa yang tertulis di dalam Perjanjian Lama Alkitab dan kata-kata Yesus Kristus sendiri ..

In closing, I and many other Christians who are distressed by the tragedy happening in the West Asia and lately in Gaza . . .We are motivated by these words found in the Old testament and the words of Jesus himself.

Di dalam kitab Mikha, fasal 6, ayat 8, nabi Mikha telah memberitahu bani Israel ..

TUHAN telah memberitahu kita apa yang baik. Perkara yang dituntut oleh TUHAN daripada kita adalah supaya kita berlaku adil, selalu mengamalkan kasih, dan dengan rendah hati hidup bersatu dengan Allah kita.

In the book of Micah, chapter 6 verse 8, the prophet Micah has spoken to the people of Isreal.

He has shown all you people what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

dan di dalam Injil Matius, fasal 5, ayat 9, Yesus Kristus turut bertitah:

Berbahagialah orang yang membawa kedamaian antara manusia, Allah akan menyebut mereka anak-anak-Nya!

And in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 5, verse 9, Jesus Christ proclaims:

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God

Berikut adalah doa yang diucapkan oleh ramai daripada kami dari seluruh pelusuk dunia. Saya ingin tujukan doa ini khas untuk anak-anak Palestin yang meratap dalam tangisan malam ini ..

And the following is a prayer many of us have been praying worldwide. And I would like to dedicate it especially to the children in Palestine who are lamenting in their tears tonight.

Ya Tuhan yang Maha Mengasihani;
Allah yang memberikan rahmat kurnia dan perdamaian;
Limpahkanlah kuasaMu keatas kesemua anak-anakMu di Asia Barat;
Biarlah kebencian berubah menjadi kasih sayang,
ketakutan berubah menjadi kepercayaan;
Putus asa kepada harapan;
Penindasan menjadi kebebasan;
Pendudukan kepada pembebasan;
Semoga pertembungan yang ganas diganti dakapan kasih sayang,
dan keamanan serta keadilan dialami semua.
Amin.

God of mercy and compassion,
Of grace and reconciliation,
Pour your power upon all your children in the Middle East.
Let hatred be turned into love, fear to trust,
Despair to hope, oppression to freedom,
Occupation to liberation,
That violent encounters may be replaced by loving embraces,
And peace and justice could be experienced by all. Amen.

Footnotes

Take Away Jesus And I’ll Be A Coward

“Our country enters the phase of naked display of aggression. When a regime is morally bankrupt it will use immoral means to hold on to power. We might be weak but we still have the power of prayer & silent witnessing. . The unjust may break our bones but they can’t break our spirit.”

– Rev. Fr. O.C. Lim, SJ

These words spoken last year by the Reverend Father O.C. Lim, a Jesuit priest, have become a spiritual guide in my own reflection and practice as a Christian and pastor.

On 23 January 2009, I was glad we had a chance to speak a little bit more in depth when we were present with many others to be in solidarity with the 21 participants in the BERSIH anniversary candlelight vigil on 9 November 2008 who were charged for illegal assembly.

Fr. Lim was initially asked to give some comments by a Malaysiakini reporter:


 
upon which I took the golden opportunity to do a short interview of my own asking Fr. Lim what motivates him in the core of his being where he draws strength and resources to do what he does in speaking up for justice.


 
While there maybe needs and issues which call us to respond to different situations, and often these become the common ground in which many of us converge and join efforts for the common good. What interests me is apart from that starting point which is more visible to others, how about the less visible and often more central place where we which is unapologetically part and parcel of our who we are?


 
I started with the question with a “What” focus, but Father O.C.Lim answered by reframing the question to focus on “Who” motivates him.


 
And who he talked about motivates me too. Thanks for affirming that, Father O.C. Lim! Your words continue to challenge us all to be more faithful to the One who has called us to follow him.

A Conversation On The Palestine-Israel Conflict

I’m intrigued by the responses and reactions generated by one rare petition I forwarded out to all my email contacts, perhaps my load of recent links sparked by the Gaza crisis, and also my participation in COMPLETE.

