Sunday, August 20, 2006

Who do I follow?

7/20/2006 - 6:00 AM PST

By Dr. Chris AnthonyOp/EdCatholic Online

Things to ponder

Who do I follow, God or Man?

There was once a very holy man dedicated to the service of God and fellow man. He was deeply troubled that the war and violence in the world is mainly caused by religion. Followers of the different religions are fighting and killing each other in the name of their respective God. Disillusioned with God for His inactivity, he prayed fervently imploring God to intervene and stop all the violence.

That night an angel appeared in his dream and took him to heaven. As he approached the gates of heaven he could hear sounds of joy and happiness and sense an air of great festivities. The man asked the angel what was going on.

The angel answered, “The citizens of heaven are celebrating God’s birthday today”.
The man was overjoyed to be able to witness God’s birthday in heaven. Then there appeared a long candle light procession comprising the followers of the various religions. The man was so excited that he will soon get a glimpse of the Creator as he passes by.

Heading the procession were the Catholics, led by the Pope followed by the Cardinals, bishops, priests and the laity. This was followed by the different Christian denominations. Huge congregations of other faiths then followed suit, the Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and hundreds of other minor religious groups including great evangelists and miracle healers. Each group was led by its leader riding on beautifully decorated majestic horse chariots.

At the end of the procession came a frail looking bearded old man riding his frail looking horse. He appeared a total misfit in the environment of grandeur and glamour. The holy man from earth was very surprised that this poor old man had nobody following him.

The man asked the angel. “Who is this poor old man? Why is that he has no followers?”
After some hesitation, the angel answered “He is God,the Creator”.
Moral of the story

This is exactly what is happening in the world today. There is so much hatred, violence and killing in the world, all in the name of God and religion.

We all claim that our religion is the only true one and all others are false. We think we are the only ones following the right path that God has shown us.

Definitely hatred and violence are not His ways. His ways are always truth, love and peace, which very few really follow. We fail to understand that regardless of our religious differences, we are all children of God, differing only in the way we reach that one God.

Man has become so arrogant with his achievements in the world that he has instituted his own laws that ignores God’s true teachings of humility and love. These teachings are becoming rather obsolete in the world of power and glamour.

We seek God among the glamour and richness in the world, but in real life, He is among us in the poor and downtrodden.

Let us examine ourselves to see who are we really following God or man?

National day and patriotism

August 20, 2006

"Merdeka",do we have real freedom?

As we approach our national day on 31.8.06, our national media are full of reports of the various ways Malaysians celebrate our hard earned independence. Various generations celebrate in ways peculiar to their own experiences in life in our beloved nation, as it turns 49, come this August 31.

To demonstrate our patriotism to the nation, we are encouraged to hoist the national flag in our homes, offices, shops and on cars. It is becoming increasingly more common to see cars fully draped in the beautiful colors of the Jalur Gemilang.

In schools our children are asked to wave flags as they sing the national anthem and other patriotic songs. Almost daily the schools organize assemblies, eloquent speeches and other activities towards this end. Being children as they are, most of them are full of enthusiasm to participate in all these as they create an environment of festivities during the month of August each year.

Some of our politicians even go to the extent of castigating those who do not hoist the national flag as being unpatriotic and ungrateful for what the country has done for them.

Is national day all about waving the national flag, singing patriotic songs, having parades and tea parties? Definitely it transcends these physical expressions of joy of our independence.

It should be a day to recollect our achievements and failures over the years since independence. While celebrating our victories it is also the time to resolve to right the wrongs in our country. If we fail to do this all our achievements will be rendered meaningless.

Racial and religious tolerance is at its lowest since independence and is continuing to slide further. Those in power do not appear to value the importance of racial unity. They fail to realize that it is an asset that needs to be cherished and nourished. There is developing a dangerous trend where Malaysians today are living “peacefully” within their own communities.

Corruption has become an accepted way of life among Malaysians. It is a norm these days to “reward” those in authority for even obligatory services rendered. The ordinary man on the street is not able to get things done as he is not able to follow this new culture of “give and take”.

Road deaths are taking a very high toll on the lives of our people especially the young. Basic etiquette on the roads is badly missing. There is chaos on our roads and driving on them is like going to war. Breaking the laws without getting caught is considered a feat.

Crime rate is unacceptably high and is threatening every peace-loving citizen. People are living in fear, not able to go about their routine without danger of being raped, robbed, assaulted or even killed. The authorities do not seem to have the will to bring the situation under control. There is fear that mob rule will become the order of the day in the near future.

