Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year 2010 – Being better Humans wherever we are

Following Christ on His terms not ours

I met an old friend of mine after a long time. He was a staunch Catholic once but he had the left the Catholic Church for some reason some years ago. Subsequently he joined a number of churches of other Christian denominations, actively participating in every church he joined. Today he has left all of them and remains what he calls “a true Christian outside the church”. By that he means he follows Christ’s teachings as He himself taught and lived.

According to my friend the people inside the church today are busy fighting among themselves for their own selfish reasons which leaves them little time to do what Jesus really commanded; to serve fellow men. Even when they do some service it is with some ulterior motive of seeking popularity, power or monetary gains. Even the pastors seem to be no better as they do everything for money with little compassion and empathy for the people they are supposed to serve. They may be great preachers but poor doers of what they preach. From his experience he concludes that “The people outside the church are better humans than those inside who call themselves Christians, the followers of Christ”.

This is a very strange statement from a man who has been very actively involved in many churches but ironically seems to be true not only in other churches but in our own Catholic Church as well. I realize a number those who have left the church seem to be happier doing God’s work outside on their own than when they were inside where there are many all out to stop them from doing so. Unfortunately the place where we are supposed to serve God has become a place for politicking where jealousy and revenge which have become the guiding rules, instead of forgiveness and repentance as what Christ wants. What has gone wrong with the church and the people in it?

We have many talented people in our midst but why are they reluctant to serve in the church ministries? Why are so many who were active before leaving the ministries and the church itself? Why is that only a tiny fraction of the members come to church despite making Sunday attendance compulsory? What is being done to keep the people especially those with dissenting views within the flock? We conveniently ignore them by classifying them as ‘lapse Catholics’ and we have no time for them as we think they have none for us. Is that what wants us to do? Christ was very clear of what to do with such people in his parable of the prodigal son.

The church today has become an institutionalized organization with rules and regulations based on human experiences and expectations. In such an organization the rules are enforced by the priest and those close to him, the so-called inner circle. There is little or no room for dialogue and debate let alone dissent. The policy of “If you are not with me then you are against me” seems to be prevalent among our priests and their cohorts. Such an attitude makes it impossible for many talented, capable and highly qualified ordinary members of the congregation to be accepted as part of the team. If one is not accepted into the inner circle then it would be better for him to leave otherwise he has to face the wrath of the priest and his inner circle even if he does the right thing.

Today the church is more involved in rituals and mammoth prayers sessions to praise and worship God. We hope to get closer to Him by being preoccupied with such actions of worship without taking pains to understand the plight of our neighbor. We leave everything behind and rush to worship God hoping to get Him to listen to our prayers, which is most of the time for our own well being. Jesus clearly tells us what to do before we go to worship him, “If you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering”.(Mathew5:23-24)

Very often we know what God wants us to do but we take the easy way out to follow Him on our terms not His, as His ways go against the worldly desires that we all crave for in our lives.
This New Year let us resolve to put aside our differences with those we cannot get along and come together to build God’s Kingdom in our BEC, parish and community at large. Let us not involve in the petty squabbles in our parish or be discouraged by them but try to follow Christ the way He wants, if not in the Church then outside. It is better to be a good human outside the Church than being a bad Christian within.This is the message I see in Jesus.

A very Happy and joyous New Year 2010

Dr.Chris Anthony

If we do the right thing at all times God will be always be on our side what come may along the way

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bring Christ into the lives of people and not drive Him away

Understanding the complexity of NBVM

Many people including past parish priests and parishioners regard NBVM in Butterworth as a notorious parish with many people out to cause trouble and problems for the parish priests who have worked there. In fact since I came here 16 years ago an unusually large number of priests (more than six I guess) have come and gone and yet there is still no stability in the administration of the parish. Even at present there is a lot of unhappiness among the people with the new parish priest who has taken over just about four months ago. The question is who is wrong, the priests or the people?

NBVM is a large parish with approximately 8,000 parishioners but it is poorly developed physically, spiritually and intellectually. Many blame the priests for being incompetent, others certain long-serving individuals with ulterior motives who wrongly influence the priest to take sides and there are those contribute their failure to the people of Butterworth who are generally considered to be trouble makers.

The majority of parishioners agree that the parish needs revamp to keep with the rapidly changing society. Instead of blaming any individual or groups for the mess we are in, as that would only cause more ill feelings and hate, it would be better for us to understand why our parish does not seem to move forward like others. The tremendous social and demographic changes that have taken place over the last 2 decades or so on mainland Penang especially in Butterworth has resulted in a very diverse population with regards to socio-economic status, literacy rate and standard of living.

Butterworth has become a complex regional industrial centre with the people coming from all walks of life – manual workers, unskilled and skilled factory workers, executives and professionals. To add to the complexity there has been an influx of large numbers of foreign workers into our factories and plantations. With these changes it is only natural for the NBVM parish in Butterworth to reflect the extreme variation of the population demography on mainland Penang.

Twenty years ago Butterworth was considered a “cowboy town”. The population then comprised mainly of factory workers but today there are many officers from the administrative, executive and professional groups as well. Many of us including the parish priests of NBVM underestimate the demands of this increasing maturity and literate class of parishioners.

In many of the other urban and rural parishes the population is more homogenous socioeconomically, with either the lower, middle or upper social class predominating. However in Butterworth the population is widely heterogeneous with a mixture of all three groups.

Furthermore there is a large ethnic and language diversity. The expectations of each group are very different from another. This wide variation in the population makes it difficult to manage as it would be impossible to please all groups at the same time. Managing a community comprising diverse socioeconomic, language and ethnic groups of people demands additional experience and skills than managing a more homogenous group.

I am afraid that our priests especially the younger ones are not equipped with the special skills to handle this diverse crowd. What is most frustrating is that many of them are so impatient and arrogant and refuse to listen to the people who are older, wiser and more experienced. There is little or no respect for the elders in the parish which is indeed very very sad.

Quoting from the medical profession to which I belong, a doctor is trained to consider his patients as most important and never to blame them for his mistakes however difficult and troublesome the patients may be. Similarly if our priests regard the parishioners as most important then a lot of the problems would have never arisen in the first place. The biggest setback is our priests tend to alienate themselves from the very people whom they are supposed to guide and serve. They adopt a confrontational attitude towards the people who dissent and ‘rebel’ which is never the way to deal with fellow humans. What is needed is a conciliatory environment for dialogue, discussion and even debate to solve the problems that are bound to surface from time to time.

The way out of our problems in NBVM is to revamp the system of administration. The priest is the undisputed head of the parish but the PPC must be given greater independence and power to manage finance and the day to day running of the parish. Gone are the days when the priest can manage the parish single-handedly. Today society is more sophisticated and complex, so are its problems, to be handled by the priest alone. He must delegate the non-spiritual work to the PPC which must be more professionally run.

The PPC like in the old days when it was called the Parish Council must be duly elected by the people at the Parish Assembly. Its chairman and other main office bearers must be people of high calibre, integrity and well qualified. At present the PPC is powerless and ineffective to handle the various problems. The role of the PPC should not be restricted to organising feast days, anniversaries, parties, family day and other such “entertainment” events. It must cater for an overall development on the spiritual and intellectual aspects of the people to meet the new challenges that face us as Christians.

We should be addressing more important issues like declining Christian education, declining morality, increasing divorce and breakup of family units, declining influence of the Church in the lives of the people and so on.

We should formulate programmes to help those in need in our parish like those with spiritual, medical, financial, marital, social and psychological problems. In short we must, as the Church, identify with the problems of the people and not alienate ourselves from their plight. To do this we must have a parish council which is dynamic, capable and fully independent working hand in hand with the parish priest who should be able to advice and guide the council and not dictate policies according to his whims and fancy.

Today the reputation of the Church and our faith is being challenged by the people of the world. We are being challenged by non-Christians, other Christian denominations, non-believers, new scientific discoveries and of late by atheists. If we continue to be obsessed with the rituals of the past without accommodating the new technological and scientific advancements there is no way we are going to stop the exodus of our people as our religion would be then become more and more irrelevant to them.

In short we should put our minds and hearts together, pool our resources and energy and explore ways to bring Christ into the lives of people and not drive Him away by our un-Christ-like attitude and behaviour that is unfortunately becoming more prevalent in our Catholic communities all over.

Dr.chris Anthony

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Christmas : A season to seek and grant forgiveness

Christ a symbol of Humility and forgiveness

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas it may be pertinent for us to reflect of its true meaning in our lives particularly in our relationship with those we encounter including fellow parishioners. In many parishes there is so much politicking going on that radiates a lot of ill feelings and hatred which is becoming very unchristian.

Our priests continue to give beautiful and powerful sermons Sunday after Sunday during the season of Advent stressing on the importance of getting rid of our sinful ways in order to receive Jesus into our hearts this Christmas. However these sermons go unheeded to a large extent for various reasons. When even the priests do not follow the very sermons they preach from the pulpit, how we can expect the people to do so. Infighting, acts of revenge and jealousy continue to prevail in our lives outside and inside the Church.

Whenever somebody goes against our wish we are ready to confront him to put him down. Whenever someone hurts us we quickly retaliate with anger and revenge trying to overwhelm him with our power, wealth and influence. The solutions to most inter-personal problems are easy – to dialogue in a spirit of love and goodwill, but very often we choose confrontation and revenge instead.

We fail to realize that those who rebel against us may in fact be crying out for help which we are too arrogant to ignore, ridicule and look down with contempt. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go down to them and listen to their grouses and see what can be done to win their hearts instead of challenging them with our power and might?

There is no place for humility and forgiveness in our dealings with those we encounter, only arrogance, pride and egoism. We rush to make the pre-Christmas confession but are not willing to forgive those who hurt us. It is easy to say sorry to God but not to say that personally to the one whom we hurt. How can we expect God to forgive us when we are not willing to personally ask forgiveness from those we hurt? We say we are followers of Christ but ignore the basic lesson he taught us, “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”.

If we reflect on our attitude towards fellow humans we will admit that Christ is becoming increasingly irrelevant in our lives in this highly materialistic and immoral world driven by greed and selfishness. We claim to be following Christ but there are hardly anything Christ-like in our lives other than steadfastly holding on to rituals. Where are all these leading us?

The two great virtues expounded by Jesus were humility and forgiveness which he demonstrated to the extreme by His Passion and death on the cross. His birth into the world in an environment of extreme poverty was another example of his humility which we are commemorating this Christmas. Each one us has some degree of arrogance, pride and egoism in us, which are the sins that we must get rid from our lives during this Christmas to attain the peace that Christ promised.