An interesting email came today which mentioned the few Christian voices in Malaysia who comes across as “against Israel”. So, I thought for the record I should state that in times of crisis showing preference in solidarity for one group of people who is under going unimaginable humanitarian crisis is not prejudice against another group who have their own share of pain and suffering in history. In this case it would be the Palestinians and Israelis. As far as I am concerned I grieve with every parent who has lost their child, every child who has lost their parents, all who have suffer loss in anyway.

Permission was granted to share the conversations in the email on this blog. I have decided to allow the conversations to take centre stage. I guess what’s important is what are the issues raised in these email conversations and also how the three Christians are working through this controversy. So with some minor editing, let’s start.

I would like to emphasize that this is not a conversation between historical experts or political analysts. It’s a conversation between those who are “of great distress over the pitiful suffering of many, both Jews and Palestinians.”

Dear friends,

I have of course seen all the news which is all very anti-Israel.Meanwhile, I receive a lot of email from Christian friends saying that Israel is actually doing very reasonable defense of themselves and they try very hard not to kill civilians and it is the other side that is evil and purposely making civilian victims and faking civilian casualties, etc.I am perplexed how to discern the truth from all these lies, who to believe.

You two are some of the few Christian voices that are against Israel, and I was wondering if you have any insight into these (see below).

The following are from emails Christian friends have sent me:

From the way the local newspapers are portraying the current conflict, you would think that the Palestinians are the only victim and Israel is the aggressor.I am in no way condoning the violence or taking sides in this, but we all must realise that the local media is controlled by UMNO and they are not objective.

Please see this website to learn the facts.http://terrorismawareness.org/what-really-happened/

Israel Always: Fighting Fair – What the Media Doesn’t Tell You

The other side of the story, usually unheard of…

Open the video Link below

It may help you to understand why Israel is now fighting Hamas in the Gaza strip

I’ve seen many videos and photos , but this is by far the best description of Hamas! This video was made NOT by Israelis , but by an Arab , a Palestinian who shows you who Hamas really is!

Israel has been telling this to the world for years , but the world prefers to turn the deaf ear and blind eye to the sad truth!

Hamas against the Palestinians! This is how they succeeded in being elected – by force!

Watch and learn.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_OGhj43GAE

from
Perplexed Inquirer

Dear Perplexed Inquirer,

A correction, if you please.I am hardly pro or anti Israel.I am pro-accuracy and anti-irresponsible biblical theology.

Political grounds

I am less concerned about the rhetoric as I am about the bombing of civilians of a country with no citizenship rights. Either the Palestinians are Israeli citizens or they are not. If they are, then its akin to apartheid. If they are not, then its an invasion of a sovereign nation.

Theological grounds

If modern Israel is formed in obedience to the Bible, then it must not be a democracy but rather, a religous state – like Iran. If it is not, then evangelicals who think so are idiots who mislead the church. We can take comfort that the Hasidic Jews (who study Torah deeply) reject any claim of Zionism as heretical. The modern state of Israel (a guilt-ridden formation of an apartheid-like state shamefully disguised as a democracy) is not the ‘fulfillment’ of biblical Israel (a theocracy that died out after the conditional promise collapse). The leader is not subject to being in the Davidic line and one of them has been a woman (Golda Meir) so whatever else it is, it already violates any biblical description of what biblical Israel is supposed to be.

Humanitarian grounds

You can’t respond to terrorist rockets with air-strikes directly in populated civilians zones without becoming just as barbaric as Hamas. Its like asking the US to nuke Saigon to flush out the Vietcong or to firebomb Kuala Lumpur to weed out gangsters from Chow Kit Road (am I showing my age?). Convenient but morally repulsive.

Missiological grounds

To take sides in a tribal feud in the Middle East diminishes the Christian mandate to evangelize and make disciples of all nations.

