In a lengthy 10-point statement, the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) Youth did not mince its words in dismissing the 10-point solution offered by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Idris Jala.
It said that the "quick-fix" proposal ignored the "the overt and covert manner which the government had discriminated against the Christian citizenry for close to 40 years".
The following is CCM Youth's press release expressing its views in response to the various statements issued by the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF), the 10-point solution as proposed by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Idris Jala, and comments made in the media by the Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and various parties.
1. 10-point proposal only addressed the Al Kitab issue
The 10-Point Proposal presumed that Christians were only concerned with the Al Kitab issue. That premise is incorrect.
The 10-Point Proposal distracted both the public and the church leaders from getting to the heart of the matter, that is, the concern over the overt and covert manner which the government had discriminated against the Christian citizenry for close to 40 years that had resulted in the gradual deterioration of basic rights of Christians to freely exercise their faith.
2. Restore full rights and full freedom enshrined in the federal constitution
CCM Youth denounced deplorable accusations that Christians were not being “fair” or “reasonable” in resolving the Al Kitab matter. CCM Youth disclosed that the Malaysian government had unreasonably and unjustly acted in bad faith since the early 1970s to-date against the Christian community. Among some examples were:
- Gradual erosion of the control of mission schools which included even the physical removal of words such as “Holy” and crosses from schools, even though the land, building and board of governors belonged to the church;
- Removing or disallowing “Christian Fellowships” from being recognised as societies in schools and universities;
- Harassing and transferring out Christian teachers found teaching Bible Knowledge, a legitimate examinable subject for the SPM;
- Gazetting the Al Kitab, the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia, as a threat to national security under the Internal Security Act;
- Denying the use of the word 'Allah' for the Christian God, even though it had been used by indigenous groups way before independence, and being the only Muslim country in the world to do so despite wide Arab usage;
- Denying Christians land to operate churches or cemeteries.
And the list goes on.
CCM Youth was saddened that Christians today were openly abused, harassed and provoked in the media and encouraged by the government, with all sorts of erroneous information being placed on official government websites put up as decrees; linking activities from Valentine's Day to 'poco-poco' to crosses on football jerseys, to Christian beliefs without so much as a dialogue or a clarification with the Christian community.
So much so that even the Islamic government machinery, with nods from cabinet ministers, the Home Ministry and state governments, unashamedly encouraged over-zealous religious officers and Islamic-based NGOs, to propagate and sow seeds of hatred towards the Christian community.
CCM Youth was informed that recently a group of students went for an excursion to the Kuala Lumpur City Hall, and were denied entry just because their uniform had a cross.
After so many years of racial-religious polarisation under the hands of government machinery, religious and racial bigotry is now blatantly practised and widely nurtured in government departments against Christians.
CCM Youth believed that the 10-Point Proposal was superfluous as Christian citizens were not asking for anything extra, but for their basic constitutional rights, enshrined in the Federal Constitution, to be respected and honoured.
3. Christians' birthright to read, speak and write in the national language
CCM Youth opined that it was ludicrous to deny Malaysian Christian citizens the right to use the country's national language for the purposes of exercising their faith.
On the one hand, non-Malay citizens are often criticised for their purported lack of loyalty when they did not speak Bahasa Malaysia, but when they did, like in this case in order to read the Bible, which they had been doing for generations, they were denied that right.
CCM Youth reiterated that as citizens of this country, it was their God-given birthright, which “should not be given up, negotiated, traded away, nor 'sold for a bowl of pottage'”, being simply rushed into just because Christian leaders were offered a “quick-fix” solution to the immediate problems that were originally created by unjust parties.
4. The 10-point proposal does not carry the weight of law
CCM Youth decried attempts to create a 'band-aid' compromise solution that did not carry the weight of law. If the government were truly sincere, there would not be a need for a 10-Point Proposal.
Insofar as this matter was concerned, all the government needed to do was to instruct the Home Ministry to drop its appeal on the 'Allah' issue, which the Catholic Church won on Dec 31, 2009 when it took the case to the High Court. This action would immediately lead to the withdrawal of the Allah and the Al Kitab from any further restrictions in the country.
CCM Youth urged the government to uphold democratic principles and not play games by taking a round-about route that did not reflect their sincerity.
5. 10-point proposal sows disunity amongst Christians
The 10-Point Proposal served only to promote disunity amongst Christians, playing to the ruling government's 'divide-and-rule' tune. CCM Youth questioned how it could be plausible for a 1Malaysia, yet a 2Bible and 3Rule solution?
If at all, it only cemented CCM Youth's opinion that 1Malaysia had been nothing but political rhetoric.
If Christian leaders had agreed to this proposal, the Orang Asal of Sabah and Sarawak would have one rule; while believers in the peninsula, including the Orang Asli, would have another rule.