If Christ was a symbol of humility and forgiveness what are we? As we prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus into our homes and hearts this Chritmas, let us look around to see how we can become more Christ-like in our own lives, in our family, our office, our neighborhood and in our own BEC and parish.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Monday, November 23, 2009

Christ the King

Christ the King – let’s build His not our Kingdom

I had a pleasant surprise at last Sunday’s mass celebrated by Fr.Stanley Antoni.He may be a young priest but his sermon was a timely wake up call for us Catholics and the Church in general. His sermon on the occasion of the Feast of Christ the King was very appropriate and relevant as we, as the Church, are here to build His Kingdom among us on earth.

He rightly pointed out that we are all Theologians in some way. He pointed out that to be a good theologian we have to fulfil 3 criteria:

1. Love the world and our fellow humans
2. A critic who is not afraid to speak the truth, against injustice.
3. An energizer who is willing to initiate change around him

Fr.Stanley’s advice that as a Christian we must read the bible in one hand and the secular newspapers in the other is very appropriate today. We all read the bible but many of us do not relate it to the problems in the world. The bible has become irrelevant to the plight of the people.

He went to explain that we always criticize others but fail to look at our own faults. We accuse the government for being racist but refuse to admit that racism is very much alive in our Church. I agree with Fr.Stanley that our Church is rich and powerful to the extent to have become too obese for failing to identify with the problems of the masses. He referred to the Church in US as an example of that unhealthy obesity of our Catholic Church. The Church there (due to the many scandals) has become a symbol of shame to Catholicism and if we don’t act now we will soon become one too in Malaysia. Yes,if we continue to build our own kingdom, Jesus will soon take away the wealth and power from our earthly church as these are not used for the benefit of mankind but to enrich ourselves with the worldly pleasures.

I hope Fr.Stanley and all like-minded young priests would continue with their good work in trying to make the Catholic Church see reality. They will be reprimanded and ‘persecuted’ for speaking the truth but I pray that God will give them the strength and courage to withstand all these.

It is timely for us to reflect on what Fr.Stanley said especially with regards to his gloomy forecast of our Church. As a result of our wealth, power and good life, we have diverted from our ideals as the people of Christ. Our church is in need of drastic change to return to the true path of Christ.

This Sunday’s Gospel reading taken from John 18: 33-37, quotes Jesus as saying his Kingdom is not of this world. He says he came into this world to bear witness to the truth and we all know what happened to Him for that. On the contrary today we are intent on building not His but our own material Kingdom in this world by our greed, selfishness and suppression of truth.

Jesus was not a superstar who lived in luxury enjoying the pleasures in life. Instead he lived a life of simplicity and humility upholding the truth which lead him to die like a criminal on the cross. We as his followers are not asked to go that extent but at least do the little we can to live like him in our own lives. Can’t we stand up for truth? Can’t we speak up against injustice? Can’t we be compassionate to open our hearts to those who need us? Can’t we be humble to seek forgiveness from those whom we have hurt? Can’t we be merciful to those who hurt us?

Unless our Catholic Church and we, its people can answer ‘yes’ to these above questions we will not be worthy to be called followers of Christ. Let us be reassured that if we do the right thing, God will always be with us whatever that may come to pass our way.

Dr.Chris Anthony

This is the Gospel reading for the Sunday
(John 18: 33-37)

33 So Pilate went back into the Praetorium and called Jesus to him and asked him, 'Are you the king of the Jews?' 34 Jesus replied, 'Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others said it to you about me?' 35 Pilate answered, 'Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?' 36 Jesus replied, 'Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. As it is, my kingdom does not belong here.' 37 Pilate said, 'So, then you are a king?' Jesus answered, 'It is you who say that I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this, to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.'

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Intelligence Squared Debate: Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry vs. The Catholics (5 of 5)

The Intelligence Squared Debate: Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry vs. The Catholics (4 of 5)

The Intelligence Squared Debate: Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry vs. The Catholics (3 of 5)

The Intelligence Squared Debate: Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry vs. The Catholics (2 of 5)

The Intelligence Squared Debate: Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry vs. The Catholics (1 of 5)

BBC Have Your Say - Is the Catholic Church a Force For Good? (Part 1/3)

This was the discussion telecast on BBC on 15 November 2009.

It is quite disheartening to hear the negative perception of our Church in the minds of the people in the world .Being a born Catholic it is painful to witness the declining influence of the Church in the world today.

We were once the symbol of Christ's love for mankind.We have lost everything we had.We have been reduced to any other secular organization where greed, hatred,jealousy and revenge have become rampant.

May be it is time for us to tale a serious look at ourselves as the Church.Where are we heading to?

Monday, October 12, 2009

NBVM BEC leaders election 2009

NBVM BEC leaders election 2009

Finally the much awaited elections are here.Elections are undeniably the best way of selecting our leaders be in the church or outside.Our new parish priest,Fr.Victor Louis,must be commended for his vigor and enthusiasm to elect the various leaders of BECs and other church ministries.

The above is a list of guidelines circulated to all BEC members with the impending election of BEC leaders this week. I do not know who were responsible for drafting these guidelines but I feel they unrealistic and ridiculous. One has to be saint to qualify to be elected a BEC leader.

Let’s analyze some of these criteria listed that would qualify one for the post of BEC chairman.

No.1 : We all know is almost impossible to have all members present at any one meeting. To expect all to attend is wishful thinking.

No.2&3: An irreproachable person is one without fault and therefore impossible to criticize. I wonder who such a person is. To have a good moral life is fair but who decides whether a person is moral or otherwise as morality seem to have become so subjective these days.

No.4: To be a leader his/her children must be believers. Those of us who have children will understand how difficult it is to bring them up as Christians. We may take them to church, send them for catechism, make them participate in church activities and pray regularly at home but do all these guarantee that our children continue to be believers and good Christians? We may be able to have control over them when they are with us until the age of 18 or so. What happens after that God only knows. Can a parent be penalized for the failures of his children after they leave homes?

No.5&6 : Arrogance and hot temper are bad and we must discourage these characters but to be totally devoid of them is almost humanly impossible. We must be humble and obedient not only to those above us but also to those under our care whom we are supposed to protect. However blind obedience to authority and power is morally wrong. As Christians we are taught to always bear witness to the truth at all times and all places. That is what Christ did and what we must do to be his followers.

No.7: There is no doubt that a BEC leader must be able to work closely with the parish priest. This close working must be a two-way process where there is mutual respect for each other’s ideas and opinions. The BEC leader must be given some freedom to carry out his duties within accepted norms. He represents the people’s voices which is paramount.

Limiting the duration of service and getting the parish priest’s consent before undertaking major decisions are all acceptable. The priest is the main adviser and guide who should ensure the proper running of the BECs. By his right attitude he should be the catalyst to build the BECs not demoralize and destroy them.

Distributing these ridiculous criteria is an insult to the intelligence of the people. I don’t think anybody will ever qualify to be a BEC leader based on those criteria. One has to be a saint to be eligible to be a leader.

Changes are necessary but they should not be made just for the sake of doing so. They must be well planned and implemented gradually so as not to upset the long-serving parishioners who have devoted many years of their lives in serving the Church. These parishioners should be duly appreciated for their services and not sidelined unceremoniously and without respect as that would amount to punishing them for what they have contributed.

Parishioners of NBVM have reached a state of maturity and wisdom. All major changes must be preceded by dialogue and even debate as each and every member in the BEC/church is of equal importance in keeping with the slogan “We are the Church”

God bless NBVM

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rate of failed marriages alarming

Our spouse a gift of God

When we were young we were made to believe that marriages are made in heaven. After all these years of witnessing and experiencing the problems of marriage, we are not sure whether marriages are really made in heaven but we do know for certain that whether they succeed or not is very much determined by us here on earth.

With the casual attitude to sex and marriage today the sanctity of matrimony that was held in high esteem is under threat of total destruction. The resulting escalating divorce rate is alarming and is a sign of the failure of marriages today. It is seriously threatening to undermine the basic family unit which was the source of all success and happiness of man throughout history.

Lately I had the opportunity to attend a church wedding of a friend’s son. I was impressed by the sermon delivered at the service, which was simple, clear and very practical. It made reflect on what marriage is all about and why it is failing today.
The pastor said “The fact that Christ has sanctioned your marriage means that he has chosen the spouse for you. It implies that your partner selected by Him is the best for you and you can never find someone better however hard you try”.

Turning to the bridegroom he reiterated “This woman is the best wife for you as she is chosen by Christ himself. It will therefore be futile and even foolish of you to leave her for someone better in the course of your life as you will never find such a one”. He then turned to the bride and gave similar advice regarding her husband.

With my own experiences over 25 years of married life, I can safely vouch for the truth of what was stated by the pastor; that our spouse is chosen by God and as such must be the best for us. We need to acknowledge that fact and adjust our lives accordingly to accommodate the person specially chosen by God. If we do not have that faith and trust in Christ regarding this simple fact, then it would be meaningless to call ourselves His followers.

Jesus was very clear in His Sermon on the Mount regarding divorce “I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.(Mathew 5:32).

Today weddings have become a show of prestige and glamour. The church ceremony is just another fashionable ritual. We seem to be more concerned about the physical aspects of the ceremony; what clothes and make-up to wear, type of photographs and video recording to take, type of church service to have, number of priests who solemnise the marriage, the type of banquet to hold, the number and status of guests to invite and the list is endless. We just want to make our wedding a memorable one not just for us but for all who attend it.

Amidst all these external preparations we forget the real essence of marriage. We forget that we are taking our marriage oath in front of Jesus himself. We forget that Jesus has sanctioned and blessed our marriage. We forget that we are promising to Jesus that we will be true each other in times of good and bad. We forget that we are promising to Jesus that what come may we will stay together till death does us apart.

Looking back, to many of us who are experiencing severe marital problems, our wedding including the church ceremony was just a fashion show and nothing more. We have forgotten and breached all the promises we made to Jesus but we still say we love Him and follow him.

Today even among Catholics, divorce is slowly being accepted as a norm. What is frightening is that it occurs not only soon after marriage but even after many years of marriage. If only the couples, who took their matrimonial wows, in the presence of Christ, understood that they were chosen for each other by God himself and that they are the best for each other, they would have never considered divorce as the solution to whatever problems that they encounter.

Very often we see only the defects in our spouses. In fact it is much easier to see the bad than the good in them. It is easy for us to say “Lord, I love you”, and we do say that many times a day, but very difficult to say the same to our spouses even once. If only we realize that Christ reveals himself daily in our spouses, in their strength and more so in their weaknesses, then saying the phrase to our spouses will be become a joy. We continue to look for Christ all over but fail to see Him in the one whom we see every day and with whom we share our life.

Once when we are convinced that Christ would give us the best in everything, including our spouses, only then will we see the good in them and overlook their shortcomings. This would be the beginning of a lasting and unshakably strong relationship with them that will withstand the stress and strain which are common in the process of bringing up the family.

