The government’s decision to issue show cause letter to the Catholic weekly Herald is regrettable. Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar’s directive to the tabloid to stick strictly to purely religious issues is unfair. His contention that religion is all about rituals and the adherence by its followers is a myopic view of tenets of every major religion in the world.
Rituals may be an important part of a religion but rituals alone without a commitment for the well being of mankind would give little credence to a particular faith. The basic and fundamental teaching of all religions is the promotion of love for fellow men, regardless of the race, creed, social and political status. Fighting for justice and a concern for the underprivileged is a fulfillment of this love for mankind. It is of utmost importance for the followers of a particular faith to adhere to this fundamental rule besides the rituals of their particular religion.
Politics deals with fairness, justice and the rule of law. If these are tampered, especially by those in power, for any reason, then it is the duty of every citizen, regardless of his faith, to speak up against such injustices, otherwise one would be failing in his duty to the nation. It should be the duty of the various religions to emphasize to their followers this important duty to the nation, which is also a religious duty. While politicization of religion is morally wrong, nevertheless religion itself has a duty to infuse the much needed morality into politics.
Herald should not be just an instrument to provide information on religious issues only as proposed by Syed Hamid but be a means to highlight the injustices in society as well as obtaining feedback from the people on their various needs from time to time. Being a Christian publication Herald, is only fulfilling its responsibility to its congregation and has always acted within the laws of the country.
Christianity, like all other faiths, besides emphasizing on spirituality also places great importance on social obligations to the people and it would be unfair to restrict Herald’s coverage to purely religious rituals. It would only be fair and just that the government withdraw its show cause letters and allow Herald to continue with its noble tasks of nation building in our multi-racial and multi-religious country.
At the same time just as Herald should be allowed to voice its opinion on the various issues that are seen as unjust, it should also in turn be receptive to constructive criticisms from its own members from within and without. Unless it can accept such critical comments it does not have the audacity to criticize the government for its failures.
As Catholics let us take the lead to live our lives in accordance with the teachings of Christ thereby becoming shining examples for others. Let justice, love and goodwill be the guiding principles in our dealings with fellow men. Let us ourselves be more tolerant to dissenting views from our members and especially from those of other faiths. The only way we can promote inter-ethnic harmony in a country like ours,is to have extra-ordinary love for those different from us. We cannot love God if we do not love our neighbor, especially our ‘enemies’.