Wednesday, June 28, 2017

WHEN GOVERNMENT WORKS (WE GOT OUR URBAN FOREST)

Franklin Roosevelt the 32nd President of the USA once said this, “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”
 I think the voters in Malaysia over decades have felt emasculated in many ways thinking that the people who represent us care little for our welfare. They rule over us as like an alien power. We feel distanced from government and unable to have a say in what truly affects us on a daily basis. This can be very frustrating even depressing.

Sometimes however government works and when it does it affects us all and brings immense benefit to the people. I like to cite an example to show how our neighbourhood became a little better off because we had the channel to voice our proposals and to have it heard and considered. I know this is a rare story nevertheless we are thankful for the small improvements in Selangor. 

About 10 years ago when we moved in to Pinggiran USJ, there was a sizable piece of land next to our taman. Approximateky 3ha. When we purchased our house, we were told that the empty land was an MPSJ reserved land. As years went by we heard of the possibility of an eatery or hawker center, a motel with sports facilities, a driving range, even a shopping complex etc.  Many a times I drove by and saw people in their long sleeve shirts parking their Mercedes surveying the empty land with rolled out maps and drawings of the area.  I, as with all our neighbours were obviously very concerned. As it is we have so little public spaces and the last thing we wanted was another concrete mall next to our taman.

In 2010, I served as the Chairman of USJ3ABCD Residents Association and because of that was onboard the MPSJ Residents Committee for Zone 3 (JKP Zone 3).  The Committee was under the leadership of then Councillor Rajiv Rishyakaran who is now the ADUN of Bukit Gasing.  Afraid that another shopping mall or concrete building was to come up instead of a recreational space, I drafted a proposal in March 2011 through the JKP, the idea of an Ecological Urban Forest. We called it the Z3 Eco Forest. The JKP accepted the idea and we presented the proposal to the Council.  MPSJ approved the idea and on Nov 11th 2011, the Subang Jaya community together with a private school nearby planted 1,111 trees in the area, officiated and supported by our ADUN, YB Hannah Yeoh.    

Today, 6 years later, the Park is fully supported by MPSJ and earthworks is being carried out.  This is a win for the Residents of Pinggiran Subang Jaya and Subang Jaya at large as we will have an Urban Forest right in our township. I was told that because of the Urban Forest the value of the properties in the area would also escalate.


 In the midst of all the skepticism and frustration of government working for the people here is a success story.  When government works, and the people’s interest are heard; residents are happy and the state prospers. It works only when ordinary voters, residents, neighbors care enough to get  involved in resident groups or committees.  I can only imagine this on a larger scale, perhaps one day not just in Subang Jaya or Selangor, but the whole Malaysia when we can then fully comprehend Roosevelt’s quote; “The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.” 

The ambitious proposal included these facilities:


Facilities
The proposed facilities available on Z3 Eco Forest are as follows:
1)      A 2Km walking and jogging path around the park.
2)      A bicycle path along the walking and jogging track
3)      Ponds and streams along the path
4)      Picnic and Playground area with water features and landscape
5)      An arts and cultural center approx 2000 square feet
6)      A small amphitheatre
7)      A Eco Farm
8)      Parking

The Empty land before 2011


View towards the kindergarten in 2011


Sunday, February 05, 2017

Why we can have hope living in Malaysia

This Chinese New Year like many others before, there are ample discussions about politics and the state of Malaysia. Only this time, there is little anger vented just a sigh of tiredness and resignation to a seemingly hopeless situation in Malaysia. After 2 General Elections with change seemingly within our grasp, now all that is left is a sense despair and hopelessness. Many have left the country in desperation, unable to see any hope for a better Malaysia…even Christians.

