Sunday, August 28, 2016

When can Young Malaysians shout "Merdeka" from within Merdeka Square?

This week the Federation of Malaya celebrates 59 years of Independence from British rule.  Thousands will gather once again, as usual in pomp and circumstance on Merdeka Square. There will be fireworks and loud celebrations in the evening.  

Merdeka Square is an iconic place reminding Malaysians of our independence from British rule. The Jalur Gemilang was first raised there in 1957 when The Federation of Malaya formally declared her independence and chartered a brave new course for self-rule.  

Yet, the weekend before our 59th year of Independence, Merdeka Square was in desperate lockdown. It appears that a group of young Malaysians were protesting. Their rallying call?  “#Tangkap MO1” or Catch MO1.  The iconic Merdeka Square on 27th August, 2016 however was surrounded by The Royal Malaysian Police. The young protesters were denied entry.  The reason?  Perhaps best explained by Tourism Minister Mohammad Nazri;  “Seek approval from the police. There is an Act (Peaceful Assembly Act). If the police say cannot, then cannot, lah. I understand that approval must also be sought from the landowner. DBKL is the owner of Dataran Merdeka. If it says cannot, then cannot lah,”  

On one level it seems straight forward. The government of the day denies Malaysian youth the right to assemble on a public place, specifically Independence Square (Merdeka Square).  On another level, this is a stark reality of Malaysia under the rule of one single government for 59 years. It is perhaps symbolic that the future of Malaysia represented by these brave and idealistic youths were denied their freedom to step foot on the symbol of Independence and freedom in Malaysia. It was loud and clear, that this government would not allow anyone into Merdeka Square on that afternoon of the 27th of August.

The reason is simple according to Minister in Najib’s cabinet. Dataran Merdeka or Merdeka Square belongs to DBKL. They are the landowners.  When did any government agency become landowners in Malaysia most of all a public square of historic significance? 
This is what happens when one party becomes ruling government for too long. They forget that they represent the people and are elected into government to ensure that all Malaysians are treated fairly under the constitution. Nazri’s statement bleeds of arrogance. Governments are not private landowners.  They are mere guardians of public spaces and public amenities and infrastructure. They have no right to deny any law abiding citizen of Malaysia from entry into any public space especially Dataran Merdeka which is the symbol of freedom and independence in Malaysia.

It is clear that this regular lockdown of Merdeka Square each time there is a peaceful protest is an affront to the freedom and rights of the Malaysian people. The grills, barricades and barb wires are symbolic of a repressive regime bent on holding power even in the midst of a deep financial scandal implicating a senior government official in the ruling BN government.

When, Oh when will the people be able to finally shout “Merdeka!” from inside Merdeka Square like our brave forefathers on the evening of 31st August 1957?

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Should I stay or Should I go? A Biblical response to the question of migration

Really with each passing day, Malaysia looks less and less recognizable. Whatever we had dreamed about – a successful formula of a diverse, multi ethnic people living together and working towards a common destiny seem like a distant mirage now.  Even as we look at our daily life here in Malaysia, it is discouraging to say the least. Government just isn’t working. The city is dirty, road works and public amenities are slipshod with little care for the details. Public transport is inefficient and costly.  Parks and public amenities like swimming pools and public spaces are few.  Our public education system is so bad that people are having to pay for an international or private education.  Those who cannot afford many times, sadly, face mediocre and unmotivated public school teachers. It’s impossible to start a company or to do business in Malaysia without being asked for graft or a bribe. This sickening culture exists from government officials in Putrajaya and local councils to purchasing executives in private companies. Foreign companies loathe to start a business here in Malaysia for this reason. Instead of worrying about the billions that have been lost from Malaysia through the 1MDB fiasco, politicians are more concern about passing through Parliament an archaic form of punishment that would take Malaysia back to the dark ages.  It seems like nobody cares anymore that Malaysia is heading in a dangerous trajectory, least of all the political leaders who seem to be fiddling with politics while “Rome burns.”
With all that is going on, it is so tempting to throw in the towel and to give up on Malaysia. It would be a lie to say that the thought of a successful and comfortable life in the suburbs of Sydney or Perth never crossed my mind. It has and of late all the more frequent.  Why stay?  

