Polite, Positive and Proactive
by Rev. Eu Hong Seng
The recent Sarawak state elections saw the whole Church abuzz with every imaginable comment, statement and stand - unfortunately not all Christ-like or non-partisan.
Scripture reminds us that our speech must "always be filled with grace"1 especially to those on the "outside". The Government's offer announced by Dato Sri Idris Jala on 2 April 2011 is the "best thus far", a senior church leader commented. However, it still falls short of the expectations of many. Whatever our sentiments, many were caught up in the election fever and started barking at those with differing views.
Many a man of the cloth donned the activist's garment and accusations that some segments of the Church were not non-partisan were fair comment.
It is indeed amazing that so many of us make good bedfellows when it comes to prophecies of doom. We are all too quick to criticise.
I think it is worthwhile recapping the positives in the 10-point solution:-
- There is the offer to import and print the Alkitab; although in West Malaysia, the words "Christian Publication" are required.
- There is the offer to work towards the "religious aspirations of all in accordance with the Constitution".
- It is not an "Idris' offer". It is a decision of the PM and the Cabinet.
- The mechanism has been set up and is still being fine-tuned for future dialogue.
- The Government appears to be honouring the religious freedom in Sabah and Sarawak.
Before one argues whether the "deal" is good or not, I think we need to remind ourselves that as Malaysians, we have yet to fully experience and enjoy the democratic freedom, which we desire.
Non-Muslim communities can cite the following examples where freedom of religion is not upheld: Bulldozers pulling down temples, insufficient religious burial places, the inability to offer our children Bible Knowledge in schools hassle free and the restrictions for travel to Israel to visit our 'holy' cities. This is our reality. In this context, what we have before us is in contrast a 'positive' deal.
We also cannot ignore the fact that the offer to print the words 'Christian Publication' on the Alkitab came from Christians as a concession after years of frustration when dealing with civil servants, vide CFM's letter dated 9th April, 2005. The Government accepted this in December 2005. Although it was poorly implemented, the Government is now merely saying, "Let's try again what you Christians suggested."
But judging from the numerous negative comments, criticisms and clamour, I don't think any deal can satisfy everyone.
I am reminded of a story. There was a man who once reared a dog who had the unique ability to walk on water. Excited by his dog's prowess, the man decided to show off his dog to his friends. So one day, he invited several friends to a lake and took his dog along. With his friends assembled, the man threw a bone far into the lake and encouraged his dog to fetch it. The dog promptly walked on the water and retrieved the bone. The proud man asked his friends if they had noticed something different. There was silence for a while and then a friend quipped - "You know, come to think of it, your dog can't swim".
Sadly, such is the way we sometimes look at things.
If that is so, everybody loses at the end of the day!
I want to humbly suggest to Christians to move forward the "ABC way".
Firstly, be Asian. Be polite and thank the Government for its offer, albeit a not perfect one. I grew up learning from my parents that we must say "thank you" even if we deem the ang pow not big enough.
Secondly, approach this issue the Bible way. The Alkitab reminds the people of the Book to test all things - 1 Thess 5:21. So let's test it. Now that the Sarawak state elections are over, check if the offer is still valid. Does the KSU directive really work? Go and import more Bibles and see if the KDN stops us. Print the Bibles and see if the KDN harasses us again. Being polite and positive does not mean we are naive.
Lastly, do the Common sense thing. The Government has said they want to work towards the religious aspirations of all. Find out what that means. Can our Bibles be declassified as they are now considered "prejudicial to the security of the country"? Be proactive. Saying "thank you" does not mean we have accepted the 10-point resolution in totality.
At the end of the day, we all want the same thing - religious freedom we all enjoyed when Tunku shouted the first Merdeka. Nobody can fault us for wanting to believe in Merdeka again. Why not start making practical suggestions?
Let's do another common sense thing. Hold our government accountable. If the offer was indeed an election ploy, the government can expect to face an angrier and more unforgiving electorate. So, the sensible thing to do is to prepare for the next GE today!
Yes, we can move forward.
1 Col 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.