Quality of education is on the decline but the cost is escalating and becoming beyond the means of the ordinary wage earning citizen. Those in power are least perturbed that none of our local degrees are now recognized internationally. Eligible students with maximum results in examinations are denied seats in public universities. To solve this problem, higher education is being privatized which further escalates its cost. Many private institutions have sprung all over the country, many of them of questionable quality and credentials.

Basic medical care has become too expensive and privatization has made it beyond the reach of ordinary citizens. Abuses of Health Insurance Schemes are further aggravating the already unhealthy situation. Quality of medical care at government hospitals is far from excellent as it is managed by junior and inexperienced doctors. Most of the senior doctors have left for “greener pastures” in private practice where many of them are fast losing their hard-acquired skills over years of service.

An arrogant, uncaring and at times abusive public service is a sure indicator of its decline since independence. Biasness and favoritism to certain groups are standard practice. There is a need for greater professionalism in the civil service.

Eradication of poverty is confined to just one particular community although it occurs among all races. The real hardcore poor are not getting a decent share of the nation’s wealth. The rich are getting richer and the poor remain poor.

Freedom of expression and respect of human rights are also on the decline over the years. A small ray of hope was seen after our present prime minister took office but there are powerful forces that are eager to extinguish those rays of hope prematurely.

As Christians and belonging to the minority groups, “merdeka” is becoming progressively less meaningful as we are gradually becoming irrelevant in the mainstream development of the country. Not only are we not consulted in any major decisions but even our constitutional rights are being denied. The very institutions that are established to protect our rights fail us miserably.

Our children are denied admission to public institutions of higher learning; we are not given jobs in the civil service and armed forces, no state funds are allocated for the construction of places of worship and worse still churches and temples are indiscriminately demolished without proper dialogue or consultation.

To make “merdeka” more meaningful for the rakyat, serious concerted efforts by all parties must be made to correct these wrongs. Only with the provision of the basic needs, can true patriotism develop in the people.

Displaying flags, singing patriotic songs, wearing special costumes, participating in parades and banquet are just superficial displays of patriotism. These do not instill true and lasting patriotism. Nationalism and patriotism are not inborn in us. They should be cultivated from an early age just like how parents nurture them in their children..

The nation, like parents, must provide for her citizens all the necessary needs before it can expect undivided patriotism and loyalty only with the provision of the basic needs, can true patriotism develop in the people.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Open letter to Bishops

5 August 2006

Most Rev.Datuk Archbishop Murphy Pakiam
Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur
Rumah Uskup Agong
528,Jalan Bukit Nanas
50250 Kuala Lumpur

Rt.Rev.Bishop Anthony Selvanayagam
Rumah Uksup
290 Jalan Macalister, 10450 Penang,

Rt.Rev Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing S.J.
Rumah Uksup
2101 Jalan Masai, 81750 Plentong, Johor,

Your Grace/Lordships,

Firstly let me offer my sincere greetings of peace and love of Christ to your Lordships.
We are about to reach an important milestone in our journey as the people of God, the PMPCIII,which will decide the destiny of our Church in Malaysia. For months we have prayed earnestly for God’s guidance to lead us in the right path that He has chosen for us all.

Every member of the Church has the responsibility towards charting this destiny of out future., As a member of the laity I feel I cannot remain idle, but rather should also contribute to making this convention a meaningful one.

It is with this aim that I would like to offer some suggestions for deliberation. The opinions expressed are my own and made sincerely to improve running of our church and not to run down anyone in particular as I am a firm proponent that we, despite our ethnic differences, are children of one God.

I hope Your Lordships would have an open mind to by humble suggestions.

Thank you

Yours in the Love of Christ

Dr.Chris Anthony

An open letter to Archbishop, Bishops, priests and lay participants of PMPCIII

Major issues to be addressed at the PMPCIII

The delegates to the PMPC III would be gathering at the end of August 2006 for the all important convention which is to chart the course of the church in the years to come. As we strive to build God’s kingdom on earth, we must face the realities in today’s world with particular attention to 2 prevailing conditions in our country:

1. There is a progressive erosion of the legitimate rights of the minorities in the country. We are confronted with an unreasonable authority which fails to adhere to established norms and refuses to engage in dialogue to solve common problems. There is real threat that the nation is slowly moving towards an Islamic state.