Biblical grounds

The oft misquoted appeal to Gen. 12:3 makes a mockery of biblical exegesis and betrays our selfish treatment of God as a personal vending machine. Most Christians shamefully quote it with a single desire – for personal advantage. The alarming this is that the verse does not even refer to that! The promise refers to Abraham and his faithful (not every) descendants who prefigure Christ until Jesus comes. It does not pertain to ethnic (there is no biological marker for ethnicity, which is a cultural fiction shaped by the adoption of language, genetic pooling and formation of geographical boundaries) Israel. There was a time when every race did not exist. So ethnicity is not a natural distinctive. In Romans 9:6, Paul tells us that not all Israelites belong to Israel because biblical israel is an association of faith – not of blood. The blessing in Genesis refers to the global community of Christians. The word ‘bless’ is a reflexive verb, meaning that the reader is invited to consider Abraham’s blessing as the standard by which to be considered blessed. Not that every Christian will be as blessed as Abraham was. A simple falsifier is that fact that every moment in time, some Christian somewhere is clearly not blessed in the way we expect. How do we reply to that? We then perform exegetical gymnastics to explain away this mistranslation and end by dying of a thousand qualifications.

Moral grounds

I detest both Hamas and Hezbollah and am even disappointed by Fatah, but as a recipient of American largesse for so many years and billions of dollars of US tax-payer money, I do expect a higher moral standard from Israel. I have an affection for Israel, not because they are ’successful’ but because of historical serendipity. I wager that if Jesus were born in Soochow, we could all be stuck with defending Maoism. The personification of God in Jesus is what makes israel special, not the other way round.

OK, nuff said. Hope this clarifies my point. I have no dog in the fight (I am, after all, a Chinese Malaysian who grew up under Islamic-influenced rule) and if anything, would be inclined to be pro-Israel. I also have many more Jewish friends here in NYC than I have of Palestinian friends. But I have no hesitation is exposing any abuse of the Bible in the name of seeking God’s will.

Hope my quick 2 cents adequately signals my position on this very sad situation.

Brother Pro-Accuracy

Hi Perplexed Inquirer,

I really don’t know where to start, apart from attempting to focus on the human side of the conflict.

Personally, I am not uncritically pro or against Israel or Palestine. I do feel however using the “blame” game approach as well as “who shot the first missile?” approach unhelpful.The details are complex and often convoluted. And I don’t see myself an expert in this area. The only thing is a Christian and as a pastor, I first do not want to be seen uncritically pro-Israel and especially in the recent crisis in Gaza, would be seen as pro-war.  I’m definitely not anti-jew or even anti-Israel.And yet in my engagement with my Muslim friends who are showing strong feelings as the Gaza crisis prolongs, I see my role as an instrument of peace and reconciliation as much as possible, and working towards efforts to reframe the whole controversy out of political and propaganda based rhetoric. This would require a great detail of patience and discernment. I’m not saying it’s easy.

I think Brother Pro-Accuracy has laid down helpful ways to think about it in point form. I won’t add to that apart from recommending some resources for you to further your reflection.  I think they have covered most angles whether politically or theologically.

http://www.musalaha.org/
http://www.emeu.net/index.php
http://www.alexawad.org/index.php
http://cmep.org/
http://www.sabeel.org/

My concern with a lot of the emails sent around is the underlying need to defend Israel which I’m uncomfortable, as well as the triumphalistic tone against Islam or the temptation to demonize the other which I do not think advances the message of what Christ wanted to convey.  On the contrary, creates even more distrust.

Christians need to sit down with a Muslim in Malaysia in the light of the one sidedness of Malaysian newspapers, and also understanding the kind of sentiments they feel, and with confidence, compassion and as much clarity as possible move the conversation towards the paradigm based on “reconciliation” with dimensions of justice, and peace not being ignored.  At least that is what I believe is Jesus call for us to be peacemakers in the New Testament found in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 5 . Another passage in 2 Corinthians 5 calls us to be agents of reconciliation and do the ministry of reconciliation.

my 2 cents
Engaged Re-framer

The news of the ceasefire is provides some relief but does not mean the whole conflict is resolved.

Thanks, Bro.Pro-accuracy & Engaged Re-framer,

I’m adding some other friends on our email list since they seems to be “thinking Christians” who are in support of Israel in the current conflict.

I think I was not clear enough in my original email to both of you. I actually lean towards replacement theology (the idea that the Church is now the Israel of God and the physical Israel is no longer the Chosen People of God, but are another people group that need to receive Christ to be saved.)

And, even if replacement theology is false, reading through Jeremiah, Lamentations and Ezekiel (as I have been doing the last few months) you get the clear sense that you are allowed to criticize and oppose the Israel that is truly the Chosen People of God if they are not following God properly.

