Epistle to the Church in Malaysia
Dear sisters and brothers in the faith,
Greetings in the Name of our beloved Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ. His love, grace, peace, joy and blessings be upon all of you who love, honour and obey him.
I write this open letter as a fellow believer and as a humble servant of the Almighty God to make a clarion call to my sisters and brothers in the faith to unite in solidarity of vision and mission to bring about a moral and spiritual transformation of our beloved nation, by our individual prayers and united corporate intercession, and through our vocal articulation and visible demonstration of our life and faith beyond the walls of our comfort zone within our churches. The time has come for us to wake up from our spiritual slumber, and stand up, without fear or favour, and be counted for the Lord Jesus.
Most, if not all, of you are surely aware and concerned that our beloved country is currently going through a very critical and uncertain time, during which various delicate and sensitive matters are being exploited and abused by the evil forces out to destroy the peaceful and harmonious co-existence of our multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-ideological and multi-lingual nation. It is during such a time as this that we as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ need to go on our knees before the throne of grace to seek forgiveness, mercy and divine intervention to save our nation from disintegration and destruction.
The Church and State
One of the most heretical deceptions that the Christian community has been infused with by misguided western missionaries is the so-called separation of the church and state, meaning that Christians should not be involved in matters of the state, or take any stand on political issues. This teaching is based on a distorted exegesis of the statement by the Lord Jesus on the issue of paying tax: Render to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to God the things that are Gods (Matthew 22:21).
The traditional church community has always used this statement to mark a demarcation between what is supposed to be spiritual or sacred, and what is considered secular or worldly. Hence, a broad boundary exists today between the church and the world outside its walls, with Christians having two distinct spheres of lifestyle.
Such a compartmentalization of life into spiritual and secular is certainly bad theology, and is, in fact, contrary to the biblical doctrine of man with its emphasis on the whole person, with the involvement in the whole of life in every area and sphere of life and thoughts. Unfortunately, many Malaysian pastors and church leaders still have such misconceived and mislaid socio-political conscience, and are even paranoid over anything political. Many are also living in fear and trembling of such harsh and draconian laws like the Internal Security Act (ISA), which provides for indiscriminate detention with trial.
Hence, there is much reluctance of the part of the pastors and church leaders to preach, teach and articulate on socio-economic and political matters, even though the Bible is full of such stories and teachings of social ethical values and practices. For example, the story of the Exodus in the Old Testament is a narration of a political liberation movement led by Moses to free the Hebrew slaves from the despostic Pharaoh of Egypt. In the New Testament, the beheading of John the Baptist was the result of the prophets moral-political campaign against the immorality in the high place. The Lord Jesus himself was crucified for his challenge to the corrupt religious leaders and the oppressive Roman authorities.
In the Malaysian Christian community, there are many, especially pastors and church leaders, who are sincere and anxious to preserve and protect the fundamental faith without compromise and condensation, and are faithful and obedient to strive for the fulfillment of the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus. However, due to the shallow theological education they received at the local seminaries, which are mere clones of the western seminaries, many of them have developed unbalanced and narrow views and attitudes, especially in relations to socio-economic and political matters. This is why many pastors and church leaders are perceived as docile and submissive, and are easily frightened, bullied or placated by the bureaucracy outside the church. This can also be observed when a VIP government personality visits their church. They dressed up in their formal best and get so excited like little children getting gifts from Santa Claus.
And over the years till even now, the pastors and church leaders who represent the Christian community in negotiations with the governmental authorities over matters of dispute have used the so-called soft diplomatic approach, meeting behind closed doors, without press coverage, although the issues are of public interest and concern. However, all these meetings seemed to end with meaningless conclusions, with the pastors and church leaders apparently at a loss over what had actually transpired, and what had been pledged, since all the so-called agreements never ever implemented.
