Monday, January 11, 2010

Burning Churches and Bigots

I am actually very sad of the situation in Malaysia.

We don't usually go out burning churches or houses of religion. There is an accidental bulldoze or some misunderstandings in the past but not an all out attack. This time, its minor and actually not serious physical attacks, but attacks nonetheless. Why I say minor.. because its just a few bottles of petroleum being thrown into church property or some doors smashed in. That's not a major physical issue, a couple of dollars and its all spruced up. In one case, half a million Ringgit was given but have to relocate (hmmm.. wonder if that was the real issue).

Anyway, before I digress and end up in ISA (which is Christ by the way, in Malay, isn't that ironic), lets get back to the topic at hand. Its not major yet it is. Why is it major? Because people are now openly against another religion and openly physically attacking another religion without fear of the law. There are no more mask (which in a way is good). Its an all out open attack.

Interestingly, yesterday TV3 shows that a number of Muslim NGO's want to go out and protect churches. At the same time, there are groups that set up blogs and FB sites attacking Christians, such as
Menentang Penggunaan Nama Allah oleh golongan bukan Islam.

It is also fascinating to me also that everyone jumps to the conclusion that all this church burning and bigotry stems from the legal case of Herald and the use of the word Allah in its publications. I grew up in Terengganu, where Christians are a small minority. I know that the State had its own laws which prohibit the use of specific words by non-Muslims, specifically Christians, yet we all used it as it was the norm in speaking. When I came to Sarawak (and later to understand the situation in Sabah is also similar), the churches used Allah and had been using it for ages before.

Another point to consider. If you have traveled the world, you will know that the word Allah is used by many different peoples. In Indonesia, in the Arab states, many words that Malaysians think is only for Muslims are common daily language. My Pakistani students don't understand what the fuss is all about.

Thirdly, this is a legal case and therefore shouldn't we render unto Caeser what is Caesers? Let the law take its path and we follow what is decided, both Christian or Muslim.

Also, I like to point out how this issue correlates with the definition of Natives in Sarawak case. In Sarawak, we have been happily going around saying we are natives until an 'overzealous (not my word but in the papers)' clerk decides to use the law (which is there and still not changed and within the rights of the clerk to do so). Same thing with the word Allah. We in Sabah and Sarawak have been using it for ages, until someone decided to make it an issue and lo and behold, here we are.

What should be done. I suggest patience, forgiveness, kindness. Christ did not ask us to slap back those who slapped us, but give them the other cheek to slap. No worries. A couple of churches burnt. So what. Its just buildings.

I also suggest that we say nothing until we know what actually happened. Don't add to the confusion, fear and worry. Don't judge. Hey, for all you may know, the attacks may have been carried out by those within our own or for other reasons unknown to us. Don't judge.

Dont carry tales, especially if you cannot verify it.

I am sad when I see my undergraduates joining these stupid 'hate groups.' It does not help to decrease fear and neither does it show maturity on one's side. So don't propagate other people's agenda, unless it is your agenda to hate.

I suggest that we forgive, and bear with what is happening and to come. Patience. Love. Forgiveness.

This is our land. We live here. For better or for worse. I prefer for better.


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