So, I have no argument with that, unlike a lot of Christians who blindly support Israel. What I was trying to get a handle on is, is it true that the blame for the current crisis rests on Israel, as the Muslim and Malaysian press claim?

Or, is it true that that the Arab states actually are deliberately perpetuating the misery of the Palestinians in order to make Israel look bad? Is it true that Israel actually tries its best to avoid civilian casualties and it is Hamas that deliberately uses civilians as human shields so that they will have lots of dead babies to use as propaganda?

God bless,
Perplexed Inquirer

Thanks Bro. Pro-accuracy for your clear reply.

BTW, Perplexed Inquirer you can get the book “Whose Holy City?” by Colin Chapman locally in Malaysia. I think he gives a useful overview on the history as well as possible ways to respond as Christians.

Perplexed Inquirer wrote:

I think I was not clear enough in my original email to you . I actually lean towards replacement theology (the idea that the Church is now the Israel of God and the physical Israel is no longer the Chosen People of God, but are another people group that need to receive Christ to be saved.)

P.S. I strongly suspect that replacement theology is so commonly denounced these days because of an over-reaction against the abuses of the past, where this was used as one of the justifications for the abuse of Jews. I am strongly against abuse of any people, but that doesn’t mean we must change something which the Bible says just because people misused it to justify the evil they do.

From what I have read, replacement theology was the standard theology of most if not all the early Christian apologists.

Replacement theology is not the same as anti-semitism, though antisemites did use it for their purposes.

Thanks Perplexed Inquirer for keeping the conversation going.

As your latest email alluded to there will be a variety of views on the place and role of Israel in the light of Christ and the formation of the church and depending on which Eschatological view one takes.

I take the view similar to the late Lesslie Newbigin in that the election of Israel as well as the election of the Church is for the sake of others. Or some would say “to be a blessing to the nations.” in the case of the church … others. And thus, we are judged by higher standards.

On the reading of the prophets, I think you are absolutely right. And I would add Jesus’ woeful words of judgment on Jerusalem in the Gospels for example. While I do not think there would be many card carrying Christians Zionists in Malaysia (I may be wrong), but popular teaching on “You must bless and not curse Israel” kind of thinking maybe embedded behind a lot of the gut reactions of people. I was once one of them, so I stand convicted.

On your question on the Malaysian portrayal of the matter, I’m not surprised by the anti-Israel tone especially in the light of selling papers and the elections in KT. Sorry for being a little cynical on that end, I can’t help it as one who grow up with a father involved in advertising.

As mentioned in my first reply, I do not find the “blame” game approach useful in the light of a humanitarian crisis, the fact is if you want to do that both are to be blamed. The people in power should be blamed as their decisions inflict great pain on people on the borders of Gaza as well as people locked in Gaza now. The debate will wage on while people continue to wage war.

On the role of Arab states, whatever we can say is pure conjecture based on whatever information we are exposed to, allowed to, or filtered through. So looks like a dead end there too.

On Israel avoiding civilians, I wish it was that easy. This is not a “counter strike” game.

On Hamas propaganda, I do not deny that the likelihood of that to be true at some level. But then this accusation is the same on the Israeli government. Do you see where I am going with this?

So, unless we get “pro-accuracy” information as Bro. Pro-accuracy puts it. I don’t see how our often concerned “coffee shop” analysis can take us forward. In moments of crisis and war like now, looks like there are layers and layers to get through before we will get to the truths of the matter.

Then there is the more personal matter on this, I attribute my empathy to the Palestinian tragedy very much to my Palestinian Pastor friend serving in Jerusalem years ago. And I noticed those who have been to Israel and interacted with Palestinians would tend towards preferring to speak out in solidarity with them while keeping an eye not be prejudice against any thing on Israel. I do not think it’s easy to articulate that. And it also depends on which issue.

Theologically, when we speak of Christians who takes Christ as the ultimate revelation and fulfillment of God’s vision and intention for the World, it is working out of that centre first and foremost and throughout one’s thinking. And then with a good healthy dose of Trinitarian theology and Eschatology which is focuses on the consummation of the history and world in Christ etc., this would be a better framework to see where Israel fits in this schema rather than the other way round. Of course, this is distinctively a Christian approach (I’m sure there will be those who disagree depending on where one starts and wishes to orientate the theological framework).

