Enough is enough! The usually docile, meek and temperate Christian community in Malaysia has had enough, and has exploded in anger over what they perceive as their human, civil and constitutional rights being denied and rendered illusory, with the latest seizure of 30,000 Malay Bibles from the Kuching Port in Sarawak.
Several such incidents over the last few years are nothing less than an assault on their God-given rights to worship, and to practice and propagate their faith in their own national language, without any legal restriction or political oppression.
There should no place for such evil bigotry and discrimination towards any religious belief in our country which is founded on the fundamental human right basis of freedom to worship and to practice and propagate one’s faith without hindrance, as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
Article 8 of the Federal Constitution states that “All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”, and “there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender in any law ….”.
Article 11 provides for every person to have “the right to profess and practice his religion”, and that every religious group has the right (a) to manage its own religious affairs, (b) to establish and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes, and (c) to acquire and own property and hold and administer it in accordance with the law.
The refusal to allow the Christians in the country to use certain Bahasa Malaysia words in their publications is a direct infringement of their constitutional right to freedom of religious worship and practice. As patriotic citizens of the nation, the Christians in Malaysia should automatically have total access to use the complete vocabulary of the national language. There is no such thing as the monopoly of certain words by any particular group.
The seizure of the Malay Bibles on the contention that they contain several Bahasa Malaysia words deemed incongruous for use by the Christians is an infraction of their constitutional rights as legitimate loyal citizens, and a direct transgression of the universal human right provisions of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted on 10 December 1948.
It is definitely wrong, unconstitutional, even immoral, when a certain section of the citizenry is denied and deprived of their human and constitutional rights based on the unilateral action of some bias and racist extremist civil servants.
The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), an umbrella body that represents over 90% of churches in the country, is surely justified in publicly challenging the Barisan Nasional federal government to explain the latest seizure of the Malay Bibles at the Kuching Port, and questioning its sincerity and integrity in dealing with the fiasco and other similar related issues over the last few years.
What then should the Christians in Malaysia do in the face of such an oppressive political tyranny, in which their freedom to practice their faith is being undermined?
First of all, as Christians, we believe in the power of divine intervention, so we must unite in unceasing prayer before the throne of grace to seek God’s help. A nationwide non-stop prayer vigil should be organized by the various churches to pray for the nation and its leaders. Individual Christians on their own should also set aside a day each week to fast and pray.
Secondly, the Christians must be united in their stand to defend their human and constitutional rights, to curb and prevent any breach or dilution of such fundamental rights. They should give steadfast and strong support to the CFM and church leaders in their negotiation with the authorities on the matter. At the same time, the CFM and its leadership should be resolute and unwavering in their stand, without fear or favor. Those who are afraid and not willing to risk the prospect of being detained for standing up should step down from the leadership positions.
Thirdly, the churches should start holding talks and forums to inform and educate their members on the issues affecting them. Pastors should preach and teach on biblical subjects such as Christian responsibility in society. For too long, the Christians, including the pastors and church leaders, have been basking in their comfort zone within the four walls of their churches, with nary a concern about their rights being eroded or tramped on. The time has come for the Christians to emerge from their spiritual slumber to play a more vocal and visible role as loyal citizens of the nation. They should mobilize themselves to campaign and vote for those who are righteous, just, honest, fair, humble, competent, and incorruptible to serve as their representatives in Parliament and the various state assemblies.
Finally, Christians who are qualified and willing to serve the nation in the socio-political arena should offer themselves as candidates for election to Parliament and the various state assemblies. We need Joseph who became the prime minister of Egypt and saved the country from famine and economic disaster, Moses who fought for the liberation of those oppressed slaves of Egypt, Daniel who stood firm for his faith in the face of religious persecution, David who served as King and unified the nation, Nehemiah who served as a high government official and used his position to help rebuilt Jerusalem, John the Baptist who was beheaded for exposing and condemning the immorality of Herod, and the apostle Paul who exercised his citizenship rights to stand up for his faith. Of course, the prime example is the Lord Jesus who challenged and spoke out against the hypocritical Jewish religious leaders and the oppressive Roman political authorities, and was crucified.
The clarion call to the Christians in Malaysia today is to join with all other Malaysians of like vision and mission to participate in an active national service to bring about the transformation of the nation to a new and better Malaysia.
|Thomas Lee Seng Hock is Chief Editor of www.mysinchew.com , the English news portal of Malaysia’s largest-circulated Chinese newspaper, Sin Chew Daily. He has been a tent-making Bible teacher and preacher for nearly 40 years, working as a newspaper editor. Thomas is a non-conformist evangelical Bible teacher and preacher for the last 40 years. He has been tent-making as a journalist and socio-political analyst since returning to Malaysia in 1975 from studies in Singapore and then Australia. He had worked in almost all the local English newspapers, including The Star, the Sun, the New Straits Time, and the Malay Mail for over 30 years. He can be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com|