Indeed there can only be one reason for any Christian Malaysian to stay on.  It is our cultural and gospel mandate which is given to every professing Christian. What is this cultural mandate? It is the mandate given in Genesis 1 to rule over and subdue the earth. How do we do that as New Testament Christians? We do that by living out the values of the Kingdom of God here, now, while we live in the kingdom of this world.  This idea of the Kingdom is clearly spelt out through a series of parables Jesus told in Matthew 13. Christians are not to be separated from the weeds but both are to grow up together (Matt 13:24-30), Christians though small in number like the mustard seed shall have great influence and become a blessing to many nations(Matt13:31-32). The influence of the Kingdom of Heaven, the influence of Christians, like the little leaven is to permeate and work in and through the Kingdom of this world, spreading the values of the Kingdom(Matt13:33) – justice, truth, righteousness, mercy, grace etc.    
So why cant we do this from wherever we are.  We can also fulfill our cultural mandate in a more civilized environment like New Zealand or Australia. True and yet not.

I think the beatitudes of Luke 6:20-26 gives us a clearer picture of what we are to seek and the posture of our hearts as we seek them.  According to the Beatitudes it appears that there are two ways to live. One way of living is the way of the Kingdom of God (20-22) (blessed) and the other the Kingdom of this world (24-26) (woe). It is not that one should seek to be poor or hungry or sad or hated so that we can be called blessed and neither is it cursed to be rich, full or happy. The purpose of the kingdom of this world lives for power(rich), comfort(full) and recognition(accepted) and does all it can to obtain these things. Power, comfort and recognition controls the thoughts and decisions in the life of a person living under the influence of the Kingdom of this World.  However, the Beatitudes are calling us as Christian disciples to live for the purpose of the Kingdom of God.  For a Christian disciple he is no longer controlled by what the world thinks as important (power, comfort and recognition). He doesn’t need them and these things don’t drive or motivate him anymore.  It's not that he avoids them but that they don’t drive his motivations and decisions. Eventhough a Christian may weep because of sadness or difficulty, he may be blessed or deeply satisfied.  Even if he is hated because of being a Christian he may rejoice (v.23) because he knows his eternal reward is in heaven.  In other words, a Christian disciple is able to live for the things above, things that have eternal value.  He can live with courage in the face of difficulty wherever he is because he is driven by the eternal kingdom of God not the rewards of this world.  What drives us as Christians living in Malaysia?  Is it power or comfort? A great career hence recognition and acclaim?  I suspect if we seek these things we would lose it but if we seek the Kingdom, we shall gain them.

How then should we live in Malaysia as Christians?  Jeremiah’s letter to the exilic community in Jeremiah 29 gives us a clue.  Go into the city, built your houses, plant your gardens, marry and raise a godly family.  Seek the shalom of the city. Pray for the shalom of the city. The false prophets wanted the exilic community to stay outside the city, live off the city and take form the city but remain separate and undefiled. After all their exile is only 2 years. Jeremiah tells the exilic community that it is going to be 70 years and that they should go in and live in the city.  Make a living from the city and grow a godly family. Increase in number.  Seek the welfare or shalom of the city.  Shalom is not just absence of war but really the wholesome flourishing of every aspect of society.  They were also to pray for their captors. Imagine that! Praying for your enemies.  This is a missional community. This was their purpose in Babylon. To extend the influence of Yahweh in Babylon and to seek after the flourishing of that city.
Somewhere along the way we began to belief that Christ greatest promise to us is a comfortable and prosperous life. Our faith became quite individualistic and our relationship with God became quite business like. God’s existence in my life is to help me live a comfortable, middle class life with as little bumps as possible. I tithe, I remain faithful to CG, I go to church and go for prayer meetings and God you keep your end by keeping me safe and comfortable and successful. If that is the goal of the Christian life then sure go and find greener pastures. Having a clear understanding of the Kingdom and our calling as Christians however, would help reorientate our priorities.  We are called to live out our lives in the greater story of God’s redemption plan. This is exciting and fulfilling. What has God planned for Malaysia in the grand schema of things? What is He calling us, the Malaysian Church to do? How can each of our lives fit into God's redemptive plan for Malaysia - in  the vocation which He has called us to? This calling isn’t always going to be comfortable and nice, in fact many times it becomes hard. Its filled with dangers, toils and snares but as the Beatitudes remind us :
Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.
 Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
    when they exclude you and insult you
    and reject your name as evil,
        because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.

We all have to listen to God's call for ourselves and our families and for some it may be to go and some to stay but in your consideration of whether to stay or to go, think about your calling, the Kingdom and your response. 