2. In today’s rapidly changing materialistic world, family life has become so complex and challenging. Bringing up children with good values is the biggest challenge and needs full time involvement of parents.Furthemore the cost of health care and education for the children is exorbitant. It can run into hundreds of thousands of ringgit and has become beyond the reach of the average Malaysian.

Here are some pressing issues that need to be addressed:

Clergy-laity relationship

The clergy have lost the personal touch with people, which should be their overriding priority. This is due to too many administrative duties Church is run like a political or business institution, devoid of compassion and forgiveness, in enforcing rules and regulations.

There is a need for a bigger and more responsible role for the laity especially in the administration of the parish. Laity’s voice, maturity and intelligence are often underestimated and not utilized.

This “I know all” and “take it or leave” attitude of the clergy belittles the intelligence and capabilities of the layman.

Establishment of a laity-clergy diocesan council may be the move in the right direction in the endeavor to overcome this unhealthy situation.

The acute shortage of priests is further aggravated by the high incidence of medical ailments among them. The incidence of diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular illnesses among our clergy is exceptionally high and is a real cause of worry.

Promoting and developing BECs as basic functional units in the parish.

Pastoral care should focus on family and BEC. At present most BECs function at the whims and fancies of the leader and his selected people. No real discussion or dialogue with members regarding activities. Some leaders carry out projects for the wrong reason, self glory.

Active pastoral involvement, whereby the priest establishes inter-personal relationship with the people on the ground, would overcome this unhealthy situation. It is useless in having BECs without the active involvement of the priest.

Open dialogue, transparency and accountability in the administration of parishes

There is a real need to have open dialogue, transparency and accountability in the administration of the parishes. We are living in the twenty-first century and must discard all authoritarian practices of the past.

The clergy must abdicate some of the administrative functions to the laity who may be more qualified and better trained in running those functions. This will also allow them more time for their pastoral duties, including visiting the people, which only they can provide.

In this regards the parish councils must be elected as it was practiced and thereby accountable to the parishioners.

Frequent review of PMPC and feedback

There must be frequent review of the policies adopted for implementation and not once in 10 years. Avenues for feedback from the people must be made available and also actively encouraged. These suggestions and criticisms must be taken seriously regardless of who proposes them.

Parish newsletters and catholic publications like the Herald and Catholic Asian News must be given importance. Efforts must be made to publicize them among the Catholics. More space should be allocated for feedback and opinions from parishioners rather than stereotype reporting in favor of the authority, similar to our national dailies.

Declining Christian education .

With the decline in education as whole, we are also witnessing deterioration in even the basic universal human and moral values especially among the young.

We have lost all our Christian schools which used to be the main source of moral and religious education of our children. Our present school system has failed miserably in this aspect; it is therefore left to the parents, the church and the lay Christian community to take over the task of teaching the young the values and traditions of their faith.

The Church must take this seriously and set up a task force at the highest level comprising experts from all sectors to tackle this problem urgently. A strong, unshakable and lasting faith can only be developed by inculcating fundamental Christian values from young. We are now failing to do this, and I’m afraid our future generation will not withstand the various challenges to their faith. The recent controversy created by the DaVinci Code should serve as an example to us.

There is need for the establishment of a national Christian Institute of leadership and teachers training for the training and education of our young men and women.

Growing crisis in marriage and family life.

There is serious concern over the ever increasing divorce rate which threatens family institution to the core. This is becoming rampant even among Catholics where divorce is forbidden. Uncompromising parents and rebellious children who do not respect elders are becoming common. There is a need to strengthen the family unit.

There is a need to train our people in the area of counseling to advice and check the disintegration of the family unit. At present there is no one to turn to in times of crisis as the priests are too busy and preoccupied with other commitments. Very often they do not even know their parishioners well to advice.

The declining morality among the youth.

Our children are exposed to the strong attraction of a misconceived culture that is prevalent in today’s world. This culture contradicts every established principle of all religions. Free sex, abortion and adultery are not frowned at anymore. Corruption and greed for wealth are becoming acceptable norms even among, us Christians.

This is basically the result of failure of our national education system which is in disarray and in dire need of revamp. This has placed a greater responsibility on the Church and parents to instill good moral values in our children

Over-emphasis on spiritual and neglect of social teachings

There is an unhealthy trend where there is over emphasis on spiritual development at the expense of social values that were the earmark of our Catholic faith. Holiness has become synonymous with just praying and observing church laws blindly without a feeling for the human heart. Jesus stressed on loving God and man and unless we combine the spiritual and social teaching we are not going to appeal to the vast majority of the people.