We preach so much about faith and trust in God and we often presume we have that faith in us at all times. It may be so in good times but the real test of faith is at times when tragedy strikes and our lives are thrown into disarray. That is the time we must recall our matrimonial wows we made to the person handpicked by God to be our partner in life, in the presence of Christ, “I’ll be true to you in good and bad times,in sickness and in health ….. .till death does us apart”.

For those among us contemplating separation for whatever reason, let us stop to ponder on the consequences of our actions. If we are true followers of Christ, as we claim, we must gain the strength and courage to accept our spouse as a special gift from God to enrich our lives. Our spouse may be imperfect as we are and it will only be fair to accept him or her as a whole as presented to us by God.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Gandhi ,Jesus and Christianity

Gandhi like Jesus remains a conscience in the hearts of men

Come October 2nd 2009 will be the 140th birthday of one of the greatest personalities of recent times; Mahatma Ghandi.It is only proper for us to pay tribute this great man who is undeniably a saint of non-violence. He lived and sacrificed his life in defending that virtuous policy of non-violence. He died in the hands of his own people for trying to protect the minority in his own country, a fine example for our own ruling majority.

This is what he had to say about Jesus:

“Jesus was the most active resister known perhaps to history. His was nonviolence par excellence.”

As Christians, who claim to be the followers of Jesus, very often we do not emulate Christ in real life. It may be timely for us to reflect on our lives to see how Christ-like we are in our daily living.

This is what Gandhi had to say about Christians:

“It is a first class human tragedy that people of the earth who claim to believe in the message of Jesus, whom they describe as the Prince of Peace; show little of that belief in actual practice.” He continues “I like your Christ but I can’t say of Christians”

Though Gandhi’s views were influenced by his bitter experiences with the racist policies and hegemony of the powerful Christian British Empire at that time, his observations are nevertheless true to this day. He continued,

“Do not flatter yourselves with the belief that a mere recital of that celebrated verse in St. John makes a man a Christian. If I had to face only the Sermon on the Mount and my own interpretation of it, I should not hesitate to say, ‘O yes, I am a Christian.”

Today many of us have the misguided notion that to be a good Christians we must have a thorough knowledge of the bible. What about those who cannot read and write? What about those who are physically or mentally handicapped? Can’t they be good followers of Christ? Is reading and mastering the holy book is what Christianity all about? Jesus’ teachings are so simple and down to earth and I don’t think we need geniuses to decipher them. It is not how much we know the bible but rather how much we want to live the way Jesus wants us to.

Gandhi, a devout Hindu, appeared to have understood Jesus much more than many of us. He lived a life more like Christ than may of us Christians. Lord Mountbatten, the last British Viceroy of India had this to say “Gandhi would go down in history as 'on par with Buddha and Jesus Christ', I cannot agree less with that statement and I even go a step further to say that the Mahatma was a modern version of the man,Jesus.

Gandhi believed in the universality of God, “The Allah of Islam is the same as the God of Christians and the Ishwar of Hindus.” he said.

This concept of the universality of God is something which is badly needed in today’s world where violence in the name of the Almighty is so rampant and is threatening to destroy the human race. We have come to a ridiculous stage where we even fight over the name to address Him. The universality of God is something we as Christians can learn from Gandhi; despite belonging to different faiths we are in fact all children of one God. God is God by whatever name we choose to call him.

We are so intent in fighting one another to claim superiority over our adversaries, man against man, race against race, religion against religion and nation against nation. We resort to all the resources at our disposal; powerful arms, violence and war, to achieve victory over our enemies. We justify the use of violence to protect our perceived rights. Is destroying our enemies in self-defense Christ-like?

To the great man of non-violence “Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.”

That philosophy he proved right when he single-handedly defeated the all powerful British Empire, not by power and might but peace and love. Doesn’t his action resemble those of Jesus, whose love, humility, non-retaliation and forgiveness, brought him victory over the powerful Roman Empire?

Many of us today find it difficult to believe how a small, timid and frail looking man like Gandhi could dare to challenge the mighty British Empire. Just after sixty years we are finding it difficult to believe how Gandhi could have brought down the British Empire. In fact with the passage of time, as Albert Einstein,said 'Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.

Mahatma Gandhi may have left this world but his memories remain very much with us, alive and relevant .Like Jesus he did not possess power, position or wealth. His simplicity, integrity and a heart for fellow men, including the enemies, had touched many and he will and must remain a conscience in the hearts of men for generations to come.

Dr.Chris Anthony

A husband’s 25th anniversary message to his wife

Some people make the world a better place by just being in it

These days it has become fashionable to celebrate various occasions on a very grand scale. Birthdays, graduations, wedding anniversaries, all sorts of jubilees and so on. I have attended many such functions but the following message by a husband to his wife of 25 years touched me and I would like to share his sentiments as expressed in his letter below:

“It has been 25 long years since we took our matrimonial wows to be together come what may. On this silver jubilee anniversary it may be relevant for us to recall some of the memorable times we had together as husband and wife. Some may be bitter but by enlarge the vast were sweet and memorable that will remain vivid in our minds till our last days.

We might have detested the bitter incidences in our lives together but it were those experiences that helped to bring out the best in us that enhanced our relationship. It is a wonder that despite coming together as strangers from totally different backgrounds we seemed to have clicked to become an ideal couple to the envy of many. You were indeed a wonderful gift of God not just to me but to our children, to my family and those who cross your path. It is a pity that there are those you don’t realize your goodness, it is their loss not yours. Some people make the world a better place by just being in it and undeniably you are one of them.

Our life is a success story so far and it is more due to the various virtuous qualities you brought with you into my life. From the time you came into my life you helped me to greater success. You shared my struggles in achieving my goals as though they were your own.

You took care of me and our children when we were sick and depressed. You never failed to be there when we needed you most. You sacrificed your sleep and energy so as to make our lives comfortable. Despite your physical fatigue you did not fail to wake up so early every morning to ensure sure we had our meals in time. You go the extra mile to learn new recipes to provide a variety in our menu which we enjoy so much.

Your forthrightness in criticizing me when I was wrong might have hurt me initially but on the long run that helped to make me a better person. I was impressed the way you uphold truth even when it hurts. I appreciated you for the way you keep your promise made to someone even if it costs you money and energy. I like your attitude to your work and responsibilities. You have never failed me, our children and anyone in need even the stray dogs that come for food.

Your discipline in carrying your duties towards the family was responsible for many of our achievements. We have been taught that procrastination is the thief of time but we did not appreciate its significance until we witnessed your in action as a wife and mother.

Initially I used see more of the defects rather than the virtues in you but over the years I began to realize that there are less and less defects but more and more virtues in you. These virtues in you were were the cause of our lasting and unshakably strong relationship that withstood the stress and strain in the process of bringing up the family and I am certain they will continue to do so in the subsequent phases of our lives.

If only the people in the world are half as good as you the world will be a much better place. God only creates a few like you as He knows if all the people are good like you, mankind will even forget God’s very existence. There can only be few like you to be the catalyst and conscience in the hearts on men, to remind people of God. You are God’s marvelous creation through whom He works his miracles to cure the numerous people, including me, who have crossed your path.

Twenty five years together in thick and thin is a great achievement for us. Our love for each other had been growing and we should continue to cultivate it further to meet the more trying times that may be ahead. We may be confronted with greater challenges especially with regards to deteriorating health, deaths and problems brought about by our children. Only with true love and trust in each other and for those we encounter can we conquer the new challenges that come our way.

It is in these trials and tribulations that we must recall our matrimonial wows we made to the person handpicked by God to be our partner in life, in His presence “I’ll be true to you in good and bad times, in sickness and in health …till death do us apart”

The secret to our success and lasting happiness so far is simple “to see God in every single human, friend and foe alike, we meet along the way in our journey on earth”. Let us continue with this secret recipe to meet the new challenges as we step into the next 25 years of our journey together”.

I submit the above letter for your reflection.I agree with the writer that some people make the world a better place by just being in it, why can’t that people be you and me.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Time for laity to take charge

Time for greater role for laity in church affairs

Today one of the main grouses of our Catholic laity is the unsatisfactory way the parishes are administered. Ask any parishioner and he will only be too happy to vent his frustrations at the way his parish is run. In fact there is hardly any professionalism in the administration of a parish and this has given rise to the many problems that we encounter in the church.

These include lack of transparency and accountability in almost all aspects of the running of the church. The people are not consulted on any major decisions affecting their parish. Money is collected but its expenditure not fully accounted for. There are proper systems in place to offer assistance to those in need especially during emergencies and crisis.

The church as a whole is riddled with so many scandals; financial, sexual, racial and abuse of power. In most parishes a handful of people who are close to the parish priest appear to control the administration of a few thousand parishioners. The priest is often aloof and not people-friendly and the common man can hardly approach or confide in him.

The highly sophisticated and materialistic living has placed tremendous pressure that many are unable to cope. The spiritual and physical needs of the modern man are closely inter-twined that they are inseparable and the modern church has to take care of the individual as a whole. Unlike in the past, rituals that are fuels for the soul, alone are not enough but a comprehensive care that includes spiritual and physical needs of the people.

Society has advanced to the extent it has become too complex for our priests alone to administer the parishes. With a tremendous increase in the educational status of the people, just the priest alone cannot fulfill their expectations and demands. Furthermore he does not have the time to effectively run the parish without compromising his pastoral care for which he is trained and which should be his priority.

It is time for the laity to have a greater role and say in the administration of the church. They have people who are trained in all the disciplines to effectively manage the various aspects of the day to day running of the church; finance, maintenance, Christian education, healthcare, financial and moral support for those in need, counseling and the list is endless. It is not that the laity want to but they have to due to the increasing demands of the people today.

Is the laity ready to take over the management of the church? I do not think they are yet are but concerted efforts must be made by the bishops, priests and the people at large to prepare themselves for the task. It may not be easy but we must start now before we lose more of our members to other denominations that are better managed. After all one of the main slogans adopted by our church is “We are the Church” and it is time that we begin to realize that slogan.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Celebrating the year of priests

Priests must reach out to the people

In recent years the church has become obsessed with launching all sorts of campaigns and fanciful slogans during mass. This may be aimed at creating awareness of what is happening around us, but why must it be done during mass? Will these campaigns and slogans per se bring us closer to God?

The latest was the year of the priests that was officially launched in the Penang Diocese on 17 July 2009 by the bishop Antony Selvanayagam in front of a huge crowd of pilgrims gathered there for the annual feast of St.Anne in Bukit Mertajam. Subsequently it was launched again at the parish level during mass on 9 August 2009.

The church has rightly given great importance to the priests as the pillars of our faith. This comes particularly at a time when vocations to the priesthood are dwindling. It is deeply disturbing that many seminaries are being closed due to the drastic decline in vocations. Will consecrating a whole year to priests overcome this tragic predicament of the church in Malaysia and the world today?