Monday, November 23, 2015


I have heard from five people, both Malaysians and Americans and all in a position to know, that during his meeting with Najib Abdul Razak on Nov 20, US President Barack Obama called on the Malaysian prime minister to release former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim from prison.
The request reportedly was made on humanitarian grounds, because of Anwar’s deteriorating health. But the US government position that Anwar’s trial was flawed and politically-motivated, and that Anwar is a political prisoner, is a matter of record.
One person told me that Najib’s response was that he had to follow Malaysia’s legal system. To me, it is ironic that Najib wants to hide behind Malaysia’s legal system, because he certainly has had no hesitation to use and abuse it for his own political ends.
And it’s not just against the opposition anymore. Now he’s going after critics in his own party, as well as investigators who have gotten too close to the truth.
A lot has happened since the famous golf game last December. Starting with Anwar’s conviction in February, there was that major front page expose in the New York Times, detailing all the allegations of corruption surrounding Najib and his family.
Sarawak Report started exposing more and more documents about 1MDB and the missing billions. The 1MDB reporting was all very complicated and convoluted, because the paper trails were hard to follow. But then The Wall Street Journal published an article that everyone could understand. A sum of US$700 million (RM2.6 billion) had allegedly ended up in Najib’s personal bank account, and for weeks he could not explain how it got there.
And then, just like magic, most of that money allegedly went overseas again - but no one knows where, and Najib isn’t talking. Everyone could understand that story - you don’t need an MBA in international finance. Then New York Times reported that Najib and his family were under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. What a name!
As for human rights and democracy, Najib’s crackdown on the opposition has been reported widely in the Western press. Human Rights Watch recently put out a 151-page report on the “climate of fear” that Najib has created. Unprecedented - 151 pages! Then there was that United Nations group that recently called for Anwar’s release.
Obama is a lawyer. He now understands that the evidence is overwhelming and that Najib is not the man he thought he was. As I have said before, Obama is not the only world leader who believed Najib’s rhetoric of reform. But put it all together, and with all the news this year, it reached the point where Obama finally recognised the reality about both Malaysia and Najib.
Change in stand
Last February we launched the White House petition on ‘We, the People’, which called for making Anwar’s release from prison a priority for US foreign policy. That has now happened.
But that is not thanks to me or the petition, it is thanks to the great investigative reporting in the world press, on Malaysian websites, and on Sarawak Report. Especially, it is thanks to the courage of so many Malaysians who refuse to be intimidated by the heavy hand and threats of Malaysia’s home minister and inspector-general of police (IGP).
I agree totally with what Obama told the civil society leaders whom he just met in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday. America has many interests in Malaysia - and not just the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). It includes our longstanding trade and investment ties, military and foreign policy cooperation, and working together on so many issues like refugees, counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, and the environment. But I am glad that human rights and democracy are once again on the list of our priorities in Malaysia.
I have been critical of Obama’s hands-off stance on human rights in Malaysia over the past few years. But now I have to say thank you. Not only did he discuss these matters with Najib, he is the first president to actually call for Anwar’s release from prison since Anwar was first jailed in 1998. Neither Bill Clinton nor George W Bush ever went that far.
I hope that this more visible and active US effort will continue, but not just to secure Anwar’s freedom. We need to be even more vocal in Malaysia and around the world in addressing human rights, political freedom, and religious and racial discrimination. Free and fair elections are essential to change. Corruption, the abuse of the legal system, and special treatment for government-linked companies (GLCs) hurt American companies trying to do business in Malaysia as much as it hurts Malaysian companies.
America needs to stand clearly on the side of those Malaysians who are seeking the changes that will lead to a brighter future for Malaysia. The current trajectory - with more and more Malaysians themselves starting to refer to their own country as a “failed” or “failing” state - should be of concern to everyone, and not just Malaysians.
This needs to be a coordinated international effort, working with the UN, human rights NGOs, and like-minded governments from around the world. It should not be just America alone, for the reasons that Obama described in his talk at Taylor’s University to the young Southeast Asian leaders. America should not be seen as the “nanny state”, lecturing others and ignoring its own shortcomings.
Malaysia, Najib, and the ruling party need the international equivalent of a “family intervention”, sort of a “Friends of Malaysia” grouping, where out of concern and love you try to break through the pattern of denial and help the person - or in this case, the country - get the “treatment” it needs before it destroys itself.
Finally, I am confident that there will always be courageous Malaysians who will continue to struggle for true democracy and political freedom, against the growing authoritarianism in their country. I hope their numbers will grow. For in the end, while the outside world can be supportive, only the Malaysian people can bring change.
As Obama said many times, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
JOHN MALOTT is a former US ambassador to Malaysia.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Perhaps what astounded me most in this Low Yat Plaza fiasco is the level of fear still among Malaysians of a repeat of May 13.  That is the May 13 of 1969 when race riots erupted in Kuala Lumpur. Granted many of those who are jittery are those who were old enough to have witnessed the May 13 violence. 
I was only fourteen months old when this violence erupted and I was oblivious to anything untoward. Therefore, granted I maybe naïve as to the potential of any such violence in Malaysia.  However as we learn more about our country over the last 57 years, we have come to know that we are closer than we think and the majority of us are patriots who love this country and the uniqueness we each bring to the table.
There are certain political groups, namely the current ruling elite who justify their existence because of a divided Malaysia.  As it was in May 13 and so it is in every other race eruptions in Malaysia we see the hand of these political monsters who wish to see a divided Malaysia along the same lines as their political coalition. 
Here is the truth about May 13, ambitious “young turks” who orchestrated the riots and incited race tensions:

Last weeks eruption at LowYat Plaza was also instigated by certain quarters. What was a simple theft at a phone shop erupted into racial riots pretty quickly and here is why.  Papagomo’s tweets as pointed out by the police incited the hatred.     
Who is papagomo?
His name is Wan Mohd Azri Wan Deris as exposed by Sdr rafizi here:
He is a pro UMNO blogger who incites malays to rise up against the chauvinistic Chinese especially DAP.

Then videos also captured another gentleman whom we know very well.  Butt-man Mohd Ali Haji Baharom or nickname Ali Tinju also showed up pretty quickly to give a spirited racist ceramah at LowYat Plaza that night. In his speech he accused Chinese youths of beating up Malay youths.  He can be seen in action  here :
In case you forget who he is here are some pictures:

This is the same man who created the little ruckus at the door way of the "Nothing to Hide"expose which prompted police to cancel the event on grounds of violence. If anything he is Najib's or UMNO's henchman. 

So what am I trying to say?  
There is no racial riot to fear, there is only a desperate political party inciting young, disenfranchised Malay youths to riot. Many of them are members of Malay NGO's called up at any time to work like they did last weekend. The sad thing is that they would even resort to such violence in the holy month of Ramadan.  

If we spread fear by forwarding messages especially the ones making its rounds on Whatsapp - "to beware of Malays and to stay away from Low Yat Plaza and KL" we are only giving credit to their dirty political work. 

The issue before us as a nation is the billions of Ringgit unaccounted for and the recent accusation of millions entering the Prime Minister's personal account just before the 13th General Elections. That is the question which affects all malaysians.
The issue before us is the economy and the difficulty of millions of Malaysians making ends meet because of rising cost of everything and the recent Goods and Services Tax (GST). 
The issue before us is the deplorable state of our education system and the many disenfranchised youths who are unemployable because of their lack of skills. The flip flopping between malay medium of instruction to english and back to malay.

So friends, don't give in to fear for that would only lend credence to their ploy.  The majority of Malaysians are right thinking and peace loving and seek only truth and justice.   

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

We have enough of raced based politics. ENOUGH!

 The Minister in the PM Dept Dr Paul Low recently said that Malaysia was not ready to see the end of race-based politics. He added that politicians needed to survive and therefore the reality is that raced based politics namely the BN formula is here to stay. He said it here:
  The BN formula is one framed during Independence bringing the three main races in Peninsular Malaysia under one political coalition. Each race is represented by a political party within that coalition.  That formula worked well when there were many first generation Malaysians who had needs that were distinct and particular to that migrant race. The BN government sought to unite Malaysians through national economic and educational policies.

The time has long come for all Malaysians to be identified as Malaysians. Proud of our individual heritage but always working to the common objective and goal of a prosperous and united Malaysia.  Each Malaysian brings their best to the table so that no one who claims to be born in these shores should ever suffer oppression, injustice or denied education to lift themselves from the cycle of poverty because of their race. As such there is really no more need for a political party like the BN to represent the various races. We observed this in the last General Elections where only 47% of the votes were captured by the BN government.

Visionary leaders lead and shape the future, based on a principled stand.  A principled stand shaped by a moral belief and conviction.  For many post Merdeka Malaysians, the stand is that race based politics is wrong. Anyone defending or supporting race based political parties like Dr. Paul Low is misguided and seeks only to defend a dying leviathan. Race based politics is antithetical to a united Malaysia which is crucial at a time when Malaysia is in desperate need to step up to the international scene for economic and world peace agenda. We cannot be like the current administration who screams moderation and democracy beyond the borders but arrests opposition, muzzle her citizens, hide financial scandals and encourage racial superiority within.  Dr. Paul Low chosen to the government because of his involvement in Transparency International and a known Christian leader should also know the evils of raced based politics especially its shape and form today.  The God Dr. Paul Low knows shows no partiality and favours no race over another.  There is simply no more justification for race based politics in Malaysia. By saying its existence is necessary for politicians is saying that these politicians need a crutch and they are not leaders who could lead Malaysia forward but instead have outlived their üse by”date. These politicians need to make way for visionary leaders.

Dr. Paul Low’s statement is disappointing to say the least but it gives us a glimpse into the thoughts and belief system of these politicians within the Barisan Nasional government.  Its old politics and it won’t be long before their end.  It will be replaced with new politics of a civil society and the rule of law for all Malaysians. As His Majesty, the current Sultan of Perak said sometime ago; 
"Malaysians of all races, religions and geographic locations needed to believe “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that they have a place under the Malaysian sun. "
We can only hope and pray that it will be soon. 