There should be emphasis that spiritual development without accompanying social values is devoid of substance. Our spiritual activities must enhance our unselfish service to man. There is a general belief now that Christ is only present in the Eucharist, whereas in reality he is alive in every one around us.

Racial segregation in the church.

Racial segregation, initiated by the government, is creeping into our church and becoming a real problem. This is further aggravated by our practice of segregation of the races according to language groups.

This was not a problem when English was the main language of the church in the seventies, why are we making it one now? We should not succumb to the forces that propagate a divide and rule policy but unite as one community because our strength lies in this unity in diversity. We must be Christians first then Chinese, Indians or others.

Awareness of the socio-political developments in the country.

Islamisation and marginalization of minorities by the government will soon be accepted as a way of life. Christians are complacent, hoping and praying that they will not be affected.

The church must make the members be aware of the serious repercussions of Islamisation on our religious beliefs. We should not just happy to pray and go home; there are serious problems ahead which must be addressed now.

We must make clear our uncompromising stand on rights abuses that are so frequent these days. The recent Moorthy and Lina Joy cases should alert us to the seriousness of the situation today. Sad to say our priests hardly neither highlighted these cases nor was any special prayers offered during the masses.

Unity with other religious groups

We are not alone in our struggle against injustice, racial and religious prejudice. We have the other Christian denominations and other major faiths with whom we must cooperate and interact. We should not adopt the misguided notion that ours is the best religion and all others are false. We must be open to the universality of God, where every faith leads to the same God along different paths.

Neglect of the youth

Our youth today are under tremendous pressures in a materialistic world that is controlled by advancements in modern scientific and technological developments. They outsmart parents and teachers in these fields.

The church, instead of condemning these advancements as anti-religious, must keep abreast with them so as be able to advice and guide them. Failing this the church would become irrelevant to the youth.

Depending too much on faith alone will not take us very far with our young people.

Lack of basic facilities in small parishes

Most parish premises used to be hive of activities for the people. But today many of the buildings and infrastructure in small parishes are in a sorry state due to neglect.

Every attempt must be made to improve the basic facilities in all parishes to develop them into centers of education, training and human development

All parishes must be equipped with adequate modern facilities for training and human development, especially the young. The priests must be energetic and dynamic in keeping with latest developments.

A task force at diocesan level must be formed, comprising experts in the various fields, to upgrade the facilities in all parishes.


The above mentioned are some of the issues that need to be urgently addressed. The future of our church in Malaysia will depend on how we address these problems today.

The Church must be proactive in it’s strive to develop our Christian community to become self reliant in all fields, spiritual and social. Only by doing that we can overcome the “assault” by the unreasonable political authority we are subjected to.

The clergy must realize that society has become so complex and as Christians we have to pool all available resources to overcome our predicament today. It is only by our unity of our different gifts and talents can we build the community of the Church. If we do not unite and utilize all our resources to the fullest, to defend our rights now, we would be totally robbed of these rights and possessions and become irrelevant in the not so distant future.

We have the talent and capabilities within our Christian community in all fields -legal, administration, finance, business, medical, education and so on. We had successfully run schools, hospitals and welfare institutions before, why are we complacent now? We may be small and down but we are not out, and with Jesus on our side, we must and can rise up and become a force to be reckoned.

All we need is the will and true faith in Christ and with these; I do not see why we should fail in our struggle to build God’s Kingdom here on earth. In fact, by our deeds, we should become the conscience in the hearts of those forces poised against us.

We need all the feedback, ideas and opinions from every member of the church, either active or inactive. The church authorities must make available avenues for this feedback and be open to them, especially criticisms, which are meant for the betterment of the Catholic community.

We hope and pray our Archbishop, bishops, priests and those in power listen to the passionate plea of concerned lay Catholics and be receptive to all the ideas put forward and act accordingly.

We pray that God would enlighten the minds of the participants and give them all the necessary wisdom and courage to come up ideas and solutions to the many pressing problems of the Church in Malaysia today.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Life-size statues of the Passion of Christ

August 16 2006

Are we really following Christ?

I read with interest your report “Life-size statues of the Passion of Christ for St Anne BM” (Herald July 16).

We are told that the 15 life-size statues of the Passion of Christ,in St.Anne’s Church premises in Bukit Mertajam, costing RM600,000, would enable the pilgrims to have a much more solemn, prayful and spiritual experience. I agree that statues and images can help to enhance our spiritual experience but is it necessary to spend more than half a million ringgit to do that?