I for one am skeptical of launching all sorts of campaigns and fanciful slogans which unfortunately is becoming a fashion in our churches today. However launching of the year of priests created awareness of the existence of a great man is the patron saint of priests. He was Fr.Jean-Marie Vianney, a dedicated parish priest who served in the rural areas of France in the nineteenth century. Many of us knew very little about this great saint until the launching of the year of priests.

Because of his academic inadequacies Jean-Marie Vianney, upon his ordination in 1815, was sent to a remote village where the people lived in religious ignorance in the aftermath of the French Revolution. They spent much of their time in the fields working or dancing and drinking in taverns and rarely attend church. Fr.John Vianney was entrusted with the arduous task of converting these people back to the church that had to be rebuilt as they were all ruined during the revolution.

Accustomed to the most severe austerities, Fr.John Vianney lived a life of simplicity filled with works of charity and love. He was loved by the people for his imperturbable patience, common sense, remarkable insight, and supernatural knowledge. His sermons were simple in language, full of imagery drawn from daily life and country scenes and drew huge crowds from within and outside his country. He soon came to be recognized as a priest of the masses who put the welfare of his people above his.

He was particularly known for his mortifying confessions and thousands from all over the world came to meet him in the confessional where even the staunchest of sinners were converted at his mere word. During the last ten years of his life, he spent sixteen to eighteen hours a day in the confessional. His bishop had to forbid him from attending the annual retreats of the diocesan clergy because of the laege number of poor ‘souls’ awaiting him. Fr.John Vianney gave priority to the people in need over meetings, retreats and his own conveniences, which are rarely seen these days, not only among priests but among us in all professions.

St.Jean-Marie Vianney was appropriately chosen as the patron saint of parish priests in 1929. Although the situation in today’s world may be far more complex from what used to at his time but the living image of him should remain as an inspiration for our own priests today. Things may have changed drastically but the essence of Christ’s teachings still remains relevant and will continue to do so for generations to come.

Let this year of the priests be a reminder to our priests that they should emulate the example of their patron saint in reaching out to the people under their care. They too, like St.John Vanney, should strive to become the priests of the masses by being the symbol of love, charity and humility.

As we pray for our priests at mass every week during this special year dedicated to the priests, let us ask God to endow us with priests who would reflect the image of their patron saint in their lives and services to their parishioners. Let us pray our priests, like St John Vainney, will be more approachable even to the most despised in the parish. Let us ask God to inspire and strengthen our priests to forgive and convert even the most ardent sinner by their examples and their power of penitence.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Bring Christ not politics into church ministries

Give opportunity for all to serve

Bernie de Rozario in her letter “Pray for our priests daily as they remain focused on God” (Herald July 19) expressed her frustrations of what is going in her parish. She seems to very disturbed that some parishioners ‘monopolize’ the priests so much so that others have no access to him. In fact the problems she highlighted are not unique to her parish but one that is common in many others as well.

In most organizations the leader is often surrounded by group of loyalists who will do anything for the leader. They would take great pains to please the leader often for their own benefits. They have a lot of influence on the leader and the way he behaves and deals with others under his care. Over time the leader if not careful becomes blinded by these loyalists and that is where the whole trouble starts.

The situation in most of our parishes is no different where the priest is ‘monopolized’ by a few to the extent an inexperienced priest succumbs to their influence. Both the priest and the laity are equally responsible for the problems that exist in most parishes that finally lead to a tremendous strain in the clergy-laity relationship.

Many of our younger priests lack conviction in their vocation and therefore are not focused in serving God through His people and get distracted along the way. In a recent homily, the bishop of Penang, Rt Rev Anthony Selvanayagam, lamented at the poor caliber of those entering the seminary these days. How can we expect the seminary to churn out good, committed and holy priests when in the first place they lack the basic human values to start with, he asked?

Often the young priests lack the maturity and wisdom that comes only with experience, to handle the various complex problems posed by the people who seek their guidance. As a result they are easily carried away by the mesmerizing words and actions of those who get into their inner circle and their judgments become biased, at times even unfair. Handling humans is formidable task that need many years of painstaking experience to accomplish successfully. Every person is unique and the more people we have the greater and more complicated the task becomes.

A lesson that I have learnt through my experiences in life is "Not all who rush to the fore are good and not all who stay away are bad either". To be a good leader one must acquire the wisdom to see through the sweet words and actions of those who surround him and the so- called rebellious behavior of those who stay away.

The lay people are also largely to blame for the many problems that plague our parishes today. The uncompromising and selfish attitude of some in wanting to seek power and glory for themselves and their family puts even the most experienced the priest in a very difficult situation. They think they love God by becoming front-line worshipers but do little to show they love their neighbor as they are always at loggerheads with them. They are not very different from our national politicians of whom we all are very critical.

The vast majority of the laity do not want to get involved in the politics of the church and as the silent majority they prefer go on with their daily chores in peace accepting, often grudgingly, whatever decisions made by those in power. It is unfortunate the invaluable talents among this huge group of parishioners remain largely untapped due to the unhealthy politicking that goes on at the top around the parish priest.

To overcome these problems it would be wise for the leadership of the various organizations to be elected and their terms in office limited, so that more parishioners are given the chance to contribute their knowledge, talents and skills for the overall physical and spiritual development of the parish. The priest must reach out to majority who stay away and not allow him to be influenced by the few surrounding him.

There is a large pool of gifted and talented people in all fields within our community, why just allow a handful to monopolize and dominate the running of the parish and the parish priest, causing a great deal of unhappiness among the majority?

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Racism in the church

Let's rid ourselves of the inherent racist trait from our hearts

One of the greatest problems that plagued mankind throughout the ages and continue to do so till today is racism. The Cambridge dictionary defines racism as the belief that people's qualities are influenced by their race and that the members of other races are not as good as the members of your own, or the resulting unfair treatment of members of other races.

A racist is therefore someone who believes that other races are not as good as their own and therefore treats them unfairly. Basically all of us are racists to some extent as this feeling of superiority exists in the hearts all of us. As Christians we must strive to rid ourselves of the inherent racist trait from our hearts to regard all men as equal.

The Catholic Church has been a staunch critic of racism wherever and whenever it occurs, particularly in the administration of the country. Unfortunately the very evil that it condemned has now become one of the major problems confronting the church itself. This could be attributed to the education system that tends to segregate the races from a very young age which had created a generation of Malaysians who are highly conscious of their ethnic origin.

They prefer to regard themselves more as Malays, Chinese and Indians than Malaysians, interacting with those of their own race. They may appear to be living happily together side by side but the differences among them are dividing them more than the commonness that unites them. When we do not understand the cultures and traditions of our ‘friends’ from other races how can we be expected to respect each others differences?

This racially orientated culture has inevitably permeated into our church where it further aggravated the problem by creating the various language groups. In the fifties and sixties when English was the main means of communication there was greater unity among the various races in the church, namely Chinese, Indians and Eurasians. Today there is so much conflict of interest among the various communities that is threatening to split the church into the various language groups.

In fact today in most parishes the three language groups have become so polarized with each working in isolation. Their occasional encounters end up in misunderstanding and even quarrels. Multi-language masses to cater for all three groups have become a trend these days. This so called ‘rojak mass’ does not have any tangible benefits for any particular group. Instead it only unduly prolongs the service but benefits no one.

Whenever a new parish priest takes over there is so much lobbying by the Tamil and Mandarin speaking parishioners to have a priest from their own race. The situation is so serious that when an Indian priest comes the Chinese speaking members “migrate” out to other parishes leaving a largely Indian community in the parish. It is the same with Tamil speaking parishioners when a Chinese priest takes over. This unhealthy trend is becoming more entrenched and is creating so much hate and suspicion of each other instead of love and brotherhood that Christ promoted.

To make matters worse the new generation of priests themselves becomes racially inclined, being closely associated with members of their community. This creates suspicion and ill-feeling among the other community and all sorts of allegations and rumors surface, many of which may be unfounded and mischievous.

From the past we know that a common language will go a long way to integrate the various communities and it has to be either Bahasa Malaysia or English, the latter is preferable for obvious reasons. We have to realize that despite our differences we are all children of God and therefore share a common brotherhood in our Lord Jesus. Ill-feelings, hatred and suspicion for those of a different race are contrary to the very teachings of Christ who advocated love for all including our enemies.

The priests and church leaders too should conduct themselves in a manner that they are seen to be neutral and caring for all regardless of ethnicity. As parents we must show our kids an exemplary behavior that illustrates the right attitude towards our parishioners of different race. In short, what ethnic culture we belong to is not important, what is important is for us to adopt a Christian culture that is color blind which does not distinguish one by his ethnicity but by his comradeship as fellow humans. That is what Christ wants and that is exactly what we must do.

It is unfortunate that we have today a new generation of Malaysians, both priests, parents and the laity in general, who are so racially charged so much so they become very sensitive and intolerant to the comments and criticisms from members of other races. Under these circumstances forging racial goodwill and integration is a difficult task but if we do not start in our church how can we expect our politicians to do so at the national levels where it is far more complex and challenging?

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bring Christ not politics into church ministries

Give opportunity for all to serve

Bernie de Rozario in her letter “Pray for our priests daily as they remain focused on God” (Herald July 19) expressed her frustrations of what is going in her parish. She seems to very disturbed that some parishioners ‘monopolize’ the priests so much so that others have no access to him. In fact the problems she highlighted are not unique to her parish but one that exists in many others as well.

In most organizations the leader is often surrounded by group of loyalists who will do anything for the leader. They would take great pains to please the leader often for their own benefits. They have a lot of influence on the leader and the way he behaves and deals with others under his care. Over time the leader if not careful becomes blinded by these loyalists and that is where the whole trouble starts.

The situation in most of our parishes is no different where the priest is ‘monopolized’ by a few to the extent an inexperienced priest succumbs to their influence. Both the priest and the laity are equally responsible for the problems that exist in most parishes that finally lead to a tremendous strain in the clergy-laity relationship.

Many of our younger priests lack conviction in their vocation and therefore are not focused in serving God through His people and therefore get distracted along the way. In a recent homily, the bishop of Penang, Rt Rev Anthony Selvanayagam, expressed lamented at the poor caliber of those entering the seminary these days. According to him they have a tough time making into them normal humans let alone turning into holy men of God. This is a shocking revelation and a very serious problem that could affect the future of our religion in the world that is becoming increasingly more materialistic.

Parents today fail in their obligation to instill basic human values in their children, abdicating that role to the church and schools which are also unable to fulfill that important duty. How can we expect the seminary to churn out good, committed and holy priests when in the first place they lack the basic human values to start with?

Often the young priests lack the maturity and wisdom that comes only with experience, to handle the various problems posed by the people .As a result they are easily swayed by those who get into their inner circle whereby their judgments become biased at times even unfair. Handling human beings is formidable task that need many years of painstaking experience to accomplish successfully. Every person is unique and the more people we have the greater and more complicated the task becomes.

