|Our children are what we make them out to be|
An incident with my 17 year old son made me realize how little things that we often take for granted have a profound effect on the young minds of our children. It also reminded me that life is a continuous process of learning in which everyone we come across, regardless of whether he is small or big, young or old, man or woman, rich or poor, friend or foe, play an important role. We have much to learn from every one of them.
My son, a college student, frequents a small restaurant for his meals. One day the owner of the restaurant asked him whether he knew how to download and burn some songs onto a compact disc (CD).When my son admitted he knew, the gentleman requested him to burn some of his favourite songs for him. He said he would pay for it.
So my son went back and did the job. He then called me to find out how much he should charge the man for the CD.I advised that he give it for free as it the first time he had asked for such a help.The next day my son handed over the CD to the restaurant owner. He refused to accept any payment despite some persuasion by the man. The man thanked him and my son left.
A few days later my son went back to the restaurant to have his meals. He ordered the usual food. While he was having his meal a waiter sent him a large glass of fruit juice as a compliment from his boss. My son was so surprised and he happily thanked him. After the meal when he went to pay his bill the boss refused to accept payment saying that his lunch treat was in appreciation for the CD earlier.
My son was so happy that he immediately called me to relate the incident. I could sense the joy in his voice when said “I had free lunch; the restaurant owner didn’t take my money because I burnt the CD for free”.
I could not believe that a small deed like that could bring him so much happiness. Without my knowledge I had taught my son a very important lesson in life, “kindness brings happiness”. If he had collected a few ringgit for the CD from the restaurant owner, he would not have got the treat from him, and my son would not have experienced the joy of his kind act. Forgoing a ringgit could bring him the happiness which often we are not able to obtain by thousands of ringgit.
This incident may be a small one, it may not guarantee my son will grow up to be a good person, but it made me aware that as parents we have a very important role in shaping the character of our children. This can most effectively be done by our own examples not preaching. It is in little things that we can guide them to be kind, considerate and helpful to those whom they come into contact. It is in little things that we can instill the good values and morality that are so deficient in our society today.
In a world that is solely driven by materialism and consumerism,and where stiff and unhealthy competition in the norm, instilling good values in our children would go a long way to make the world a better place for all. In a multi-racial country like ours, it would particularly contribute to ethnic tolerance and integration that is so badly needed.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The tenth anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa brought to mind some interesting insight into her which made me reflect on my own faith.
In Mother Teresa - Crisis of Faith by David Van Biema that was published in the September 3, 2007 edition of Time Magazine, the writer related an incident that revealed Mother Teresa at one time even doubted the existence of God. She was reported to have told Rev.Michael Van Der Peet,
“Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear, the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak ....”
Less than 3 months later on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize she reaffirmed her unshakable faith in God and advised us on the need to see Christ around us.
"It is not enough for us to say, 'I love God, but I do not love my neighbor’, since in dying on the Cross, God had made himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one." Jesus' hunger, she said, is what "you and I must find" and alleviate. Christ is everywhere — Christ in our hearts, Christ in the poor we meet, Christ in the smile we give and in the smile that we receive.
We all knew Mother Teresa for her unwavering faith and trust in God. Here she was even expressing doubt in the very existence of God himself. This admission by her just goes to show that the Saint of the Gutters, who was beatified on October 19, 2003, was just as human like all of us. The crisis in her faith that Mother Teresa experienced was understandable because of the perpetual challenges she encountered as she lived humbly submitting to the call of God to serve fellow men among the poorest of the poor.
We too face all sorts of challenges in our own ways. We fulfill all our religious duties diligently and therefore believe that God will never forsake us under all circumstances. We never have the slightest doubt in our trust and faith in Him. This may be so when things go right but very often life does not seem to go the way we want it to be. It is in times of these challenges and tragedies that our faith is put to the test. Despite all our earnest prayers, our petitions never seem to be answered. It is during these extreme trying times we begin to doubt the existence of God.
Some of these challenges to our faith today are:
1. Death of loved ones ,terminal illness, permanent disability
2. Divorce and failures in love
3. Failures in examinations and unemployment when our future appears doomed
4. Extreme poverty and hunger
5. Natural disasters
6. Persecution and torture for standing up for truth and justice
When we are inflicted by these tragedies and God does not seem to intervene to help us, many of us give up hope and may even leave Him. We are taught that God is so loving, kind and merciful, then why does he forsake us? Why doesn’t he come down to get us out of the misery that had inflicted us.