Monday, April 13, 2015


It is often thought that if the Christian’s final destination is heaven then earth is merely the transit lounge.  It is this notion that dulls the Christian, especially middle class Christianity, to the sufferings of his fellow human in society -the poor, the widows, the foreign worker and their children.  This notion however often fuel evangelism for the church and to get as many saved before Christ returns. Sometimes social work becomes a direct project of the evangelistic team.  The result of this is often the question of sincerity and trust for the beneficiaries especially in pluralistic Malaysia.

How then should Christians view issues of social concern and questions about the wider social justice?  I think it would help by us exploring the idea of the kingdom which Christ came to establish in this world. Afterall, we as Christians are called into this kingdom which Christ established.   The good place to start would be Matthew 13.

The parable of the sower (Matt13:18-30) and the explanation (Matt 13:26-43)
Here we learn that the kingdom of God doesn’t just begin in the heaven we are waiting for.  It is here where we are now, living among the unbelievers. 

The parable of the mustard seed and leaven(Matt 13:31-33)
Here we learn that the kingdom of God starts off small but grows in its influence to be something great.  The kingdom is also compared to the leaven which cannot be seen but is working in the dough. At the appointed time the dough would rise fully and the leaven would have done its work.

The parable of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great value (Matt13:44-46)
The kingdom is to be desired and treasured and sought after. It is highly valued and priced.

The kingdom of God is not physical in nature or limited to a geography (Romans 14:17)

The kingdom of heaven and how to live in it (Matt 5:1-20)
Through the beatitudes we learn that Christians are to be meek, gentle, peacemakers etc.  We are to be salt and light.

In summary the kingdom of God is already here at this present moment and on this earth where Christians are living alongside non-Christians.  The kingdom of God however, is not a physical geographic location but a kingdom of people who knows Jesus and follows Him.  It is a rule or authority where God is their king. It is not a statehood or a nation with boundaries.  It is a sphere of influence of good over evil, of righteousness and justice, of humility and love.  It is to be treasured and sought after by all. 

The Kingdom of God has been established through Jesus life and death here on earth. Christians belong to this kingdom and we live our values and purpose in allegiance to God as King. We do not seek a physical territory for we await our heavenly place which Christ had promised he would prepare. 

How does this understanding of God’s kingdom affect how we think of social justice?
If we are that leaven, how shall we influence the world which we live in today? Remember, we are as small as a mustard seed.  We are not to be separated until the last day.  We are to live among the society and do what we have been called to do, to excel in our vocation, in our family life and our community life.  If there are any Biblical comparisons that could be made, it would be the exilic community of Jeremiah 29.  The prophet Jeremiah told the exilic community to move in among the Babylonians, to settle in, to plant, built homes and to seek the welfare of the people.  Even as far as to pray for their welfare.

There is much room for Christian engagement in affairs of the nation.  We cannot remain in our middle class homes, shuttling back and forth from work and busy only with our children and their educational needs. The sphere of our influence must broaden to cover more than our immediate concerns. It must encompass God’s concern.  God is concerned with the welfare of the society, the poor, the foreigner, the widowed and the orphaned (Zech 7:9-10, Deut 10) Tim Keller calls this the quartet of the vulnerable.  These maybe the quartet of the ancient near east days but it would be safe to extend the quartet of the vulnerable to the 21st century.  Who may they be?  The urban poor and homeless? The marginalized orang asli? The single mothers?  The foreign workers who are stateless and who are pursued and bullied by RELA?  The trafficked girls?  In short those who are voiceless and marginalized by the government of the day.

We must acknowledge that words like justice, righteousness, mercy and grace are not secular words but are terminologies of the Bible and hence, the Christian.  It describes who our God is.  If this describes our God and He is concerned with these in society, then shouldn’t our sphere of influence as “leaven” include caring and advocating their needs in a democratic society like ours?   Surely it does and the system of governance we live in (last I checked; Parliamentary democracy) allows us the space and the means to voice concerns and stage peaceful protest for these people. There are times when the ruling government, even within a Parliamentary Democracy like ours refuses the people’s rights to voice opinions and to stage peaceful protest for the various concerns in the nation. They enforce laws which are against basic human rights like the freedom of assembly and association which is guaranteed in our Federal Constitution under Article 10. They arrest people under a sedition act which is also against the Federal Constitution of Article 10 Freedom of Speech.  The freedom of religion is guaranteed to all Malaysians under Article 11 as well.  So within the law, Malaysian Christians have the latitude to speak out, to protest and to raise concerns for those in our society who are marginalized or persecuted because of their faith, values or even sexual orientation.