Furthermore we have to spend more to maintain them and protect them from vandals.
Most of us would agree that RM600,000 is a very large sum of money which only a small percent of our the population would be able to acquire it in their life time. If one has to have so much money to experience God, then the vast majority of people will never be able experience Him in their lives.

In this context it would be pertinent for us to reflect on why Christ chose to be born in stable and live among the poor and down-trodden? Are we really following Him?

Apparently all the 15 stations are taken up by sponsors in such short time, which goes along way to illustrate the generosity of our fellow Catholics.

Many of us may not be aware that in the same vicinity, the St.Anne’s Dialysis Centre is badly in need of another 4 more machines and the cost of each is about RM50, 000, which is about the same as that of one station of the cross. The lives of so many people, including some of our own priests, depend on the existence of this dialysis centre.

In another development, A.P.Lyon,in his letter “La Salle Brothers College in Penang sold?”(Herald August 13) lamented on the sale of the college for RM97.8 million. Most Catholics, I am sure, would fully share his sentiments on the improper handling and disposal of the church property.

As we are repeatedly reminded through numerous slogans that we are the church then, such church property rightly belongs to all of us, but sadly we have no say in its management and disposal. Most of us only come to know of it from sources other than the church authorities themselves, who should be accountable to community.

This reminds me of the similar situation we are in as Christians in our country. Belonging to the minority group, not only are we denied basic constitutional rights, but our voices too carry no weight in the running of the nation.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, August 04, 2006

Church needs fundamental changes of attitudes and behaviour.”

4 August 2006

Your report “Study says British Catholicism facing pastoral catastrophe”(Herald July 16, 2006) revealed some disturbing facts about the state of the church in Britain. According to the report, attendance at mass has slumped by 40 per cent and Catholic marriages by 60 per cent over the last 30 years.

From the study,the author, Tom Horwood,comes to some drastic conclusions, “The church in Britain is suffering from a terminal decline in membership, irregular commitment among the remnant, and in the wake of persistent child-abuse scandals, a leadership of bishops and priests that has toppled from its pedestal with a mighty crash’.

This observations is not peculiar to Britain, I’m sure similar findings will also be the feature in other countries in Europe and U.S.We too may not be that far from such a situation as we seem to be making the same mistakes of these so-called Christian countries of the West.

One has to just visit some of the smaller parishes to realize the pathetic state of our church in Malaysia. Most of these church premises which were once a hive of activity for the parishioners are now almost in shambles and at the verge of collapse. Attendance at masses and participation in parish activities, especially among the youth, is fast declining and I’m afraid, soon we may have to close down these churches.

Apart from carrying a Christian name and displaying a holy picture in front of their homes, many Catholics hardly display any true characteristics of our faith.

The success of the Church at the heydays was due to the strict adherence of Christ’s teaching of love God and love man. Our predecessors rightly transformed the love for God to love for fellow men.

Based of this love for God through man, came the establishment of the various institutions for providing service to man, like the mission schools, hospitals, and orphanages, homes for the aged, schools for the disabled and halfway homes for the wayward and so on. This service to man became entrenched as the social teachings of the church and were synonymous with Christianity.

I our country too, not long ago, we witnessed the love of Christ alive in our community through the activities of these institutions of God’s love. We were taught to see Christ in others and serving mankind was the way Christianity has to be practiced. Today we cannot proudly claim to have these institutions of Christ’s love anymore and our children are not able to witness the living love of Christ in our community.

There is a progressive erosion of the legitimate rights of the minorities in the country. We are confronted with an unreasonable authority which fails to adhere to established norms and refuses to engage in dialogue to solve common problems. There is real threat that the nation is slowly moving towards an Islamic state.

Faced with these new realities, the Church must be proactive in it’s strive to develop our Christian community to become self reliant in all fields, spiritual and social. Only by doing that we can overcome the “assault” by the unreasonable political authority we are subjected to.

The clergy must realize that society has become so complex and as Christians we have to pool all available resources to overcome our predicament today. We have the talent and capabilities within our Christian community in all fields - legal, administration, finance, business, medical, education and so on.

It is only by our unity of our different gifts and talents can we build the community of the Church. If we do not unite and utilize all our resources to the fullest, to defend our rights now, we would be totally and permanently robbed of these rights and possessions and become irrelevant in the not so distant future.

Dr.Chris Anthony