This is the time we need all the faith and trust in Him like Mother Teresa. Many among us expect God to come down in person and work miracles to help us overcome our problems. We fail to realize that God come to us in forms we do not recognize thereby fail to welcome him into our lives. If we are waiting for him to come in majesty and glamour then we will be sadly mistaken. He will instead come in the form of the poor and destitute. Unless we welcome these downtrodden people into our hearts, we will never experience God in our lives.
Mother Teresa identified Jesus in her “poorest of the poor” Unless we too recognize Him in the downtrodden and despised and welcome them into our hearts, we will never experience God in our lives
We must be convinced that God will never fail us if we do His will. It is in times of trial that we should reflect on ourselves to see where we have gone wrong. When God does not come to our aid then there must be something wrong with us and not with God. We should reflect on our relationship with God and our neighbor. There must be something wrong in the way we interpret and practice his teachings. To many of us it is easy to love God, whom we can’t see, hear or feel but difficult to love our neighbor who is physically there in our midst.
As Mother Teresa said we cannot possibly love God if we do not love fellow humans, which is very true. Emerging fundamentalism in the Church has given rise to a situation where we are meaninglessly worshipping God without loving men. We spend many hours to be with Him in prayer and meditation but not willing to spare a fraction of that time to attend to those in need.
With our obsession with “worshipping” God, we ignore the plea of those who yearn for our love and care. How can we expect God to listen to us when we ignore Jesus in our neighbor? How can we expect God to answer our prayers when they are all meant to seek favors for us and our loved ones?
The good, God will try them repeatedly but will never forsake them, whereas the bad, he may shower with all the fortunes in life but in times of need will forsake them.
Monday, September 10, 2007
God is waiting to be served
One day he was suddenly granted his wish that he prayed for all his life. While he was praying in the church, suddenly Jesus appeared before him. Filled with joy and happiness, he started to talk to Him. Before he could start his conversation proper the church bell rang indicating there was someone who needs help.
The church keeper requested God to wait for him as he rushed out to attend to the person who rang the bell. There was a dirty looking beggar at the church entrance who wanted food and some clothes. Preoccupied with feeding the beggar and giving out some clothes to him, he forgot that God was waiting for him inside the church. After settling with the beggar he quickly ran back into the church. To his surprise Jesus was still waiting for him.
He apologetically thanked Jesus for patiently waiting for him. He was more surprised at what Jesus replied.
“I waited for you just not because of your devotion to me but because of your concern for the poor beggar. You left me to unselfishly serve someone in need.”
With those words Jesus left the holy man.
This story illustrates what happens to us daily in our lives. Every day we pray earnestly for God to come to us to solve our problems. We do all sort of things to reach Him – pray, fast, attend mass every Sunday without fail, receive all the Sacraments and even travel all over in pilgrimage. Despite all these good deeds very often we get disappointed that He does not come to us at all.
Preoccupied with serving God we forget that He is waiting for us to in disguise in those around us. He is waiting to be served in our inconsiderate spouse, rebellious children, jealous colleagues, stubborn subordinates, the poor, the marginalized and even our enemies.
Registering our objections to the Islamic State concept
Almost RM100 million have been spent to celebrated 50 years of independence of our beloved nation. Despite the pomp and spendour, this historic event was marred by deep anxiety over the deteriorating race relations and increasing Islamisation that is taking place in the country.
In fact Islamic values are being infused into every facet of our lives today - in schools, public service,police,armed forces, judiciary and even sports and recreation. This is creating tremendous anxiety and insecurity among the non-Muslims who make up nearly 40% of the population. We are unsure of what is in store for us and our children in the future.
On the brink of Merdeka day the Deputy Prime Minister himself declared that Malaysia is an Islamic state. Besides giving reassurances, the Prime Minister himself, would not reaffirm in uncertain terms that Malaysia is a secular state and the Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Amidst these controversies and uncertainties, the Chief Justice proposes that the English common law on which our Constitution is based should be replaced with Syariah laws.
As provided for in the Federal Constitution, we all acknowledge that Malaysia is a secular state with Islam as the official religion and where there is freedom to practice ones own religion.
