CHRISTIAN-Muslim relations in the past few years have been sorely tested over the Allah controversy. Into this breach comes the unlikely figure of Mujahid Rawa. Since 2010, the Member of Parliament (Paris Buntar) has been involved in a series of dialogues with churches in an attempt to heal strained relations between both faith communities. Coming from PAS with its Islamist credentials, he comes across as a surprising agent of reconciliation. Continue reading “Berdialog dengan Gereja (Dialoguing with the Church): A book review”
Today I decided to write because I’m upset. I’m upset because the Appeals Court have ruled that the Catholic newspaper, The Herald, have no right to use the Malay word “Allah” in the Malay section of the paper (you can read the news here and the background to this sorry mess here).
The Slovenian theorist, Slavoj Zizek, is considered one of the hottest thinker in the field of social theory today. Inevitably, if you are highly praised as “the rockstar of theory”, sooner or later somebody would come along and denounce you as a peddler of theoretical junk. In this case the battle between the giants, i.e. Chomsky and Zizek debate, where Chomsky accuses Zizek as being unworthy of being called as a thinker while Zizek fires back accusing Chomsky of, what do you expect, the same thing. (You can read about their exchange here)
This piece was written for Berita NECF (July – Sept. 2013) where I gave some thoughts on post-GE 13 and the Church.
EARLY this year, Malaysians were outraged by a video which showed a speaker shouting down a university student at a forum with the now infamous phrase “Listen, listen, listen”.
This video demonstrated an ugly truth about ourselves: We are indeed a nation divided. We are divided along racial and religious lines which have led us, particularly in the past few years, to start shouting “listen, listen” without attempting to truly listen to those who are different from us.
Listen, if I may be permitted to use the word, we are divided because we have built walls that insulate us from those who are different from us. We built those walls so that we can remain comfortable as to who we are. Those walls insulate us from listening to what others have to say about us and also about themselves. To listen to others is an uncomfortable exercise. It’s uncomfortable because it forces us to re-examine the picture we have of ourselves. It forces us to face the fact that we are part of the problem as to why the nation is divided.
Let me now shift the “we” as a nation to “we” as a community of faith, i.e. Christians.
In this time when walls are being built, we are called to the ministry of reconciliation. Although the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) and NECF have been involved in this ministry at the national level, more can be done particularly at the community level. The local church needs to be involved in this ministry in their communities.
It could be argued that the local churches are involved in this ministry through outreach which focuses not only on meeting spiritual needs but also physical needs. And through its outreach ministry, the church becomes an agent of reconciliation between God and man. For most Christians, the practice of reconciliation is often limited to salvation.
However, there is another dimension to reconciliation. Reconciliation is also about engaging with people of other faiths. We live in a country that is multi-religious, and are familiar with the challenges that this poses. Yet, somehow we don’t engage fellow citizens enough on a religious and cultural level to seek common ground. Is it because we build walls around ourselves due to our fears and ignorance of those who are different from us? Perhaps we need to rethink our theology with regards to reconciliation as not just being merely about salvation but also one that seeks to advance thecommon good.
Indeed, seeking the common good is biblical. For example, in Genesis, we observe that all people, made in the image of God, are endowed with dignity. Preserving this dignity entails a pursuit of the common good. This includes things like the freedom of worship, the right to life, to be treated equally under the law, to justice and other democratic values which enable all persons to live with dignity and flourish to their full potential.
Do we care enough about the common good or are we at risk of insulating ourselves behind our walls? Now, more than ever, we need to create spaces for people from different faiths to come together to share a conversation on common challenges. We each, whatever our religion, struggle with being faithful to one’s faith and with being a citizen of Malaysia. Through such conversations, we can learn much from one another and start the process of tearing down the walls that separate us.
Such conversations are crucial as they lead not only to mutual understanding but also to finding the common good which binds us together as a nation. No doubt such conversations are difficult to begin because it requires an openness and humility to learn from those who are so different from us. It also requires willingness to take the first step to initiate such conversations at a time when walls surround us.
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:39)
As Christians, the task of listening is made more challenging because it forces us to examine ourselves in the light of Christ’s commandment to “love our neighbour” (Matthew 22:39). For how can we love our neighbour if we are ignorant as to how they define themselves in terms of their religious and/or racial identity? How is love possible if we do not understand their fears and hopes?
Yet, we are called to this ministry of reconciliation because we are reconciled with God and with each other (2 Corinthians 5: 17-19). And as Malaysians, we live at a juncture of our nation’s history where reconciliation is urgently needed. This then is the challenge which confronts us today.
Today, I look back on a piece I wrote a few years back. It’s quite a personal piece as I reflected on my faith journey. In that piece – you can read it here – I wrote that I’m a Christian in the evangelical tradition. However, through time, I found myself discomforted with that tradition. Continue reading “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”
As Malaysians look forward towards the 13th GE, perhaps it’s a good time to pause and look backward towards the lessons of the 12th GE. The 12th GE is historically significant because for the ruling coalition was denied, for the first time in its long rule, a two-third majority in the Parliament. Continue reading “Looking backward, looking forward”
Tertullian, the second century Church Father, famously asked “What have Athens to do with Jerusalem?” where he famously decried the influence of pagan philosophy into faith. Rephrasing this quote, I wish to ask what have “Rome to do with Jerusalem?” In short, I want to ask should faith be separated from politics?
In the past few months, we have witnessed this question emerging in the public sphere with some coming out against the faithful involving their faith into the political sphere while others argued that such a divorce is not an option … if one wants to be a faithful disciple. Continue reading “What have Rome to do with Jerusalem?”