As Christians living in Malaysia, we seek the welfare of Malaysia.  We pray for the welfare (shalom) of Malaysia.  No doubt this is not our eternal home and like the exiles may only live a period of 70 years + (coincidentally the length of time Jeremiah said they were to be in exile) but our mandate has been to reflect the kingdom values of our God.  To influence society and to shed some light on what the eternal kingdom would look like and if this attracts anyone to the gospel with which we hope in, then I would gladly speak about it. 

I hope this short piece of essay would spur Christians living in Malaysia to greater engagement in the arena of social concern and politics or wherever else God calls you to. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

True but not totally – Raja Petra’s article on “Why Christians oppose Hudud.”

Quite impressive Raja Petra’s quotations of the Bible and his understanding of history; particularly Biblical history in the article here:   I am not sure if I could do the same with the Quran and provide that level of understanding.  Shame on me.

Allow me however as inadequate as I am and as brief as possible to make more accurate his understanding of the Bible and the Ten Commandment laws.  Christians have not abandoned the Ten Commandments nor the Old Testament laws of the Bible as suggested by Raja Petra in his write up. In fact Christians are held to a standard higher than just obeying or fulfilling the written law. Jesus said in Matthew 5
21“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,a and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sisterb c will be subject to judgment. 
Or  on adultery
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’e 28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

In other words, Jesus was telling the religious people of those days, don’t just obey the laws for the law sake but for goodness sake. Your heart has to be right. God didn’t just demand obedience to the law but a right heart attitude. This was his beef with the religious teachers when he said:
27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

Now how many of us can claim to have a perfect heart attitude 100% of the time?  Yet God demands this of us. Throughout Jewish history, the problem was always in the inability to keep God’s laws and to maintain His most holy standards.  In fact this problem has been a problem throughout human history. 
 However God did not set the bar so high only to leave us to fail. What was God’s solution to man’s problem of failing to keep His laws?  He provided a solution.  This solution was planned a long time ago and revealed to the Jews in the Old Testament:
This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”
Jeremiah 31:33-34

God sought to have a relationship with His people and found a way to forgive His people from their sins. This was through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah. Jesus paid the penalty of man’s consistent failure in keeping the Ten Commandments and the laws. In dying for His people, He also gave them a new heart, one that would love Him and desire to obey Him from the heart.

So Raja Petra is wrong to say that Christians are ashamed and abandoned what God had commanded them to do.  It would be more accurate to say that Christians are eternally grateful that God, in His mercy and grace had covered over their failures in obeying the law and helped them to obey the law from their hearts.

The second misinterpretation of Raja Petra’s article is in the word “Kingdom” or “Basillea” in Greek.  He is right that this was central to Jesus teaching but he is wrong in concluding that Jesus meant it to be a theocratic state or nation.  If it was, then he failed in his mission since he was crucified before he could establish the Jewish state free from Roman rule. This was also the Jewish people’s error.  Instead Jesus said:
 "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; 21nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst." Luke 17:21
For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17

In other words what the Bible teaches us is that the kingdom of God is not a physical geographic location but a kingdom of people who knows Jesus and follows Him.  It is a rule or authority where God is their king. It is not a statehood or a nation with boundaries.  It is a sphere of influence of good over evil, of righteousness and justice, of humility and love. The Kingdom of God is best described in Jesus parables of Matthew 13. The Kingdom of God  Jesus says is like a little mustard seed or a little yeast in a bowl of flour. It starts off small, in reference to the age we live in today as Christians but eventually it has great influence.  The Kingdom of God has been established through Jesus life and death here on earth. Christians belong to this kingdom and we live our values and purpose in allegiance to God as King. We do not seek a physical territory for we await our heavenly place which Christ had promised he would prepare. 

As such, Christians ought to make good citizens.  For in living in obedience and allegiance to our King and Lord we are to obey Him and live like Him, displaying His very nature. Seeking justice for the poor, marginalized, widowed and orphans.(Matt 25:40, Deuteronomy 10) Loving our enemies and praying for them.(Luke6:27) Submission to governing authorities and paying our taxes.(Romans 13) To do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly (Micah6:8).

Let me then try to answer Raja Petra’s question which he did not answer. Why then do most Bible believing Christians reject the Hudud law?
In short because there is no one who would be able to successfully obey these laws a hundred percent of the time. Adultery?  Well did you look at a woman lustfully?  Robbery?  Well did you covet your neighbour’s Mercedes?  God doesn’t just want us to be fearful of the consequence of the offense because that does not bring about a change in heart attitude. I do not just want my child to learn that I will spank him if he lies but I want him to learn that his lying will hurt people around him and himself. If all he is afraid off is my punishment then when I am not looking or when I am not around he would commit the offense.