The lay people are also largely to blame for the many problems that plague our parishes today. The uncompromising and selfish attitude of some in wanting to seek power and glory for themselves and their family puts the priest in a very difficult situation. They fail to realize these are the very evils that were detested by Christ himself. They do not show any love, forgiveness and humility in their dealings with others. They say they love God by becoming front-line worshippers but do little to show they love their neighbor as they are always at loggerheads with them. They are not very different from our national politicians of whom we all are very critical.

The vast majority of the laity do not want to get involved in the politics of the church and as the silent majority they prefer go on with their daily chores in peace accepting, often grudgingly, whatever decisions made by those in power. It is unfortunate the invaluable talents among this huge group of parishioners remain largely untapped due to the unhealthy politicking that goes on at the top around the parish priest.

The leadership of the various organizations must be elected and their terms in office limited to two, so that more parishioners are given the chance to contribute their knowledge, talents and skills for the overall physical and spiritual development of the parish. There is a large pool of gifted people in our community, why just allow a handful to monopolize and dominate the running of the parish and the parish priest, causing a great deal of unhappiness among the majority?

Dr.Chris Anthony

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Furore over spying in church

Need to respect practices of other religions

The report in Al Islam magazine claiming its reporters had entered a church that was alleged to be converting Muslims into Christianity is very disturbing. They were also reported to have been spying to see whether the word “Allah” was being used in the church service. Furthermore these non-Christian reporters in disguise were also alleged to have participated in the religious rituals and practices that are strictly restricted to Catholic Christians only.

They were also reported to have ridiculed the rituals and insulted the ‘Eucharist’ that are held in great reverence by the Catholics. The actions of these reporters were very irresponsible and dangerous especially in a nation with diverse races and faiths. It sets an unhealthy precedence that could cause disharmony, ill feelings and hatred among the people of different religions.

The irresponsible actions of these reporters are considered sacrileges and have deeply hurt and angered the congregation in particular and the Catholic community in general. Some concerned members of the Catholic community have rightly made police reports to investigate the matter and take appropriate action without fear or favor. Will the police rise up to be more professional in handling this rather sensitive issue, which if not checked immediately will have drastic repercussions?

The freedom to practice one’s faith is guaranteed in the Federal Constitution and it must be respected by all parties. Religion and its rituals and practices, however peculiar they may appear to non-believers, is a very private and sensitive matter that must be treated utmost with respect and reverence. Similarly all places of worship must be accorded the sanctity they deserve as belittling them and the practices there-in would be amounting to acts of sacrilege that would incite anger which will have dangerous repercussions in a multi-ethnic country like ours.

Unauthorized entry into places of worship for the purpose of spying and belittling religious practices of others is a serious offense that must never be tolerated. The police must act quickly and decisively to stop such irresponsible people, regardless of the religion they belong, from creating chaos in the country. Bringing them to face the full wrath of the law will discourage others from resorting to such provocative actions. Failing to act will lead to the disruption of the fragile inter-religious harmony that we have in the country.

At the same time in a multiracial and multi-religious country it would be wrong and dangerous to try to convert someone from faith to another. It would only create suspicion, anger and hate that lead to violence that could tear the country apart like in some countries. I do not think there will be any Christian with a right mind would want to convert Muslims to Christianity. The majority of us want to live peacefully with our brethren of other faiths, with mutual respect for the religious practices and cultures of one another.

On the contrary, as all religions preach love, goodwill and forgiveness towards fellow men irrespective of their believe, it would be better to encourage people to be true to their own religious teachings and thereby become better humans in their own faiths.

After all, aren’t all religions the same as they all lead their followers to the one same God despite their bitter disputes, quarrels and times war that they wage against one another along the way, ironically in His name?

As Catholics we may be tempted to react with anger and hate against those who have desecrated our faith, but we must not act emotionally but it a time to demonstrate that despite their ridicule and hate we will strict to what Jesus himself taught and did - to love his enemies. His message to us “Lord, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” should remind us of the virtue of forgiveness even for our enemies.

It is timely for the bishops with the consultation of the various religious leaders of the MCCBCHST to issue an official statement strongly condemning the sacrilegious actions of the reporters concerned. This would persuade the national leaders to take the necessary actions to stop the religious fanaticism from taking deeper roots in our country.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Monday, June 22, 2009

One-day compulsory rest for domestic maids

Will not solve their abuse

The recent spate of domestic maid abuse cases that led to the threat by the Indonesian government to temporarily halt sending their domestic helpers to Malaysia is a blow for our reputation as being friendly, kind and hospitable particularly to foreigners.

To demonstrate its grave concern for the welfare of these foreign workers, the government had introduced a number of new regulations for potential employers, the latest being the compulsory weekly one-day rest for all maids. Its motive for introducing the compulsory day off may be good and commendable but it is not the main contention in the issue of maid abuse as most would agree that adequate rest must be given to the maids. However indiscriminate enforcement of this rule may create unnecessary inconvenience and disadvantages to the majority of employers who are considerate and caring for their maids.

Maid abuse by employers is a serious offence that must not be condoned whatsoever but it must be remembered that the vast majority of Malaysian employers treat their maids reasonably well and take good care of their welfare. We know that there are many employers who treat them like members of their own families, being caring, kind, considerate and humane. These employers must be given some leeway to manage their maids in the way they see it as best for them. By implementing a blanket one-day rest rule for all maids the good employers may be unfairly punished whereas the errant ones may find their way out to escape the effects of the law.

It is very sad that many of our maids are lured into the country with false promises. Many are made to believe that they will be employed as factory workers and not as domestic maids. They react with anger and resentment when they realize the truth on landing on our shores. They just wait to escape at the slightest opportunity they get. Who will take the financial and legal responsibility if these maids run away?

It must also be remembered that the vast majority of our domestic maids come from very poor socio-economic background with low literacy rate. Many of them are ignorant on managing their meager income and I am afraid that by allowing them day off will result in overspending leaving with no savings when they leave the country on completion of their contract. Many employers go out of the way to act as financial advisors to help their maids to save as much as they can while they are with them.

Giving them a day off and allowing them full freedom to go will only be subjecting them to unnecessary risks like robbery, assault, rape and cheating. Some of them could easily be lured into immoral activities that expose them to all forms of diseases, drug abuse and crime which the employer can least afford to be involved. As an employer is directly responsible for the safety of his maid, it would be grave injustice if a good employer is dragged into such problems of his maid which is no fault of his. Wouldn’t it be better if the employer is allowed some freedom and discretion to provide what is best for her?

Education not compulsion is the key to overcome the problem of maid abuse. The maid and the employer must be educated on their rightful roles and duties. They must be educated to realize that they should be engaged for mutual benefit and the terms of their employment agreement must be adhered to strictly at all times. A rest day may be given if the maid chooses to have it but she must remain in the vicinity of the watchful eyes of the employer. However if she opts for monetary compensation then it should be granted if the employer needs her services on the rest day.

Human Resources Ministry must conduct an in depth study into the issue of compulsory one-day off rule before implementing it indiscriminately. It should get the feedback from the employers, maid agencies and other relevant bodies before coming to any conclusive decisions. Although there are advantages and disadvantages of enforcing such a rule, there seems to be more negative repercussions than positive ones.
There are good and bad employers so are domestic maids. What is important is to ensure that the majority who are good should not be punished because of a few bad hats. The latter be it employers or maids must be sought out and punished in accordance with the laws.

Over sixty years ago Mahatma Gandhi said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. Today it may be more apt to say that the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its citizens treat their fellow humans regardless of race, creed and social status.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Monday, June 15, 2009

Father's day 2009 : A tribute to Uncle Paul

The final journey

As I reached the crowded hospital ward, I saw Uncle Paul lying on his bed semi-comatose, gasping and on nasal oxygen. He looked so thin and emaciated that I could hardly recognize him. I held his hand firmly and called him but there was no response whatsoever from him. Then all of a sudden he took a deep breath which was his last. Uncle Paul died peacefully in front of me. It was as though he had patiently waited for me since his admission for a serious lung infection 3 days earlier. I cursed myself for not going to see him earlier.

Uncle Paul was an elderly gentleman whom I had the privilege of being befriends over the last 2 years or so, having met him on a number of occasions recently. Uncle Paul had journeyed through life for the past 87years until his demise on 15 May 2009.His vast experiences in his life added further to the many lessons I have learnt in my own. I hope a brief description of this wonderful person will enrich your own experiences in dealing with those around you.

I always believe that every human is a marvelous creation of God, who is a chest of knowledge and experience waiting to be tapped. Uncle Paul is undeniably such a marvelous creation of His.

In a world that is so materialistic, so competitive and so advanced in technology, when we are so busy toiling to make ends meet we have very little time for old people like Paul who have nothing valuable to contribute to our advancements. We fail to realize that every human, regardless of race and religion, young or old, rich or poor is a chest of treasure and knowledge for us in life to be tapped for our own benefit and the benefit of those around us.

In fact many of us today do not have the time even for our own aged parents, who have made us what we are now. We find so many excuses to send them away somewhere hoping they would be happier there than being with us. We pass the responsibility to others who may even be strangers, hoping that they can provide better care and comfort than us in our own homes. One such place is the old folk’s homes that are mushrooming all over the country due to the tremendous increase in demand. We may have no choice so do they as all old people will never opt for such a place if only they had a choice to be taken care in their own homes.

Uncle Paul stayed in one such home and he appeared happy to be in the company of fellow inmates. Fortunately he still received his monthly pension to pay for his maintenance at the home. His basic needs were taken care of reasonably well and he was regularly visited by his children, relatives and friends. Some visit him out of duty others out of courtesy but it was encouraging that there were a number of them who did so out of love for him as a fellow human, bringing him food and gifts he liked and missed most. Like all parents, he never blamed his children for sending him there, but we knew that deep inside he missed their continuous company. He missed his home, not just the building but the company of his loved ones.

He lost his wife 20 years ago when she died after a short illness and till his last days he missed her so dearly. At the twilight of life, as his physical and mental faculties began to fail him to fail him one by one; he had no permanent companion to cling on for support, solace and reassurance. That was the time he wished so badly that his wife was around to share the pains of old age. His eyes used to swell with tears each time he talked about the darling in his life. He used to repeatedly say, “if only my wife was around, I will not be here.”

I learnt a lot about the past from my meetings with him, about life at the time of the British and the Japanese occupation, his family and all his experiences over the past 86 years. As I myself grow older, and my children leaving home one by one, I seem to appreciate his experiences much more as they are becoming increasingly more relevant in my own life. I look around and see that many more leading such solitude lives without a shoulder to lean on for solace. Are we heading for such lonely lives in the years to come? Only time will tell but is frightening to think we may be so.