While it is never our place to question each person’s calling to another country as God can also turn this into a blessing there is a clear reason why some should stay.  I can think of 3 reasons :

1) There is always hope for the believer.
It really depends what we put at the center of our lives.  If its comfort and a better life for ourselves and our family then when we look at the Malaysian horizon, it is clear that it ain’t going to happen anytime soon.  Is that what we have been called to though? 
What has been promised for the believer is the hope of eternal life with Christ in heaven. We have received all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places, we have been adopted as His sons and daughters because of Christ, we are the beneficiary of lavish grace even when we deserve death. Is this not sufficient a hope of the things to come?  For some your theology informs you that God promises a life without sickness and diseases. Someone told me (a well meaning friend) during my recent fight with cancer to claim healing for it is my right as a Christian.  A quick view of the New Testament saints reveals a people not unfamiliar with persecution and suffering, yet their prayers are not about alleviating the present suffering but always about the advancement of the Gospel. 
When our hope lie in Christ and the eternal life which He procured for us on the cross, it frees us to bring goodness, justice, peace and righteousness upon this broken, corrupted, sinful and disease laden world.  Indeed there are Christians in places of authority who are currently bringing reform and change to institutions of government because of their belief in the Gospel of Christ. This leads me to the next point.

2) God is mission minded.
In Jeremiah 29, a letter was sent to the exiles in Babylon from the prophet Jeremiah.  He told the exiles, go into the city, built your houses, plant your gardens, raise your family and then seek and pray for the shalom of the city.  Imagine that, to seek the shalom (wholesome peace) and to pray for the good of your captors.  Why? Because God had sent them there.  This was not some random occurrence. Yes, they were under discipline but God had also ordained that the people of Israel were to settle in Babylon for 70 years to influence and to bring goodness, wholesomeness, peace, justice and righteousness as they live out their lives in a hostile city.  Somehow the citizens of Babylon mattered to God and the people of Israel were to bring shalom into their lives.
We are to do the same in our Babylon. It is not by chance that our ancestors settled on the shores of Malaysia some 100 years ago. We are to settle down, find our vocation, do business, work and seek the welfare of Malaysia.  Heck! We are to pray for Malaysia!  Pray for the very people who receive the promotion which we were hoping to get but because they were of the right race?  Pray for the people who asks you to return to China when we born in this beautiful land?  Pray for the very people who use Christians as scapegoats of bad things that befall the city?   Yes, Yes and yes!  We pray for the shalom of Malaysia, we pray for righteousness and justice to prevail so the country can begin to prosper.  We can do this because our hope and reward is in heaven.

3) We must see with spiritual eyes
In Numbers 13, Moses had sent out 12 spies to the Promised Land to recce the place. They came back with grapes and reported that the place was flowing with milk and honey. It was fertile and productive, but the people there are strong. Very strong and intimidating. Out of the 12, 10 returned fearful and opposed moving in. Only Caleb and Joshua believed that God would deliver them.  They said; “Don’t rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. We will devour them like bread. They have no protection, and the Lord is with us. So don’t be afraid of them.”
When our eyes are fixed on the giants and seemingly hopeless situation we tremble in fear. Where got hope? The opposition is in disarray. The corrupt leaders will still be in power. The economy and education is in shambles. Islamization is inevitable as the Hudud is implemented step by step. Tell your children don’t come back. No more hope in Malaysia.  However if we like Caleb and Joshua set our eyes on Jesus and place our hope in God, we shall see God’s will be done here in this country.

I have to admit many times I too think what am I doing here?   It does look bleak, perhaps this is the best time to make our exit for the next generation. We must encourage one another; that our hope is not on the temporal things of the earth but on the future glory of heaven. We must belief that God has called us in the meantime to be here in Malaysia, to bring Kingdom values and shalom to Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Penang, Kuching and every corner of Malaysia. We must see with spiritual eyes that God is doing something significant and we have the privilege of being a part of his mission in Malaysia.  We must remind one another to keep our eyes on Jesus and not on the seemingly fragile situation we are in.


God bless you and lets pray for the shalom of Malaysia.

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

JOHN MALLOT'S COMMENTS ON THE NAJIB-OBAMA MEET


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

WHY WE SHOULD NOT BE GIVEN IN TO FEAR


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. https://twitter.com/papagomo?lang=en     
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

CHRISTIAN CALL TO SOCIAL JUSTICE

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: http://www.malaysia-today.net/why-christians-oppose-hudud/   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
Or
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