Bishop condemns devious politicians
The Catholic leader states that it is these 'devious and conniving' politicians who are responsible for racial polarisation in Malaysia.
According to Bishop Paul Tan, ordinary Malaysians do not want to be divided along the lines of faith.
“They know the wisdom of seeing others as fellow humans caught in the beauty and travail of ordinary human striving. Sadly, devious and conniving politicians see things differently.
“They thrive on keeping people apart to achieve their nefarious designs. It is the famous ‘divide and rule’ mentality of the crooked people,” he told FMT.
Responding to a question, the head of the Malacca and Johor diocese also believes that it is these politicians who were responsible for the numerous controversies involving the Christian faith.
“This is all due to the manipulation and duplicity by politicians who are out to win votes at the expense of the gullible and the ignorant,” he said.
The dispute over the term Allah, which led to the firebombing of churches, the seizure of Malay-language bibles and the alleged Christian plot to undermine the status of Islam here, were among the issues that had strained ties between the church and government.
The latest controversy being the raid on a church last week by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) which received a complaint that several Muslims were present at a dinner event there.
While the raid drew condemnation from various quarters, state executive councillor for religious affairs Hasan Ali, however, claimed that there was Christian proselytisation of Muslims.
Show proof or apologise
Demanding both JAIS and Hasan to furnish proof, Tan said: “If the claim is substantiated, I will exert myself to initiate corrective and contrite action by Christians.”
“Otherwise I want a recantation and an apology. It’s as simple and clear cut as that,” he added.
Commenting on JAIS’ director Marzuki Hassan’s statement that the raid was carried out to protect the interests of Muslims, Tan said: “I would think that the interests of Muslims are better protected by truth-telling among its officials, not by alarmist projections.”
“But if someone wants us to share our faith with him or her, we will not hesitate to do so because of our belief that religion can be proposed but not imposed.
“Conversion is at the volition of the individual concerned; it cannot be at the persuasion of the person being asked to share the faith,” he explained.
Asked if the Christian leadership in Malaysia was doing enough with regard to facing the numerous controversies, Tan, without mincing his words, suggested that more could be done.
“They can do better by being less blinkered towards duplicitous politicians,” he said.
On whether extremist groups like Perkasa were exacerbating the situation, Tan said the Ibrahim Ali-led movement was entitled to its views.
“I believe they are a minority. Some devious politicians like to exaggerate Perkasa’s importance for their selfish ends,” he added.
Najib’s Vatican visit
The 71-year-old Jesuit-trained prelate was also not impressed with Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s recent visit to the Vatican and his audience with Pope Benedict XVI to establish diplomatic ties.
Tan, who appeared to concur with observers who considered the move as politically-motivated to placate Christian voters, described it as “a spurious attempt at window dressing by the prime minister”.
On the part of the Pope, he said that it demonstrated openness to anyone in quest of diplomatic ties.
However, Tan declined to comment further, stating that Archbishop Murphy Pakiam had given his views on the visit.
In an interview with the Star published yesterday, Pakiam had lauded the visit, stating that it showed that the political leadership of Malaysia was heading in the direction of moderation.
Meanwhile, Tan was also asked on the claims that churches were used for political purposes, such as DAP leaders being allowed to campaign there during the recent Sarawak state election and the meeting between church elders and DAP leaders in Penang.
The bishop said while the church’s attitude towards politics was that the faithful were encouraged to take part in it but clerics, however, must be circumspect towards politics and politicians.
“Clerics in the Christian Catholic Church are forbidden to be partisan. This is in line with Christ’s admonition to render under Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.
“I cannot comment on any political party’s demeanour during the Sarawak election because I don’t know for sure what these were. As to the meeting between DAP leaders and Church elders in Penang, there is no bar to such interaction.
“In general, I steer by the biblical wisdom of cordial circumspection towards those entrusted with the contest and management of the political estate,” he added.