Saturday, September 27, 2008

Madam Nayagam : The lady who lived for God

She saw God in all her perils

Many people pass us by in life but only certain individuals leave a lasting and vivid impression in our minds. Those who impress us during our childhood seem to leave a permanent imprint in our memory. Sometimes these memories are pleasant but at times they can be bitter and disturbing and haunts us for the rest of our lives.

As the years pass, as we grow up we may encounter many obstacles in our struggles to seek success and happiness in our lives. Many of us become very successful but the memories of these individuals who had impressed us during our childhood remain vivid in our minds.

One such person to me is Mdm.Nayagam, a grand old lady from the parish of St.Joseph,Batu Gajah.Her recorded age is 90years but according to her children she may be100years old and they recently celebrated her 100th.birthday with friends and relatives.

At a time when women rarely go to work but stay at home to take care of the family and children, she was forced to work as a hospital attendant at the age of 35,which she did till her retirement at the age of 55 in 1973. She was widowed at the age of 53 but as her husband was sickly and of little help in supporting the family, she single-handedly struggled to bring up her 9 children, one of them mentally and physically retarded from birth due to Down’s syndrome.

Children with Down’s syndrome rarely survive until adulthood. It is notable that her handicapped son, fondly called Benny is still very fit and lives with her at an age of 57.His well being speaks volumes for the love and care she had given him all these years.

I used to know Mdm.Nayagam from my childhood days as her sons were my schoolmates and we studied and played together in the neighborhood. Even at that age I was impressed with two main characteristics that she possessed - her profound faith in God and her unselfish love for her handicapped son.

Her very strong faith in God was a pillar of strength and source of inspiration in her struggles to bring up her 9 her children, including Benny. It was this unshakable faith in God that provided her solace in her times of peril and solitude. I remember her going to church for weekday mass almost every day without fail. During those days in the fifties and sixties going to church was not an easy thing. The mass used to start at 6.00 am and she had to walk about 3-4 miles every morning which she religiously did without fail. Sickness and rain did not stop her from attending mass and receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. I must admit that Mdm.Nayagam’s devotion to the Eucharist was mainly instrumental in influencing many of us as children,to attend daily mass without fail.

Many elder parishioners and surviving priests and brothers who had worked at St. Joseph ’s Church know this practice of Mdm.Nayagam. The most prominent person who would bear witness to this is none other than our Archbishop Murphy Pakiam, whom she knew when he was a boy. The Archbishop, who has visited her on several occasions, does not fail to drop by to see her whenever he is in Batu Gajah. Her commitment to God was so deep and it never diminished with time until she her legs started to fail her in her eighties.

Today she may be physically frail and unfit but spiritually strong. She continues to recite her rosary and receives her holy communion every week at her house. She keeps praying for her children. Throughout her life she had always looked up to the Church whenever she had problems and she was never turned down. The Church doors were always open, both physically and spiritually unlike today when they are closed most of the time for various reasons. We have come to a stage when we have to even lock up Jesus in the tabernacle for fear of being hijacked or stolen.

The second characteristic of her that impressed me was her unselfish love for her handicapped son. Despite all her troubles she never neglected this unfortunate son. In fact she paid special attention to him. Bathing, dressing, feeding and washing up a normal child is already a big task. You can imagine doing these for a handicapped child for fifty over years. It was a tormenting task but Mdm.Nayagam accomplished all that unselfishly for the love she had for him.

She did not see the chores in those daily routines nor did she curse God for giving her a handicapped son but she saw God in him, which took away any pain and agony of that task.

Today she sits on a wheelchair. She may be senile and her memory has failed her but you can see the calm, serenity and satisfaction in her face. She conveys a look of contentment for having lived a life of dedication to God. She had been a true servant of the Lord for almost a century.
At this advanced age, Mdm.Nayagam may be of no use to anyone in this highly materialistic world but she remains a shining example of what a follower of Christ should be – humble and ever willing to accept the challenges in life with full trust in Him.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Thursday, September 25, 2008

ISA must be abolished

There can be no justice with ISA

The recent arrest of Selangor State Exco member Teresa Kok, Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamarudin and Sin Chew Daily reporter Tan Hoon Cheng under the infamous Internal Security Act(ISA) is a deplorable act that has been condemned by all Malaysians. Although we laud the release of Tan and Kok but Raja Petra,the Hindraf leaders and about 60 others are still languishing in detention, not knowing what crime they had committed.

Of late the condemnation of the ISA not only comes from the opposition parties, NGOs and various human rights groups from within and outside the country but by even the members of the ruling party including cabinet ministers, like former Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who has even resigned in protest, a honorable gesture that is rare among our politicians these days.