If Hudud is God’s law then I believe God is more concern with our hearts than purely our actions

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Which Malaysia do you want? Some serious questions

Just returned from a Sunday morning worship service at church wherein the children dressed up in traditional Malaysian costumes and said a Merdeka prayer for our nation. The sermon was about Christians being involved in Nation Building and contributing to the welfare of the nation and praying for the nation.  I come home and read about a friend bringing joy to street children in KL by caring for them and spreading love. I remember my friend in Penang who gave up her job to join Teach for Malaysia so that she can inspire some young Malaysians. All over Malaysia there are random acts of kindness which go unnoticed performed by citizens who believe in a better Malaysia. 

Then, on Merdeka morning we wake up to the news that Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s home being hit by a homemade molotov cocktail bomb.  Last week politicians from the Federal opposition were suddenly charged under Sedition Act.  Today, a lecturer is charged for sedition when giving his constitutional view on the Perak crisis.  We also have right winged groups in Malaysia like ISMA and PERKASA who demand their  entitlement and who consistently remind the non Malays of their secondary place in Malaysia.  They insist they are not racist but decry the superiority of the Malay race and the fight for the cause. A day before Merdeka, BN Minister Ismail Sabri says if Malays unite, no one will dare challenge them.(?) Yesterday, Home Minister Zahid Hamidi said that the "Malays allowed them (non malays) to be indebted without needing them to pay back. They are now insulting Islam on the pretext of democracy.." This is inciting mistrust and animosity among the races. This dialog has been going on for decades.

It occurred to me that there are those who seek a very different Malaysia from what the majority of us would like it to be. They seek a Malaysia which is divided according to race, where race is the motivation behind college scholarships, jobs, discounted houses, school systems (vernacular and mainstream)etc.  They seek to ensure that Malaysians understand the differences and the minority races understand and remember their place. 

 We are at the crossroads of a new Malaysia. This I believe was the dream of our founding fathers; The Tunku and his colleagues in 1957.  Like what the current Sultan of Perak said; “A place for all under the Malaysian sun.” Several things I believe stand in the way and chief of that is the continuation of a race based political party. It should be faced out.  Perhaps in the early years of Malaya, the needs of migrant Malaysians were unique as our forefathers learn to adapt to the new adoptive country. They sought the help of their own ethnic groups to settle and to do business and to trade but for goodness sake, surely we ought to be working ourselves out of the need to be divided by our race. Today, there is no reason why a Malay should only help a Malay or a Chinese look after the Chinese community and the Indians in the Indian affairs. If we are truly Malaysian we should work towards the welfare of every Malaysian irrespective of race or religion. We should be color blind and our children should learn to be color blind.  Having a political party based on the formula of the BN is counter to the progress and advancement of the nation. Political parties admitting only one particular race should be banned in time.

Non bumi supporters of BN say this is naive thinking. We must be realistic about living in Malaysia. The MCA and MIC must remain strong as a counter balance to the extreme Malay rhetoric. You  see the 3 component parties create a need for their own existence. They each insist the rights of their individual ethnic groups to the detriment and destruction of Malaysia. While the nations around us are forging ahead, we are busy fighting among ourselves, arguing who should get the biggest piece of the pie.

Malaysians must be resolute to end race based political parties and reclaim a Malaysia envisioned by our fathers of Independence. Maybe our children can live in a beautiful country which is color blind and where the poor, weak and destitude can be protected and helped. Perhaps one day, we will identify ourselves only as Malaysians. Not Chinese Malaysians, Indian Malaysians or Bumiputera but just Malaysians. One day we will end this obsession about race. 

Today, we prayed for Malaysia. For God to bless Malaysia and for people to live in peace and harmony. May God hear our prayers and unite us as Malaysians.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Reflections of Malaysia's Twin Tragedies

I would not be able to fully comprehend the pain which the families of both MH370 and MH17 must be going through. We as a nation however grieve alongside and mourn the deaths of the many people from various nationalities who died from the twin tragedy. To hear the many stories of lost fathers and mothers, sons and daughters and lovers brings an aching in the soul which words cannot express. 

Perhaps in trying to make meaning out of all this, the consolation is to believe that in some way our friends did not die for no reason. Perhaps in the stars above they speak to us of lessons to be learnt.  Someone once said that unless death is made a lesson for the living, the life lived is wasted.  Certainly the manner and swiftness in which they left offer us some valuable lessons. If nothing it puts life in its proper perspective.