Among some of the things that struck me first on meeting Uncle Paul was his neatly groomed appearance and his punctuality. Every time I make an appointment to meet him he is ready waiting for me, neatly dressed in slacks, long sleeved shirt and polished shoes. According to his caretaker he used to wake up and get ready hours earlier and sit in the porch eagerly waiting for my arrival. He never failed to greet me as soon as he sees me. I could sense the warmth in his voice and the grip of his handshake.Depite his failing memory he would remember the details of children and never once failed to enquire about them each time we met.

His punctuality puts many of us to shame as we have very little regards for time and people these days. Punctuality is an indication of our eagerness to meet someone and it reflects the place we accord him in our hearts. I understand if we value somebody’s company then we would never be late to meet him as our minds will always be preoccupied with thoughts of that person. These days very few people value the true company of others unless they have something to gain and that may be the reasons why we are always late for appointments. We tend to value a person by his material possession not by the contents of his heart. We seem to have lost the human touch in our dealings with fellow men.

Living steadfast to his father’s advice

Another interesting thing I learnt from Uncle Paul was his attitude towards his late parents that was reflected in his advice to the youngsters of today. He remembered and cherished what his father had advised him when he was working in the government service as a young man.

He recalled his father’s strong stand against corruption. He remembered what his late father had told him, “If you are in dire need of money, you may borrow or even beg for it but never accept bribes however desperate you may be”.

He adhered to his father’s advised so strictly that he could not afford to own his own house and lived in government quarters all his life. At the twilight years of his life he did not have a place to call home and had to settle for an old folk’s home as his abode. It was the price he had to pay for being steadfast in submitting to his father’s stand against corruption.
Advice to the young

When asked for his advice to the youngsters of today, who have little respect for the elderly, he said, “They should honor their father and mother and everything else will be fine”. Reflecting on what he said and recalling the experiences with many, I realized how right he was. He may be old and senile but he pushed forward a point about a very important issue in our lives, honoring our parents, which I agree determines to a great extent whether we attain the happiness we all strive for. If we miss this important lesson then all our efforts to seek that happiness will all be in vain.

To honor our parents is not just providing food and shelter, but to show great respect for them especially for their pride, honesty and the principles for which they stood steadfast. Do the actions in our own lives reflect this honor that is due to them? We must always do things that uphold their pride and honor; otherwise we would be failing them.

We make many major decisions in our lives, like choosing our life partners; change of career, travelling to distant land, caring for our children, major illnesses and so on. Do we consult them, at least as a mark of respect, regarding these major changes in our lives? They may not be in a position to give us the physical or monetary help but I am sure they can give us something that all the money in the world cannot buy - advice based on personal experience. Unfortunately this invaluable commodity is the least we value these days.

Giving what they like

Often we give our elderly parents what we think they like, not realizing their true likes and dislikes. As children we believe that we are giving them the best by sending them to the old folk’s home where they have the company and are well catered for their needs. It is pertinent to ask ourselves whether they are really happy to be there. Do they need the company of others who are strangers and physically infirm? Is this what they need most at that advanced age?

They may say that they are happy there because they do not want to burden us further which is the typical sense of magnanimity of all elderly parents towards their children; however negligent or even cruel the children may be to them the parents will always have a soft spot for them in their hearts.

Loneliness, the greatest fear

Uncle Paul’s greatest fear, like all elderly people, was loneliness. This was particularly profound after the demise of his wife 20 years ago. He had the feeling that he was all alone in this cruel world. It was pathetic to realize that at the age of 86, staying in a home for the aged and surrounded by unfamiliar faces, he had very little to hope for during the final months of his life except waiting to be united with his wife which the Lord finally did.

Uncle Paul may not be around anymore but his memories and the lessons from his experiences live on in the hearts of those who know him. He and many others like him give us the opportunity to provide them a little hope and cheer in their lives, if not every day, but least during special days like Father’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries and so on. It is not money, gifts or food that they need most. All they yearn for is the love of fellow humans like you and I, in particular his children and grandchildren, to unselfishly share a little bit of our time to be with them during these special days in their lives.

As Christians we spend many hours in prayer and worship but ignore those around us not realizing that God actually dwells in these people. People like Paul should remind us that Jesus indeed lives in them not in the majestic churches we visitto pray in and the rituals we perform in our worship.We must recall what Jesus himself taught us "In as much as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.”(Mathew 25:34-40)

Dr.Chris Anthony

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Pope: The absence of Christ causes total sadness

Yes the absence of Chris causes total sadness in the world especially in our own lives.His absence in our hearts is the cause of all our miseries.

Christ seems to be absent even in the church which professes to bring Him into the lives of men.The church is more obsessed with rituals and form than the real substance of Christ's teachings.

Christs asks us to find Him in those around us,especially our enemies,but we foolishly keep searching for Him all over except where He really dwells - in our neighbor.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Church land controversy - Bishop's office responds

Evictions: Penang Bishop’s office issues statement

Rev Michael Thoo has released a press state statement from the office of the Penang Bishop. Here is the statement in full:

In response to recent and current newspaper reports on the “eviction exercise” of’ 14 houses within the grounds of the Church of St. Francis Xavier, Penang Road, 10000 Georgetown, Penang the church wishes to clarify as follows :-

- There are 14 semi-concrete pre-war houses within the grounds of the Church of St. Francis, Penang Road, George Town, Penang. The houses are old and have no architectural value.

- Other buildings on the land are the St Joseph’s Home for orphans and children from broken homes, the Learning Centre for children with learning disabilities and the “Lighthouse” which provides free food for the needy and school buildings. These social welfare and charitable organisations are run and/or supported by the church.
- Twelve of the houses are occupied by monthly tenants paying nominal monthly rentals between RM
60 to RM 200. It is not true that all the tenants have not been paying the monthly rentals for the last
36 months as ieported in the issue of The Catholic Herald dated 31 May 2009 and The Star dated 2 June 2009;

- Two houses are presently empty.

- Unfortunately, one of the two tenants who vacated her house (No. 52-L, Penang Road, Penang) proceeded to remove the zinc and timber roof truss from the house thus creating a potential hazard’

When church’s workers started removing the plywood wall of the house to prevent the potential danger of the unstable wall from collapsing, the MPPP acted rightfully in requesting the church to stop work. The church regrets this inadvertent violation of the law. That house is infested by termites and is in danger of imminent collapse.

- The church has no record of the residents being there for four generations as reported. Some of the
residents had moved out in the past and new tenants had moved in.

- The church intends to use the said 14 houses after refurbishment for its religious, welfiare and charitable purposes as it is doing now.

- The refurbishment of the houses will be done in accordance with UnescoO and local council guidelines,
regulations and bye-laws.

- The church has no intention to sell the land to the Cititel Hotel group or to embark on a “property
development project” as reported. Consequently, all such reports are baseless and mischievous.

- The church is mindful of the economic plight of some of the residents. It is for this reason that the church has decided to give them ample notice of two years to deliver vacant possession of the houses occupied by them. In addition, the church has also decided to give them an “ex-gratia” payment of RMIO,OOO per household in order to assist them to relocate. No rentals will be collected from the residents during these two years from 1 June 2008 till 31 May 2O1O.

Dated the 5th day of June, 2OO9.


Rev Michael Thoo
from the office of the Rt Rev Antony Selvayanagam,
The Titular Roman Catholic Bishop of Penang

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Church land controversy

Are we God-fearing in what we do

“For I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, Lord, when did we do these things for you? And the Lord shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, In as much as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.”(Mathew 25:34-40)

A recent report in the mainstream media highlighting the plight of the residents of a century-old kampong in the premises of the St.Francis Xavier Church in Penang was rather disturbing. It also questioned the controversial sale of the church land and the eviction of the residents, mainly elderly people, who have been there all these years. According to the report one of the houses was already demolished by a developer but fortunately further demolition was stopped by the local council.

This inconsiderate action has earned the wreath of the Pakatan Penang state government which has urged the bishop of Penang to publicly reveal the Catholic Church’s plans, if any, for the development of the church land that has been gazetted as a heritage site by Unesco.
In an encouraging move, Bishop Antony Selvanayagam of Penang has strongly refuted the report in the press. He dismissed as ‘absolute nonsense’ the claims that the diocese is planning to sell a portion of its land to the Cititel Hotel for development. According to him the land on the grounds of the St Francis Xavier Church has been earmarked for religious, charitable and cultural purposes.

He did not elaborate what those religious, charitable and cultural purposes were. If only he did his credibility would be greatly enhanced. He must also reveal the truth regarding the forced eviction of the residents which is seen by the lay public as being high-handed and cruel that goes against the basic teachings of the Church.

Evicting residents for the purpose of development is not wrong but it must be done in an amicable manner based on the provisions of the law with regards to compensation and full with respect for the human rights of those affected by the eviction. Being the people of God there must be the element of love and forbearance for those being evicted as these form the basic teachings of Christ that must be upheld at all times and at all costs.

The bishop, I am sure, has his own valid reasons in wanting to evacuate the residents from the church premises. This must be respected but since the matter has been highlighted in the press it is only proper that he make the church’s plans known to the public by replying to the allegations in the press which may be unfounded and even mischievous. This would help to dispel the wrong perception of the church in the minds of all Malaysians, especially from other faiths.

While the bishop’s response in the Herald is encouraging, he must also provide clarification in the mainstream media that carried the report. That is the only way to correct the tarnished the charitable image of our church among members of the other faiths. This is particularly important at a time when we are in the midst of a legal suite against the government over the use of the name to address God.

This land fiasco has been highlighted not just by the press but taken up by our own bloggers like Anil Netto, Charles Hector and others who seem to insinuate that the church has handled the land issue in a high-handed and inconsiderate manner with little or no compassion which is unbecoming of a spiritual institution. It is disturbing that many readers have passed very unpleasant comments in their blog postings.

This is not the first controversial land deal involving the Catholic Church and the people are becoming increasingly more suspicious of the involvement of the church hierarchy in such commercial deals leaving little or no time for the pastoral care of their parishioners that is deplorable state in many parishes.

It is time to get to the truth of this land controversy to put things right and correct the wrong perception of our church among members of the public. In this era of sophisticated and enhanced telecommunications and internet the truth cannot be suppressed for long.Moreover there is no reason to fear the truth as Christ will always be on its side.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Church land scandal

Air of gloom as Church orders villagers to vacate land
Anil Netto

Villagers in a dozen households next to the St Francis Xavier’s Church face uncertainty after receiving three letters over the last year from lawyers acting on behalf of the Catholic Church in Penang.

The residents had been ordered to vacate their premises by 31 May 2009 (which happens to be Pentecost Sunday, marking the coming of the Holy Spirit). In the latest letter of 19 May 2009, they have been granted a second extension until 31 May 2010 on “humanitarian grounds”, provided they agree in writing to compensation of RM10,000. If not, they have to vacate their homes by this Sunday.