Should Christians subject themselves to such confusion and be manipulated to accept such terms? Likewise, by agreeing to such terms now, would Christians then forfeit the right to resolve future outstanding matters beyond the Al Kitab issue?
6. No guarantee that pledges or assurances will be honoured
Time and time again, the Christian community have been given assurances but only to be disappointed later on. CCM Youth urged church leaders to be wise, for what had been dressed as compromise could turn out to be an entrapment – “Even the elect were deceived, if that were possible.”
CCM Youth pointed out that they were well aware that there were many obstacles ahead, and they understood the “card game was in the hands” of the government.
Even if the federal government gave the impression of giving way, they could fall back on the state government machinery that would kick in and take that to another gear which involved harassing book stores, printers, forwarding agents, schools and so on, located in affected states.
7. The tipping point - today's decision will impact future generations
CCM Youth urged church leaders to take their time and not to be in a hurry. It was imperative that they did not fail future generations, or act in a manner that could adversely undermine or enslave future generations from practising their faith freely.
CCM Youth urged church leaders to remain faithful and to take as much time as they needed to ponder and to ask pertinent questions without compromising the faith.
Otherwise, future generations would return to remind past generations of leaders of "compromises" made today, or that the church leaders held silent when they could have spoken up, having restrained themselves from pursuing justice when they had the opportunity to do so.
CCM Youth urged church leaders not to worry about having to come to a decision by the CFM's Biennial General Meeting on April 14, 2011, but to take ample time to pray and seek the Lord before coming to a decision.
CCM Youth reminded church leaders that even the youths today were still learning the full extent of the rights that had been eroded to-date as events unfolded, and CCM Youth would endeavour to support church leaders to their best of abilities to recover that which was lost, and hand over full freedom to future generations as their legacy.
8. Are we speaking to the right party with the authority?
With due respect to Senator Idris Jala, CCM Youth raised concerns that there were no assurances that he had the full weight of the cabinet behind him in this regard, given the underlying tones and lack of media support from cabinet ministers. Even the prime minister himself had been strangely silent.
From remarks given by the home minister and various “shadow gatekeepers”, there had been no assurance that the relevant ministries would honour any form of agreement. What remained consistent so far had been the consistency of the government's inconsistencies. The danger of flip-flops was not a probability, but a given.
CCM Youth believed that this rush to force a solution was inadvertently linked to the outcome of the Sarawak elections and the potential impact from its Christian majority population.
CCM Youth observed that it was this careless 'short-term opportunistic' attitude of the government for political expediency that had made them wary of such overtures and advised church leaders to exercise greater caution under such circumstances.
If the government were sincere in addressing the grievances of the Christian community, CCM Youth believed that nothing less than the coming together of a task force from the Prime Minister's Department, the Home Ministry, the attorney-general, the Education Ministry and all state governments and Islamic departments had to take place.
9. Sorry seems to be the hardest word
CCM Youth pointed out that it was Idris Jala (centre) who apologised.
So far, no official statement of apology had been offered by any ministry, especially none was forthcoming from the home minister, the main protagonist who directed the stamping of the Bibles.
The public ought to know that this entire episode of the desecration of the Christian's Holy Scriptures happened during the holy month of Lent which precedes and commemorates the Lord Jesus Christ's crucifixion and celebrates His resurrection.
If an opportunity presented itself for reconciliation and restoration to properly right the grave wrong committed, CCM Youth would certainly offer forgiveness. Obviously, the situation had yet to present itself.
10. Christian cabinet ministers must take leadership
CCM Youth noted that except for Idris Jala, many Christian cabinet ministers have kept silent. One cabinet minister even called Christians foolish for holding prayer rallies. CCM Youth challenged cabinet ministers to be faithful and to choose today whom they served - whether God or man.
CCM Youth reiterated that they were not being unreasonable, audaciously demanding or stirring trouble. CCM Youth regretted that for a long time, the church had remained silent, having compromised when it should not have.
In good faith, church leaders had been drawn into endless unproductive closed-door meetings, given verbal promises and handshake agreements that never materialized.
Unfortunately for the church, Christian goodwill had not been reciprocated, and closed door agreements never honoured. The recent desecration of the Al Kitab was the last straw.
CCM Youth called upon all Christians today to rally firmly behind their Christian leaders as they worked towards a resolution for the community. CCM Youth urged the Christian community to uphold their leaders in prayer more fervently.
CCM Youth reiterated that they remained committed to nation-building and bringing about justice, peace and reconciliation for all Malaysians and migrants, and would stop at nothing to bring about change for the betterment of all peoples regardless of creed, race or religion, through proclaiming truth and bringing about justice and transformation to the nation.