2 more cents
Engaged Re-framer

Dear Engaged Re-framer,

I highly commend this book, which we use at our centre, along with Colin’s Whose Promised Land, Mitri Raheb’s I am a Palestinian Christian, O. Palmer Robertson’s The Israel of God and The Christ of Covenants, Ilan Pappe’s A History of Modern Palestine, and Gary Burge’s Whose Land, Whose Promise.

Bro. Pro-accuracy

There is so much fault finding in most reactions. In some quarters, we even feel the hatred and deep hostility in people. The majority at least in Malaysia either are ignorant or apathetic. When the spotlight is on the Church, some Christians don’t know how to respond because growing up with ways of reading the Bible which appears to tell them that while they can pray, they cannot be critical of the modern state of Israel. So, perhaps it’s better to remain silent. Even though there already has been significant statements and responses from different church bodies and groups.

There is so much violence and wars going around in the world, across the streets even in Malaysia, in our homes, and of course conflicts within our hearts. We may not have enough energy to deal with everything that comes our way. However, not being able to do everything doesn’t not mean doing nothing at all! We pray and we must pray in times like this, and perhaps out of that prayerful spirit, every small effort we do can will contribute to the wider efforts in eradicating hate and cultivating hope!

Reading about someone like Andrea Cohen-Kiener and what she said in 1998 might help us along.

“I’m only one person, and my efforts are small, person-to-person, but this is where I feel I can make a difference in a region of the world I care deeply about.”

Dear Engaged Re-framer & Perplexed Inquirer,

My 3rd cent.

Both bear responsibilities of taunting each other.

To the extent that Israel is to be blamed, the nation definitely encouraged discord by building settlements in the West Bank and Gaza well after each PM pledged not to do so, in defiance of international sentiments and promises to every US president in recent memory. Yet, no sitting president (Carter waited to well after he left office to criticize Israel and took serious heat for it) would dare to hold Israel to its word.

Check out Bob Simon’s recent interview on charlie rose – http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/9900. Who is Simon? http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/1999/01/04/broadcasts/main26916.shtml

To call the West Bank and Gaza non-Israel and then move 30,000 Zionists there under military guard and then build walls to separate Palestinian communities betray any pretense of settling the issues.

Palestinians on the other hand, whether out of desperation or not, consistently choose leaders who mete out violence and terrorist acts upon innocent Israeli civilians. Not all Palestinians are Arabs and not all of them are even Muslims. But they will get sympathy where they can get it.

The Palestinians have to live somewhere, and they had lived there since AD 70. The state of Israel were largely founded by European people who identified themselves to be of Jewish descent who had no interest in the land before Hitler’s rampage. We Christians must be mindful that our faith commitments must not be allowed to make us nationalists, tribalists or racists. If we cannot love those whom we criticize, we have not understood what love is. It takes greater courage to attack Hamas the old fashioned way – not by excusing ‘collateral damage’. I urge Israel to take the high ground and not punish the innocent simply because they were born into the unlucky-sperm club. Anyone of us could have been born into a Palestinian family.

BTW, I think replacement theology may be overreaching, You can’t really replace a people. Rather, Jer. 31 speaks of a new covenant, one where the laws of God will be written in the hearts of men. The Mosaic cov. was broken … by Israel itself. Hence the Babylonian exile. A new Judaism emerged – rabbinical Judaism. God can now be worshipped outside Jerusalem as well. This paved the way for the Gentilization of Judaism to become Christianity.

Now whether the Jews have a separate covenant with God is another matter. Methinks not. Think of the problem raised by intermarriage. How many percent of Jewish blood qualifies for the other covenant? Jesus was certainly not pedigree Jew, neither was Solomon (Bathsheeba was Hittite) and definitely not David either (Ruth is Moabite and Rahab Canaanite). Not to mention Othniel the Judge and Caleb – both were Cannanites (yikes!).

Finally, I am okay with my first reply being forwarded but please receive in the spirit in which it was delivered, one of great distress over the pitiful suffering of many, both Jews and Palestinians.

Bro. Pro-Accuracy

Thanks Bro. Pro-accuracy again for reflective informed replies.

