Viewpoint: Why The Church Has To Speak Up

Roger Tan in his comment that appeared in The Sunday Star on 21/4/2013 has taken exception to statements by the clergy that inter alia ‘make fun’ of the government.

Roger seems to suggest that “lately the pulpit has been misused for political purposes”.

He supports his comment by reference to 4 incidents. These are:

  1. Bishop Paul Tan’s statement appearing in Malaysiakini on 15 April 2013 where the prelate complained of the insensitivity towards Christians by having the 13th General Elections on a Sunday which is a day of worship for Christians.
  2. A pastor who had purportedly said “without any substantiating evidence” that foreigners would be voting at the elections.
  3. A posting on an Anglican Church facebook that Sunday is chosen to allow phantom votes to take place in the morning when Christians are worshipping in church.
  4. A posting that praise PAS for fielding Hu Pang Chow, a Christian, as an election candidate.

Roger also takes offence on the Catholic prelate’s statement that the government (and not the Election Commission (EC)) that fixed the election on a Sunday.

Roger Tan however acknowledges that the Church should advocate social justice. By this acknowledgement, Roger Tan has fallen into error when he attempts to ostracise the clergy in his comment.

When Bishop Paul Tan complained of the “insensitivity towards Christians” for having the election on a Sunday, we must not forget other incidents of insensitivity towards Christians that had taken place in the past.

If one considers the recent attacks against Christians in this country such as allegations of Malaysia becoming a Christian state, the raid on a Christian church in Petaling Jaya, the threat to burn the Malay Bible and the silence, lack of response or inadequate action from the authorities against such vile attacks, surely one will recognise the need for the Johor Malacca Catholic prelate to raise his concerns and to speak out “on issues close to the laity’s hearts”.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry on illegal immigrants in Sabah received evidence that Filipinos and other foreigners who had admitted that they have voted in our previous elections after they obtained blue ICs within a few years of being in Sabah. With such infomation in place, are the pastors that Roger had referred to in his comment not justified in raising their concerns?

Constitutionally, the EC is independent of the Federal Government. However, in the eyes of some, the EC appears to be yet another government department when inter alia complaints of ‘phantom’ voters and other anomalies expressed by inter alia Bersih has not been adequately addressed. So, Bishop Paul Tan should be excused if he did say that the government and not the Election Commission that fixed the election date.

Given the Barisan National’s endorsement of Perkasa, I can’t see why the clergy should be restrained from endorsing other candidates to maintain religious tolerance!

And yes, the Church has always advocated peace. I am encouraged by Roger Tan’s quotes of St Francis of Assisi’s prayer and Pope Francis statements.

Perhaps Roger Tan should look further and will find solace in St Francis of Assisi’s works on how the great saint had attained peace with our Muslim brethrens and till today, his brothers of the Franciscan Order have charge of various churches and sacred sites in the Holy Land.

Joy Appukuttan

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Catholic Lawyers Society Kuala Lumpur. CLS makes no representation concerning, and does not guarantee the source, originality, accuracy, completeness or reliability of any statement, information, data, finding, interpretation, advice, opinion, or view presented.

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