As Christians and belonging to the non-Muslim minority, we have no choice but to voice our concerns and displeasure of what is going on in the country today. We are slowly losing our say in determining the course our country is being steered.
We cannot be complacent but must do our utmost to resist the formation of an Islamic state in a peaceful and legitimate manner. This may be in the following ways:
1. Educating and creating awareness among the respective congregations on the gravity of the problem we are facing by way of talks and seminars. It is time to push for debate within our own religions and promote a wider notion of unity.
2. Publications – make known in no uncertain terms our opposition to the formation of an Islamic state. We must write to papers and magazines, both secular and religious. Our own church bulletins and publications like Herald and CANews must encourage and carry these opinions from the masses.
3. Prayers and intercessions – special prayers and petitions should be incorporated into liturgical services all over the country.
4. Provide living examples to those around us – we must be a symbol of goodwill, tolerance and love for all especially our Muslim brethren. We ourselves must respect all religions as equal, as they all lead to one same God. We must by our actions, convince them we have no ulterior motive other than wanting to share the common brotherhood in our nation.
5. Ensure an effective opposition – The next general election is a crucial one. We must cast our votes responsibly to ensure effective opposition to provide check and balance. Deny 2/3 majority to the ruling party so that drastic amendments to the Federal Constitution can be thwarted.
Only with determination, perseverance and prayer can we succeed in this mission to defend our rights and freedom in our country. The future of our faith depends on what we do today. So let us ask Jesus to give us the guidance and courage to do the right thing now.
Federal Constitution on religious freedom
The folowwing articles in the Federal Constituiton relate to the freedom of religious practice that were worked out my our founding fathers:
Article 3.1 : Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.
Article 8.1 : All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.
Article 8.2 : Except as expressly authorized by this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in any law relating to the acquisition, holding or disposition of property or the establishing or carrying on of any trade, business, profession, vocation or employment
Article 11.1 :Every person has the right to profess and practice his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it.
Atrticle11.4 :State law and in respect of the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan, federal law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.
Article12.1: Without prejudice to the generality of Article 8, there shall be no discrimination against any citizen on the grounds only of religion, race, descent or place of birth
Monday, September 03, 2007
The nineteen South Korean Christian volunteers held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan for six weeks were finally freed. It brought great relief not only to the hostages but to the whole international community. It is deeply distressing that two people lost their lives in the ordeal.
According to the Taliban, they were paid $20 million for the release of the hostages, a claim which the South Korean government denies vehemently.
Encouraged by the “reward”, the Taliban have wowed to continue their struggle with more such kidnappings ransom and possibly more killings as well. Meanwhile the Christian workers say that they went to the Muslim country to spread God's love and carry out his wishes and their Afghan ordeal had only strengthened their resolve to send more missionaries there. According to some of the hostages they had been tortured for refusing to embrace Islam.
We have a strange situation where the Christian workers went to Afghanistan to “convert” people there but in the process they were kidnapped and persuaded to embrace Islam instead. Where do all these going to lead – where one religious group is trying to convert another to its own faith, both acting in the name of God?
While both groups claim to be out to do the work of God, it is ironical that, in the final outcome, only money and not goodwill and prayer, could free both of them from their predicament.
As Christians we are asked to evangelise, which was traditionally trying to persuade people to become Christians. This was what the South Korean missionaries tried to do in Afghanistan.
Today many religions have attained a significant presence all over, even in countries once predominantly Christian. It would be morally wrong and a disaster if we continue to practice evangelization in the traditional way.
In a world plagued with so much hate and violence for fellow humans, we need religion to direct mankind to peace, compassion and love. It is sad that the very religions that were instituted to serve such a noble purpose are being misused for reasons contrary to its aims.
So what should evangelism mean to us today? Evangelism today should be more tailored to share Christ’s love to those in need around us, not convert them by the rituals of our faith. For the true followers of any religion, their faith is not in the rituals that they perform but rather it is God’s love deeply rooted in their hearts and lives. It can never be surrendered by persuasion or force unless they willingly give it up themselves.
As Christians we should first convert ourselves and align our lives in keeping with the teachings of Christ. Instead of trying to convert others to our own religion, it would be a great service to mankind if we can convert them, by our examples, to become better humans in their own faith, as finally all religions lead us to the same God, whom we call by different names.