I expect the so-called instant 10-point plan proposed by the federal government to resolve the current controversy over the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Bible to similarly become a political mirage that will disappear as soon as the current Sarawak state election and the impending 13th general election are over. Basically the 10-point plan, amazingly formulated instantly within a few days, is an expedient tool to deal with the impounding of the Bahasa Malaysia Bible, to provide a convenient political diversion for the Sarawak state election. The pastors and church leaders who agree to endorse such an illusive and delusive solution to the Bahasa Malaysia Bible controversy certainly lack wisdom and are short-sighted. Thankfully, the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) chairman Bishop Ng Moon Hing is a wise leader who is able to discern the real situation. He made the following media statement on the issue:
T10-point solution deals with the impounding of the Alkitab but not with the prohibition of publications containing the word Allah. The root cause of the problem of the impounding of the Alkitab lies in the following:
(a) The 1982 prohibition of the Alkitab and the 1983 prohibition of the Perjanjian Baru under the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA) on the grounds that the Alkitab is prejudicial to national interest and the security of Malaysia.
(b) The 1986 administrative order prohibiting the use of the term Allah in Christian publications on the grounds of public order and prevention of misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians.
© The Garis Panduan of the Bahagian Kawalan Penerbitan dan Teks Al-Quran of the Ministry of Home Affairs prohibiting the use of the word Allah.
In this regard we refer to item 9 of the 10-point solution which reiterates the Governments commitment to address religious issues. The Government, therefore, should take immediate steps to remove the root causes by revoking the orders made under the ISA and the administrative order and to amend the Garis Panduan to remove the prohibition.
The one country two policies approach is confusing and unacceptable. We look forward to working with the Government to address other long standing issues affecting the Christian community including the relevant provisions in the State Enactments.
Syabas, Bishop Ng. We stand firmly in support of your stand.
Time to take a firm stand
At such a time as this when our nation is immersed in such serious controversies involving the question of human, civil and constitutional rights of Christians to freely profess, practise, promote, and propagate our faith without constraints and restraints, Christians of all denominations and differing theological inclinations should stand in solidarity to preserve and protect our rights from being diluted, deprived, and severely undermined.
There is also the increasingly dangerous moral decline infesting the soul of our nation, with corruption, cronyism, nepotism, and immorality fast becoming a way of life among some of the elites of the nation.
English historian Edward Gibbon in his famous six-volume The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire has shown us that it was the immoral behaviour of the Roman emperors, politicians and rich people that led to the decay and eventual fall of the Roman Empire.
According to Gibbon, the Roman Empire succumbed to external invasions because of the gradual loss of moral values and virtue among its political leaders, who were enjoying the luxurious comfortable life and lifestyle, with nary a concern about the country, its future, and posterity. The emperors and the political leaders were immoral, corrupt, weak and lazy. They outsourced their responsibities and duties to develop and defend their nation to foreign migrants, who later became so numerous that they were able to overrun the country and take control of it.
If we are not to go the way of the Romans, surely we need to protect our children and progenies from the current onslaught of the destabilizing and destructive sensually self-indulgent hedonistic culture invading our nation from the West, transmitted directly to our homes via the globalwide cyber network connection and by satellite television.
The horror of such a moral incursion into our society should not be simply dismissed as scaremongering, or as spreading ominous reports or rumours of impending disaster.
The moral decay is fast descending upon us. Truth, righteousness, justice, fairness, love, equality and basic human rights are being compromised too. Then there are the racists with their insensitive, offensive and outrageous attitude and actions. The horror of .such a scenario cannot be ignore, and we need to act fast to arrest the increasingly fast moral decline in our nation.
Need for electoral revolution
Hence, we need to initiate an electoral revolution, by going all out to vote en bloc for candidates who have impeccable integrity, blameless character, irreproachable moral, and virtous immaculate lifestyle.
As Christians constitute 10% of the nations population, and nearly 45% of the Sarawak population, we are a formidable force with tremendous electoral clout to bring about a transformation of the political landscape in our nation. We should exercise our civil and constitutional right to vote for the best possible candidates to lead our state and nation.
The fate of our nation and the future of our children are in our hands. We must not waste this opportune kairos time to bring about a moral transformation in our nation, so that righteousness will exalt our nation (Proverb 14:34).
As we pray the Lords Prayer, saying Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:19), let us allow the Lord to do his will through us when we exercise our right to vote.
May God bless all you real good, and may he also look favourably upon our homeland and bless it with peace, harmony, and prosperity.
Your servant in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thomas Lee Seng Hock