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So, who undermines our racial harmony now?

  • It has become very obvious now that it is politics, not any religion, that has crippled our social stability.

By CHONG LIP TECK
Sin Chew Daily

Since when has Christianity become the target of political assault for holding a civic forum inside a church?

The Church has the right to organize activities -- prayer meetings or talks -- within its premises. Take my personal experience for instance, there has never been once a forum held within a church building has promoted the establishment of a Christian state, even though it might be related to politics. More often it is exploring how Christians, as citizens of this country, can contribute positively towards the country's development.

As youth and sports deputy minister Steven Sim has pointed out, whenever he is invited to a Christian forum, he would only talk about values quoted from the Bible with the objective of guiding Christians to become better citizens.

PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man obviously does not think the same way. He has accused Sim of trying to promote Christianity at a forum held inside a church. Anyone can see what Tuan Ibrahim was trying to imply: Umno-PAS have made alleging DAP of building a Christian state a notion they must instill in their supporters.

While slamming his political rivals, Tuan Ibrahim has conveniently brought Christianity into the picture as well. The plot of Umno-PAS attempting to camouflage their evil intentions with a glorified “Muafakat Nasional” has simply failed.

Has Tuan Ibrahim ever attended a civic forum held in a church? I'm sure he has not, and will not. And does he ever know how much the Church has contributed towards the establishment of a more harmonious and unified nation? I dare say he does not.

In this year's Merdeka/Malaysia Day address, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia said Christians were “called to build bridges” and “be peacemakers, to find common ground and to engage in respectful dialogue.”

To achieve this end, the Church will continue to seek meaningful dialogues with other religions, including Islam. Reassuringly, interreligious dialogues among major religions in the country have been successfully held for the past several years, bringing them much closer through joint prayers for key incidents.

Unfortunately there are people who refuse to become bridge-makers but are rather eager to tear down bridges we have built with so much effort over the years. It has become very obvious here that it is politics, not any religion, that has undermined our social stability.

The Church, along with other non-Muslim organizations, have constantly held out the olive branch with the sincere hope Muslims will come forward for a dialogue. As a matter of fact, in our day-to-day living, at the workplace, social activities, or our neighborhoods, Malaysians from different religious backgrounds have been able to mingle so spontaneously without the slightest feel of segregation or division. But, politicians have their own plans. All they want to see are confrontation and conflicts.

The Church is constantly holding out a hand, trusting that our varied religious legacies have indeed enriched our multicultural society. For some politicians, in particular the religiously self-righteous ones, the same has been exploited to advance their untold political motives, by distorting the core truths of religion. The sad thing is, such rogue politicians often have a sizeable following.

Take the case of controversial Indian Muslim preacher Zakir Naik for example, he often disparages other religions while promoting Islam, especially Hinduism and Christianity. He has crossed the line and offended other religions by issuing such remarks as a guest in Malaysia. But, what has PAS said about him?

PAS president Hadi Awang agreed with Tun Mahathir that Zakir should not be repatriated, and said doing so would contravene the Geneva Convention. He also blamed DAP for raising the issue.

Meanwhile, his deputy Nik Abduh said those wanted Zakir out were sinners and hypocrites, and that non-Muslims were traitors and enemies of Islam.

We must never underestimate Zakir Naik's threat to religious harmony in this country. The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism has issued a stern warning on this matter, but this has been largely ignored by PPBM, PAS and other Malay/Muslim parties because Zakir Naik holds some political exploitation values for these people. PAS has not only backed Zakir, but has also wrongly accused non-Muslim organizations for its own political gains.

This time, youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq has done the right thing by siding his deputy Steven Sim. The minister should have done much better than this. He has previously hosted a dinner for the fugitive preacher and urged Malaysians to lay down their prejudices and look forward.

As the leader for the country's youths, Syed Saddiq should set a good example and take a more proactive stand in having a dialogue with young non-Muslims towards the establishment of a more harmonious country.

The Malay-majority parties within the ruling PH coalition must take the initiative to reinforce solidarity among Malaysians. Now that Umno and PAS have officially sealed an alliance, parties like PPBM and Amanah must embrace moderation and not revert to the old conservative way.

The voters have conveyed a very clear message: whoever destroys the nature of and splits up our pluralistic society will be punished accordingly.

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