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Stop oppressing the Christians

By Emmanuel Joseph
MALAYSIA: I rarely read the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia. The only time I do read is when I help prepare the liturgy for Sunday Mass. My church has one of the readings in Bahasa, to be more inclusive of our Sabahan, Sarawakian and Indonesian brothers and sisters who attend. So banning the Bible in Bahasa does not really affect me personally as a Christian.

But as a Christian too, I feel angered at the thought that the Bible is being treated with as much respect as a terrorist bomb-making manual. I feel upset that my fellow Christians from Sabah and Sarawak and Orang Asli Christians are being denied their right to read the Bible in the only language they understand.

I feel hopeless that the fact my church is constantly under attack because someone somewhere feels it’s a brilliant political strategy to “pinch the baby and rock the cradle”. I feel incredulous at the thought that the government, clerics, the Home Ministry, Umno, Perkasa, the Muslim consumers association are being consulted over Christian Bibles!

Bibles that never should have been confiscated in the first place!

Bibles that are the religious teachings, holy text and sacred instructions for Christians! Everyone’s opinion in this seems to matter, EXCEPT the Christians. What next? Will the government want a say in the appointment of our bishops too? How about the government design our churches, ordain our priests and prepare our liturgical texts as well? You’re halfway there already.

The churches in Malaysia receive hardly any government aid, monetary or otherwise. We build our own churches, pay our own preachers, and run our own outreach programmes. Christians ask for nearly nothing from the government, quite to the contrast, help ease the government’s burdens with schools, hospices, old folk’s homes, HIV awareness programmes, youth programmes, just to name a few.

How many laws must be enacted before weak-minded, selfish individuals are no longer distrustful of Christians? How many more injustices must churches suffer before people in higher places realise we are not a threat? How much more must we give in before they leave us alone?

First it was the schools. Schools that were built by Christian missionaries for all people, irrespective of religious background. Schools that educated hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of Malaysians. Hospitals, nursing homes, kindergartens, community halls, charity outreach missions, one by one was forced to “lessen the tone” of their Christian identity because the government created a false sense of fear that Christians were covertly converting people, that we were spreading our religion. If that were truly the case, Malaysia would be a Christian country by now! The concept of selflessness, of charity, the fruit of every religion, seems alien to the government. Could it be because the government, with all its actions, for its entire slogan spewing, with all its high-handedness does not really practise the religion they so vigorously “enforce”?

I can understand if the Muslim ministers in the government have been misled into believing all that is being said about the Christians. But what about the non-Muslim ministers? What about the Christian ministers? Dare you call yourselves Christians when your religion is being trivialised and your Holy Book is being used as a political pawn by your own party?

When PAS, a Muslim party, has found the courage to stand up for the Christians, when PKR, a predominantly Malay party has spoken out for us? When non-Christians are speaking up for us, your silence is deafening. A short squeak here and there to assure your voters you’re still a Christian is hardly considered standing up for your religion. Where is your courage in opposing PAS’s so called hardliner stance now? They asked for a lottery ban and you called it an infringement of non-Muslim rights. May I be so bold as to ask what do you call 35,000 Bibles being held up and “bar coded”?

This is nothing short of bullying. This is nothing short of religious persecution. This is nothing short of abuse of power. This is nothing short of political fear mongering. This is nothing short of dangerously playing the religious card to divide and rule Malaysians. Enough is enough. Stop oppressing the Christians. We deserve better.

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