We hope more of our parliamentarians attain the courage to stand up against this draconian law which has been abused frequently for political reasons. Most significantly the rakyat themselves, regardless of their race, religion and political ideology have come to detest the draconian law. Even the various religious leaders have condemned the ISA as being against the basic tenets of every faith.

Due to overwhelming public objection from all Malaysians, the government has no choice but to reconsider the use of the ISA to detain anyone for whatever reason. In fact the government should seriously consider abolishing the ISA altogether as there are enough laws to deal with those who are out to create chaos in a multiracial and multi-religious society. What is important is to apply these laws promptly and fairly on anyone who breaches them. Ethnicity and political alignment should not be the factors that determine prosecution.

Instead of heeding the call of the people and taking steps to abolish the ISA, the government is adamant that it is good and refuses to even review its implementation. The blatant disrespect for public opinion indicates its arrogance that has not reduced even after its losses in the last general election. The BN appears to be crafting its own downfall by its own arrogance and recalcitrance, not by any external forces.

It is an utterly nonsense to believe that such a draconian law like the ISA is necessary in this modern civilized era for the maintaining peace among the races. On the contrary its use not only fails to diffuse racial tension but its selective use on those who oppose the government, as is practiced, only aggravates the already existing tense situation.

Each time the nation recovers from a racial and religious conflict and is on the brink of attaining peace, harmony and progress, the ISA is invoked in the pretext of safeguarding the national security, which takes the nation back to the sixties. If this continues we will forever be in the era of the sixties, living in anxiety and fear of racial strive. How can the nation progress and move forwards when a primitive and suppressive law is frequently invoked to threaten free expression of the elite in the populace.

Racial conflicts arise due to the disparities in the socio-economic status of the various communities. To avoid such a situation, what is needed is a fair socio-economic policy for all races based on the fact that all citizens are equal and their rights as stipulated in the constitution and not draconian laws like the ISA. Nobody should be allowed to question or deny another of his constitutional rights.

Furthermore there is a need for greater commitment and zeal on the part of Umno, as the dominant partner in BN to foster more goodwill and tolerance among the races. Greater and more genuine efforts must be made to promote inter-ethnic unity by emphasizing on the many common identities we have not divide on the few differences that separate us. These are the ideals that should be taught in all schools if we what a to ensure a peaceful, harmonious and prosperous nation for our children and grandchildren.

The voice of the rakyat that transcends racial, religious and political divide is loud and clear – abolish the ISA. As a gesture to acknowledge its willingness to listen to the rakyat, the government should first release all ISA detainees and reassure the people that it will not resort to the draconian ISA in future for whatever reasons. It should then work towards abolishing the ISA once and for all. Why have a law that is detested by the vast majority of people?

Racial incitement must be checked promptly and effectively with the existing laws of the country and not by resorting to the easy way out by detention without trial, which defies the basic human rights and the fundamentals of every major religion. The ISA defies every principle of human rights and it must be resisted and fought to be abolished at all costs.

All religions alike preach respect for human rights regardless of race and social standing. In this respects, it is enlightening to see our Church, of late, taking a strong stand against ISA. Forums, signature campaigns, candlelight vigils and silent prayers have been organized in some churches. Unfortunately there are still many among us are rather passive. The church has the moral obligation to create this awareness of the social responsibility of its congregation to the nation. The least we can do is to incorporate a special prayer during all our Sunday masses for the ISA detainees and the abolishment of the ISA itself. At the same time each and every one of us must spread this awareness to those around us so that the whole nation demands the repeal of this unjust laws.

Injustices like the use of ISA to detain people without and subject them to mental and physical torture poses an important question to us as Christians. It may be pertinent for us to reflect on how Jesus himself was subjected to some form of ISA during his time. In his case it was an extreme of torture that finally led to his crucifixion. The irony is that he was arrested, accused of trumped up charges and sentenced to death in the most unjust manner for standing up for something we should all uphold - TRUTH.

The strange thing was that despite all the injustices meted out on him, Jesus did not fight back but humbly accepted all the punishment, even death. What is the lesson he is trying to convey to us through his extreme act of humility of accepting death without a fight, hatred and above all forgiving even his enemies who plotted and killed in the cruelest way? He demonstrated one of his greatest teaching, “love your enemies”,which is almost humanly impossible to follow.

We claim to be his followers but are we willing emulate his example of willing to show love to our enemies? Are we willing to rid of the hate we harbor towards those to plot our downfall and willing to forgive them unconditionally?

Dr.Chris Anthony