The lawyer’s letter states the church can afford to provide only RM10,000 as it is a “non-profit religious institution”. Lay Catholics, however, are not in a position to judge whether the church can afford to pay more as its diocesan accounts are not made public to them as a matter of course.

Allow me to introduce you to some of the villagers the church wants to evict (see photo above, from left):

Augustin Martin, 82, raised at the nearby orphanage in the early 1930s. He was a church organist during World War II and worked as a driver for the Kee Huat company in his younger days. Occupant of house no. 52-E.

Arokiasamy Dass, 84, born here in 1925, former JKR tractor driver. His father arrived here around 1920 just before getting married. Occupant of house no. 52-H.
Olga Fernandez, 71, arrived here before the war. Her family originally settled in the area in the late 1920s. Occupant of house no. 52-G.

Bellimin Rajah, 70, worked as a Cold Storage clerk. He remembers crouching in his house when George Town was being bombed by the Japanese during World War II: “A big stone dropped on my sister’s back,” he recalls. Occupant of house no. 52-C.
Manimathu, 74, widow of the late Mr Selva. She has lived here since 1949. Occupant of house no. 52-F.

Jayamary is Bellimin’s wife. She arrived here in 1967, after getting married.
Anthony Muthu, 79, a former ludlow (headline layout) operator for the now defunct Straits Echo. He has lived here since 1937. Occupant of house no. 52-Q. His father, Sinnasamy Appasamy, arrived here after his marriage.

Theresa Savari, 60, is Anthony’s wife. She arrived here after their marriage.
Among those not in the photo above:

Santhanam Sinasamy, 82. Occupant of house no. 52-P.

Lourdesamy s/o Ponnudurai, 60. Occupant of house no. 52-I.
One of the villagers remembers a Japanese officer looking for a base in the area for his troops during World War II. “When he came over and saw us and the other children, he decided not to disturb or evict us. Instead, they used the Chinese school behind, next door. Imagine, even the Japanese occupying forces didn’t ask us to leave.”

“(French priest) Fr Louis Riboud really sayang Augustin (the organist) and he told our families we could live on the land,” recalls another villager.
The parish originally catered to Tamil Catholics in George Town, many of them poor and from the working class.

Now, the lawyers’ letter states that the church wants the villagers to vacate their land so that it can be used for “charitable and social purposes”. The Bishop maintains there are no plans to sell the land.

But it is not clear why the church wants the villagers to move out of this prime land now and what exactly it intends to do with the land.

The old buildings of St Joseph’s orphanage next door have already been demolished and the site presently is walled up and has been lying idle for years. The Lighthouse drop-in centre next door has no immediate expansion plans.

“Whatever happened to the parable of the Good Samaritan?” asks Anthony Muthu, one of the villagers. “Is it only meant to be preached during Sunday sermons? Why is no one putting it into practice and helping us? Where do we go, at this age, looking for low-cost housing with RM10,000 in compensation? Which bank will give us housing loans at our age?”

The church hierarchy points out that some of the residents have not paid their rents for a few years.

But the residents say they have spent a few thousand ringgit of their own money for roof repairs and collapsed walls. They thought that the church would overlook their rent over the last couple of years as the villagers had taken care of the repairs at their own expense.

“In any case, if the church felt that we had defaulted on rent, shouldn’t it first have issued lawyer’s letters demanding payment of rental like landlords usually do instead of keeping quiet and then all of a sudden, asking us to vacate the premises?” asked Anthony. “By their silence, we felt that church leaders understood our predicament and our need to carry out repairs.”

What hurts the villagers most is that all dealings are now through the church’s lawyers, without any avenue for face-to-face consultation with church leaders. That puts the villagers at a disadvantage as they cannot afford lawyers of thei own. “What happened to all the Catholic lawyers?” wonders one of them.
“They claim we are outsiders,” observes another. “But we have lived here much longer than those who accuse us of being outsiders. It is the bishop and his priests who are the newcomers here.”

I guess it’s a lot easier to evict faceless, nameless people, strangers whom we do not know - using a lawyer as the middle-man. But imagine if these people were our own family members, our parents or grandparents….

Andrew Aeria, a Catholic, has a suggestion: “If the church really needs land for social, cultural and religious use, it could use the spacious premises at No. 1 Bell Road for this purpose.” Recalling previous controversial land deals, Andrew suspects that the church hierarchy has a long-term plan to dispose of the St Francis Xavier’s Church land for commercial gain - even though the Bishop has dismissed such accusations as “absolute nonsense”.

Meanwhile, the despairing residents say they are praying that the Holy Spirit will guide and touch those who are trying to help them.

This is a report from the latest Herald, from the Penang Bishop’s perspective:
No plans to sell church land, Bishop Selva

PENANG: Bishop Antony Selvanayagam has refuted claims that the diocese is planning to sell a portion of its land to the Cititel Hotel for development.
“That is absolute nonsense,” said Bishop Selva.

“The land on the grounds of the St Francis Xavier Church off Jalan Penang has been earmarked for religious, charitable and cultural purposes.”
St Joseph’s Home, the Lighthouse, the learning centre and a century-old village are situated within the property.

The Church wants the villagers to vacate their rented houses for redevelopment according to religious, charitable and cultural purposes.

These villagers have not been paying their rent for the past 34 months.
Bishop Selva said that ample notice had been given to the residents to relocate.
The residents were initially asked to vacate the premises by Nov 30 last year. They were later given an extension until May 31 this year.

It is understood the residents are being offered ex-gratia payment of RM10,000 each, with rental arrears deducted from the amount.

Bishop Selva explained that “so far two persons have accepted the payment and have left while another 12 remain.”

Another issue, which cropped up during this standoff has been the contention that the village is situated in the Unesco heritage zone. But Bishop Selva clarified that the village is situated outside the heritage zone but within the buffer zone.
“This means that we cannot demolish the houses but we can redesign the interior to suit the different needs of the organisation or group which will be using the houses.”

40 Responses to “Air of gloom as Church orders villagers to vacate land”

1. nick chan on May 29th, 2009 at 3.58pm
lawyers? catholic? does anyone see wrong in that?
2. Andrew Aeria on May 29th, 2009 at 4.08pm

Ummmm, excuse me but is not allowing these old residents to stay on in the Penang Road SFX Village a ‘charitable and social purpose’? What will become of these poor residents of Penang Road SFX Village after Sunday? Does the Bishop of Penang even care? Oh I forgot. He sleeps soundly on his soft pillow and soft mattress in Bell Road and dreams only of divine beings.

I think the Penang Bishop and his Finance Commission are a bunch of heartless people led by very un-Gospel values. There are always more creative and humane ways to sort out this so-called predicament of residents on Church property. Why not give notice to all these families that once they pass away, the houses revert to the Church? And don’t allow new tenants or sub-tenants in the meantime? But these options were not explored. Why?

Because the fact is that the Penang Bishop and his Finance Commission are motivated by money, money, money. This fact has been established previously by the sale of Pulau Tikus Kampong Serani land and also College-General land. And truth be told, the Bishop and his Finance Commission have been mulling over what to do with the Penang Road property (doublespeak for, ‘How to make a profit?’) for years!

Ironically, the Penang Bishop - who preaches the Gospel a lot - lives a rather comfortable middle-class lifestyle in the really Tony neighbourhood of Bell Road. So, why does the Bishop not transform his swanky 1 Bell Road residence into a premise for ’social and charitable purposes’ instead of harassing poor old people in Penang Road? Is this not a mega contradiction of what he preaches and what he does?

So, let me make this proposal to the Penang Bishop. Since 1 Bell Road is Church property (i.e. only held in trust by the Bishop for the body of Catholics who are the Church) and up-kept by Church finances given weekly by church-goers, as a Catholic I am willing to give the Bishop of Penang RM10,000 cash by this Sunday (31 May 2009) if he agrees to vacate 1 Bell Road in one year’s time. Then, he has one year to go and find some tiny room to live amongst the poor just like all these poor old residents from the Penang Road SFX Village will likely do. And if the Bishop agrees, then in a year’s time, we Catholics convert 1 Bell Road into a Church venue having a genuine ‘charitable and social purpose’.

Failing which, if the Penang Bishop disagrees to my proposal, he has to vacate 1 Bell Road by this Sunday forthwith and the property can then be immediately be converted for ‘charitable and social purposes’.

There is a niggling suspicion in the back of my mind that the Penang Bishop and his Finance Commission - despite all their talk about converting the SFX Church land to ‘charitable and social purposes” - really are bent on selling the Penang Road property to some big-time developer for a mega-profit, if they have not already done so. I also suspect that they will do this via stealth and by then, it will be too late. The developer will have legal title once the sale is completed quietly and we would only know about this after the Bishop and his money-motivated Finance Commission have already banked in the million-ringgit cheque into the Church bank account.

And all our protests as Catholics who built the Church and who support our clergy and Bishop with our hard-earned weekly donations during mass would have come to naught.

3. Miriam on May 29th, 2009 at 4.34pm

Its for reasons of the kind of hypocrisy the church practices that I am often ashamed of even being identified as a Catholic. As Andrew Aeria states so cogently, the land is held in trust by the Bishop on behalf of the body Catholic to do the best with on the peoples behalf. Evicting elderly Catholics from their homes is a manifestation of heartlessness and sheer, unadulterated greed. Not the love that ought to reside in the very being of Christianity. I will not be at all surprised that ‘others’ play up this issue for further Catholic bashing. Its not too late to save the day.

4. Sunny on May 29th, 2009 at 4.46pm

On second thought, they have had close to free accomodation for many years.

5. Observer on May 29th, 2009 at 5.07pm

On one hand, I do pity their predicament at their age. On the other hand, they have had nearly free accommodation for many years. Maybe they could work for the church in some capacity?

6. Andrew Aeria on May 29th, 2009 at 5.16pm

In response to Sunny: The Bishop of Penang and his clergy have also had ‘free accommodation for many years’. Should we evict them from their middle-class residences as well and throw them onto the streets, just abandon them to ‘God’s mercy’?

7. petestop on May 29th, 2009 at 5.40pm

Indeed, as a Christian organisation, the Church should find a comprehensive and mutually beneficial solution to these old folks welfare first, instead of sending in the Advocate from Hell.

Especially these old folks does not have much options to start
over again.

It is a shameful episode indeed, all Christians and fair-minded Malaysian should protest such heartless action.

8. ikeda on May 29th, 2009 at 5.46pm

Majority of so called religious or charity organisations exist in the name of charity but operate in a manner worst than big time money making MNC. This is the ugly world we are living in. Welcome to reality!

9. James Gomez on May 29th, 2009 at 5.49pm

Aiyah, what’s wrong with the Bishop? Since these poor folks already living for free in the land for so long already, go the final mile by giving the land to them lah. Tear down the church and give more land to others as well.