It reminds me to celebrate life. I wake up in the morning and I go to sleep at night. Each day this cycle repeats itself but the tendency is to forget that “innumerable are the ills which beset human life, and present death in many different forms.” (Calvin) Life is fragile and we often take for granted that the good Lord above has seen it fit for me to live and breathe another day.  Before I go to bed tonight, I shall thank my God for watching over me and protecting me for yet another day.

I shall celebrate the relationships around me. I am blessed with friends and family who fills my life with joy and laughter.  I have a loving wife and three teenagers.  Tomorrow morning before I go out, I shall hug them a bit longer and thank my God for the relationships which make this life ever so meaningful.   

I celebrate living.  It is good to be able to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.  Eating, drinking, playing, working and studying. They are sweet and I am thankful. 

Apart from all the good things their tragic departure also trivializes all that we make so much of.  The stupidity of fighting for a religion or the superiority of a race.  The madness of being offended by a tweet or a facebook posting. The arrogance and apathy we show to those less fortunate or who are different from us.   Surely we take ourselves too seriously.  In the end of it all the twin tragedy reminds us that death awaits us all and is the great leveler.  There are no titles nor honorifics in death. 

I hope those who constantly display racial animosity or who insists that they are entitled because of their birthright will be still to consider the fragility and brevity of life itself and in honor of those who have gone in this twin tragedy to reconsider their position.

YOLO! Live it well

Thursday, April 03, 2014

We tolerate too much

Malaysian Top brass - corporate, civil service and politician

For years we in Malaysia have closed an eye to the things which are not done right.  We have become a nation which celebrates mediocrity.  The proverbial “tak pe la” has become a mainstay in much of what we do and expect from the government of the day.  We have become calloused in our conscience, our tolerance for corruption and bribery is very high and our attitude towards excellence and productivity is poor to say the least.  This national tolerance for “what is not right” in Malaysia has led to an inefficiency in our government agencies, and breakdown of security and safety.  We can see this from the management of MH370 and the many fatal bus accidents and the kidnapping case in Sabah. 

We have allowed a murder on our soil with no closure. The lack of will to find the culprits of a brutally murdered foreign woman linked to the politically elite is a serious lapse of justice.  The 2 officers had no motive whatsoever to murder except to carry out the work as henchmen.  The fact that we as a nation have allowed the innocent blood of a woman to spill on our soil without bringing the plotters to justice is a dark blotch on the history of our country.    Then there is Teoh Beng Hock who died in the hands of the MACC.  How about Ahmad Sarbani, the custom officer?  How about Aminulrashyid and the many deaths in police custody?   These are all a dark stain on our country’s conscience. 

We have also become so tolerant of corruption and bribery in all forms and levels.  We make light of it and we laugh at ourselves because we have become a people who would pay to get out of a speeding ticket then pay to speed up licensing, pay to speed up government approvals for starting a business.  We have lost billions to mismanagement and corruption in government projects and yet we are able to gloss over it without anyone being charged or fired.  Each year the Auditor General’s report gives damning evidence of corruption in government procurement and sourcing yet no heads roll.  We learn to cope with it and many times play along this broken system in order to get things done.  It’s a sad state of affairs.

With this tolerance of corruption we obviously begin to close an eye to excellence.  Busses speed along the highway with no fear of getting caught.  Lorries and busses pass their annual inspection without even trully meeting standards.  How long have we made fun of the “kopi O license” where drivers are given license even when they are not competent.  Pedestrian walks are full of construction debris or ends in a pile of dirt because no one had the sense of excellence to repair them properly.  I can go on and on but in short we have become a nation that celebrates mediocrity.  We fool ourselves by saying we have a world class education system when our children rank lower than Vietnamese children in PISA education tests. We came out bottom third in ranking.  We fool ourselves when our children come out with 10A’s or 12 A’s but many will struggle to make it through a UK tertiary institution.

The crisis which unfortunately hit our nation on March 8th (and I am not talking about the political Tsunami) brought forth our top uniformed men and civil servants to the international scene.  They struggled to explain competently issues which they were supposed to be experts in.  They struggled in articulating their thoughts professionally and to make matters worse they did not have a good command of the English language. They showed a weakness in protecting our airspace and reveal a lapse in security on the morning of March 8th. This I believe would not have happened to our professional senior civil servants 30 years ago. 

Much is not well with our country and I think many have now come to the same conclusion.  We continue to play racial politics to our own detriment. We denounce meritocracy and tolerate mediocrity to our end. If we continue to turn a blind eye to corruption and injustice who knows what else we will lose.  We can play a part by keeping our Prime Minister, MPs, ADUN's accountable for what they say and do, refusing to pay a bribe and insisting on doing thisngs well.  Then only can we begin to lift our nation back into productivity and resolve the many outsanding issues in our government.