I think the one line which captures the spirit we need to have in these matters is in your line, “please receive in the spirit in which it was delivered, one of great distress over the pitiful suffering of many, both Jews and Palestinians.”Here the pastoral side in me leaps out … I do not feel the “distress” in the conversations or emails I have received which usually tries to be objective by “demonizing” Hamas, or Palestinians overall, and in some cases Muslims, for example.

I talked with a Palestinian on the other night to ask him for his perspectives. And from the insider point of view, he sees them only as another way of advancing their cause – using violence and force if necessary. Well, he didn’t say it on those terms, but that was what I tried to piece together through his thick accent. What can we expect from a group driven by ideology and the experience of being oppressed or victimized (these are the words that are used commonly)?

Having said that can all of us respond to the call to a way of non-violence. I know without “distress”, it may come across cheap and as if we are ignoring the pain and suffering of people. But it does not have to be that way. The approach of http://www.sabeel.org/ as a model of Christian engagement is informative here even if one disagrees with their theology and politics.

Here’s my call to “Thinking Christians”, let’s get our hands dirty and engage the people who would differ from us on which ever side. Of course, we also need to work through our inner conflicts as well, but this means discussions like this cannot be in a vacuum of academic distance. Now, the are many opportunities talk with our neighbors and sympathetic friends.

Feel the “distress”, show our own “distress” on the matter, and then we can begin to talk about the fairer picture and our vision of reconciliation because of our Faith in Christ. I think we use the word “incarnational” for this approach.

3rd cent. I can do no other.

Engaged Re-framer

Dear Engaged Re-framer

In my own trips to Israel, it is so disheartening to see how much tolerance for suffering one can get used to – especially if its others doing the suffering. I shall always be indebted to a retired pastor-prof of OT and IT (really) who brought a group of us to Israel in years ago to participate in an archaeological dig –

I saw first hand what few tourists get to see and we stayed at a family-run hotel in the Old City. The Christian (cultural, not confessional) family claimed to have run it for almost 500 years (yeah, my eyes rolled as well). In any case, its really like a two-tiered existence, right inside Jerusalem itself.

It was a corrective for me and a difficult one at that. I was the generation that grew up under our govt’s stupid plan to Look East Policy and demonize the use of English at schools and college, only to reverse itself later. I did my chemistry in English in the day time and in Malay in the night time. Same thing with my secondary school education. Three years after the archaeological dig, I decided to study Islam under Lamin Sanneh (a former Muslim) was stunned at encountering Muslims in class who actually know little of the Quran.

Bro. Pro-Accuracy

This Little Light Of Mine

The Advent season which starts on Sunday (November 30, 2008) would be a good time for those of us who are celebrating the move of God to put things right in this world which has so much going wrong, to give our “presence”  even before we start thinking about “presents” for the Christmas season. The Anti-ISA PJ Vigil (now with a police permit!) is every Sunday (8pm – 9.30pm), at MBPJ Civic Centre.

My friend Steven Sim wrote something to encourage pastors and church leaders (as well as the younger generation, which I hope includes me!) to take part in peaceful gatherings like this. He used the word priests to describe us, I’d prefer the word pastor and would be terrified with the word prophet.

For me, when I light a candle and stand with fellow Malaysians and friends to stand against what I see as unjust, I’m also practicing praying on my feet and with my eyes wide open. It’s a form of silent witnessing which complements the need for us to speak out against injustice, and speak for fairness available to all (even those we may disagree with).  At this stage of my own Christian journey and understanding, I hear the quiet call of Jesus inviting me to follow him in this way as part of what it means to be a Christ-follower in Malaysia.

The end goal is not just reactive to the current context we are in, that maybe a beginning but what is needed is a glimpse, a dream and a vision of what can be, and that means we’re standing for a world that is characterized by justice, peace, mercy, respect and harmony. I believe this is in line with the vision of the Kingdom of God Jesus was talking about and inaugurating by his coming.

Apart from a little faith perspective above, the fact is there are many who have walked before us. This struggle with the ISA and related acts which results in many detained without trial has been a long and lonely journey. Those like Kak Laila who blogs at Merah Hitam would give us a realistic picture of what the struggle really means, less we slip into some romantic idea when it comes to civil disobedience and peaceful dissent (I overheard someone say “civilized disobedience”!).

So, while I’m encouraged and challenged by Steven’s words below. I’m also cautious that we do not and must not turn our participation into a “pat on my back I achieved something” or worse any self-serving interest of glamour and fame. It’s a little terrifying to have the spotlight on us pastors who are often seen by many as “six days invisible and one day incomprehensible”. For what it’s worth, I find myself humbled by Steven’s piece.

Our participation is only part of the bigger piece where educational improvements , legislative reform, grass-root movements, spiritual input, political changes, etc,  all converge towards the change that we seek.  Every small step, every prayer, every blog post and every effort big or small, visible or invisible counts! And perhaps more importantly, my hope is our presence  as pastors would open up the channels for us to hear the gentle whisper saying to the world that the God of Justice has not abandoned us! He continues to call us to walk in his will and his way today!

Pastors At The Vigil

Photo Credit : Pat Lu

Perhimpunan Mesra Rakyat – Scenes From The PJ Anti-ISA Vigil

I arrived late almost at 9pm. So, I missed what KJ John said in the videos above. Thanks to SC Lee for uploading them so we could still get the gist of what he was saying. It’s worth the 2 minutes.


As I walked towards the crowd gathered at the PJ Civic Centre, I was delightfully surprised that we still had a substantial crowd considering the events last Sunday.

  

Again like the previous vigils before this, there was a good mixture of people from different age groups as well as races and religions. Of course, the unifying factor more specifically was that all who were there stood against what we believe to be unjust laws for today such as the Internal Security Act (ISA). We were there to stand in solidarity with those who are still detained without trial.

  

But more broadly I believe we were there because we stood for being part of the Malaysian family, some would call it “Bangsa Malaysia” and working together for a better tomorrow. So, to call it “Perhimpunan Mesra Rakyat” had it’s place because that is what we look forward to (or may that was what we were even trying to demonstrate in the present)!

  

Upon arrival I was immediately offered a candle to light not knowing the terms and conditions for the gathering that night which many have already highlighted their irony. I only realized I broke the rules after I came home and read Anil Netto’s blog post LIVE: Restrictive permit fails to spoil “best vigil so far”. I came later so I missed the briefing in the beginning. So, I was innocently ignorant of the rules when I was asked to say a few words by Richard Yeoh while holding a candle in my hand! (I was also totally unaware a church member recorded me while I was speaking, so that’s a double blur on my part)

Just to highlight a few of the restrictions (With comments, trying to be seriously humorous at the same time if you don’t mind):

  • No Candles Allowed

    No candles for candlelight vigils? Okay, we could innovate, torch lights next week (no cleaning wax problems later)? Hibiscus flowers for a change? Flower vigil?

  • No T-shirts showing support for the Abolition of the ISA allowed

    Opps some of us came with Bebas Malaysia Dari ISA badges, others with T-shirts and all. On second reading, only no T-shirts, buttons and badges can!

  • “Penganjur dilarang melakukan sebarang aktiviti yang lain yang melambangkan simpati terhadap tahanan Akta Keselamatan Negara”(Organisers are prohibited from any other activity that suggests sympathy towards ISA detainees!)

    We could of course show sympathy to the family members of the ISA detainees at least. Ah . from a psychological perspective we have moved from sympathy to empathy. Empathy is ok, in fact better!)

  • No banners or distribution of leaflets allowed

    Save the trees and environment!

  • No political speeches allowed

    Of course, there are those who would like to define the word political in much more broader terms in its relation to our everyday lives. I suppose speeches which deal with human suffering, justice and peace, citizenship, neighborliness, compassion, accountability, . . . the list goes on, concerns which affect our everyday life as citizens of Malaysia should be permissible.

It was good to see the more prominent faces from the civil society groups, bloggers and politicians. But at the end of the day, the best part of vigils like this is when ordinary people like you and me step out either for the first time, or continually to speak out at least by our presence in events like these to send a strong message to those elected into power and the administration of the nation on what we as the people stand for, and that’s what elected leaders need to reflect in their service to the nation.

  

So all in all, it was a good candlelight vigil. It was extra good that the peaceful gathering of concerned Malaysians could sing the national anthem NegaraKu in closing uninterrupted.