10. casper on May 29th, 2009 at 6.28pm

I was thinking aloud, what would be a ‘reasonable’ solution and have to go with what Andrew Aeria’s proposed - full marks dear sir.

The pending eviction is based on commerce and your hunch about future million is spot on. This ’sale’ is no different than when St.John Institution, KL sold land to YTL for the development of KL Tower. And as time passes, the RM$10,000 is pittance, what with land prices on Penang Island on the rise and increasingly pricey. Even with RM$20,000 or double that to 40k, these senior citizens are in for a difficult future with all signs pointing to them sleeping rough.
Regards Anil and all.

11. Tommy on May 29th, 2009 at 7.00pm

Sorry, I am not a christian. But I will have to say it’s all because of $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ in someone’s pocket!!!!

12. moss on May 29th, 2009 at 7.57pm

This is nothing more than heartless, unChristian greed. It’s all about the money! The Bishop should contemplate what Jesus said, about it being easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to see Heaven.
The sanctimonious preach from the pulpit, but are divorced from the essential verities of Jesus’s central message. How can the Bishop reconcile this unholy deed that he is proposing, from what Christ was all about? Sheer hypocrite masquerading as God’s representative.

“For I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, Lord, when did we do these things for you? And the Lord shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.”

It would serve the Bishop to realise that, in evicting these old, poor folks, he would be evicting the God he so claims to love and represent.

13. Joe Jambo on May 29th, 2009 at 8.18pm

Why cant each of those who complaint about the church’s action..donate rm10 per month to the cause of these elderly. That would be enough to pay for the costs of their free accommodation all these years (utilities/quit rent/assessment) and in my point of view substantial enough seek the church to reconsider their decision.

I dun understand why u ppl are sooooo anxious in criticising the bishop? he is a trustee..u know!!! its not like he did not let them stay for the many years? he is spending ppl’s money accommodating these ppl!! If you guys are kind enough, each of you readers should collectively collect donate rm10 a month each for the sake of these ppl. Is is too much to ask? How many of u will volunteer for these? Then Anil can represent our interest as trustee on humanitarian grounds to ensure the elder’s cost is paid for.

The church might have the money to pay for but as trustee, it would mean be in breach of trust if it were to give a selected few the benefit of the trust moneys.

They are plenty of ppl in Penang that needs money, u know. Humanitarian consideration was and is given and thats good enough. So, Anil.. u starting a trust fund specific for this purpose? If so, im sure the Bishop will reconsider. He is currently “using trust money for the benefit of a third party.”

I can always question why didnt the Bishop maintain other chatolics within a 3 mile radius on humanitarian grounds as well. Things would be easier if the church can just pass an ordinary resolution authorisng the Bishop to help, but then again its a church and not a company. Hence, he will be in breach of trust utilising trust moneys of the church for the selected few.

14. Tommy on May 29th, 2009 at 8.19pm

Which of the 2 is greater - GOD or GREED?
Ting!!Ting!! GREED wins. GREED have 5 letters whereas GOD have only 3.

15. yugong on May 29th, 2009 at 8.35pm

Since when the Catholic Church has turned money-faced? Sad.

16. Seow on May 29th, 2009 at 8.45pm

And regarding the fact that they have had close to free accomodation, thats not true. the fact that they have conducted repairs on the premises can be used to invoke the set off remedy, which enables them to withhold rent in lieu of repairs to premises.

17. Samuel on May 29th, 2009 at 8.59pm

hey Andrew Aeria the living …., who the …. u think u r to talk like dat bout the Bishop and the Priests? If u want, why dont u ask all the villagers to find refuge in ur damn … bloody sweet home? If u dare, go talk straight to the priests or the bishop, why u ….. so much in here? u know wat, u r the type of morons with this stupid fellar, so called Anill Netto, who only talks big with this so callled passion for the poor, on the net. But, no action for ur big mouths… Or perhaps, u must have hated any priests or the bishop for some past incident, and show ur …. stupid anger when the chance arrived….I know about u…

18. Antares on May 29th, 2009 at 9.13pm

Kudos to Anil & Andrew for articulating on behalf of kindness, generosity & forbearance - on behalf of real human beings! I hope with this post you will alert enough church members to put serious pressure on the bishop & his financial advisors to back down & allow these old-timers lifetime access to their homes.

19. Samuel on May 29th, 2009 at 9.30pm

Hi guys, i know this fellar who talks alot…. damn problematic one…The real story is, those villagers about 12 of them, most of them have their childrens grown up and doing well. The children must be responsible to take care of them at this old age. They are not the so called poor people, as they have been working well in their younger days and given penchant. Again, they r not POOR PEOPLE!!!!!!!get to know the real picture here. Trying to enjoy for free by taking advantage of the church generosity…why never try to have a hse since beginning? Cant afford those days?

Then, how about other millions of people who can afford???? The late MEP Father Louise did give them permission to live there, and he did give warning that in future, people will ask them to leave, no matter who will be that… So, dont the villagers should get the hint and try to sustain themselves by trying to be independant, get their own hse as possible and dont depend on that village for ever???? If u ask me why the church never do it long time ago, to ask them to leave, I will say, Death will come like a thieve at the night, it is we who must be alert and prepare ourselves……

And, all these people who trying to condemn the Catholic Church and the Bishop and his priests with unlawful speeches, better be prepared as the death will come like a thieve at night. U r like DOGS who barke at anything steamy……

20. Samuel on May 29th, 2009 at 9.41pm

“I guess it’s a lot easier to evict faceless, nameless people, strangers whom we do not know. But imagine if these people were our own family members, our parents or grandparents….”

What are their childrens doing? Where r they? Have u found out that?

21. Samuel on May 29th, 2009 at 9.57pm

I dont understand why some people like to think this way, as in this case….. When elderly people are asked to evict the church land, they throw the thoughts, that church is cruel, heartless, greedy, money minded and so forth…Then they started to talk passionately about poor and helping the poor….Then, they will come out with an idea to save this poor people…Then, this is the best one from James Gomez, he wanna tear down the church and give that land to the poor… u INGAT GEREJA BAPA U PUNYA KA?? why dont u tear down ur hse and give it to the poor??? Then,this people will start to talk about GOD and his poverty, his compassion and mercy…and so forth…..They are non then some bunch of hypocrits….and those old folks are not POOR either, don get confused…

U said the church hierrarchy is money minded and greedy… Do u know how much a diocese have to spend for a seminarian to finish his 8 years priesthood training, local and abroad, so that he can serve Christ and u for the rest of his life? Who gonna provide that money? R u willing to give?

22. Andrew I on May 29th, 2009 at 11.01pm

Spoken like a true capitalist, Joe. God must absolutely love you.
To what purpose does donating to the church serve then? Let’s see, we can all stop donating and D.I.Y. since everyone has a different perception of poverty. We’ll have to see the utilities bills and share it out equally. Maybe we could have monthly general meetings and cut out all unnecessary expenditure.

This is, after all, God’s money and we can’t have selected mere mortals managing it.

23. Eng on May 29th, 2009 at 11.14pm

‘GREED’= ‘God Reap Every Elderly’s Dwelling’.

24. Tee on May 29th, 2009 at 11.28pm

Dear Bishop,
Who do you think deserve your charitable hands more? A group of well dressed church goers or a dozen of poor, old, homeless people?
Why create the problem at the first place??

25. ong on May 29th, 2009 at 11.34pm

Thanks Anil for a good report. Some of these folks had complained to SOS before in early 2000. Their worries seems to come true now. Community relation lose to class relation(between tenant and landlord class) if these folks are evicted along thousands of tenants who had been evicted from George Town since 2000.
These old folks deserve yours and everyone else’s support-Catholic or not.

26. George Seow on May 30th, 2009 at 12.49am

No matter how altruistic the reasons given by the Bishop for the development of the said property, they pale in comparison to the real and immediate need of the poor and elderly residents.I urge the Church to work out a compassionate solution to the plight of residents . True Christian charity can also come in non glamorous work like helping the poor and helpless. The religious, cultural and social Center can only be proudly built on a foundation of compassion. Anything less than this would have diminished the moral principles that are core to any of the Church’s projects.

27. lucia on May 30th, 2009 at 1.08am

i agree with joe jambo. why are people so anxious to criticise the bishop/church? and also not forgetting taking on the moral high ground. esp. andrew who is so harsh. andrew you sound so bitter… did the church wronged you or something terrible happened between you and the church? (btw are you related to alban aeria?)
as joe suggested, yes, why don’t these people who complained so much donated RM10 per month to these elderly villagers? or do something else. don’t be an armchair critic only. it’s easy to say the bishop should do this, the bishop should do that when you no. 1, don’t know the actual situation, no. 2, can’t put yourself in the bishop’s place.

i’m sure people like andrew live in nice terrace house or a condo, yes middle class property… much better than the villagers anyhow - well if you talk about the bishop giving up his bungalow, you too can give up your terrace house (or whatever which is much better than the villagers’) and let 4 or 5 of these villagers stay. i know this sounds childish… likewise your suggestion of offering the bishop RM10,000 to evict from his bungalow!

you guys hear so much on one side - the side of the villagers and only so little on the bishop’s side but you guys already jumped to conclusion to side with the villagers! well, no surprise as i said before, usually big name/corporation will be look as the ‘big bully’ while the poor/ordinary folks as the good guys.
quote “In response to Sunny: The Bishop of Penang and his clergy have also had ‘free accommodation for many years’. Should we evict them from their middle-class residences as well and throw them onto the streets, just abandon them to ‘God’s mercy’?”

bad and unfair comparision.

28. Adrian Pereira on May 30th, 2009 at 3.13am

There is two ways about moving forward in this troubled times where every entity struggles for survival,political and financial. There has to be more TRANSPARENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY for this huge super structure of a “government” we call the Catholic Church. Being a full time pastoral worker and after seeing the amazing alternative possibilities in stickier situations, there has to be a better solution.Keep up the good work Anil and Andrew. There is indeed a lot of work to be done. I reflect back to the the Radical option Christ made which is the preferential option for the poor and marginalized.

29. Apex on May 30th, 2009 at 3.24am

“What hurts the villagers most is that all dealings are now through the church’s lawyers, without any avenue for face-to-face consultation with church leaders…”
I’m ASTONISHED that a person with the religious stature of a bishop would deal with these elderly villagers with such apparent aloofness and coldness. The community has been here for almost a century, and the church’s way to tell them to get out is through letters from a lawyer!!

Sure, our bishop may be legally entitled to do that, but just flexing your legal muscle against such folks is hardly befitting someone who is supposed to stand out as a spiritual father-figure.

Obviously, from what we’ve seen, these people have become a deep part of our Church’s history in Penang… At the very least, they deserve to be dealt with compassion… and certainly a lot more dignity…
Shame on you, Bishop.

30. Joe Jambo on May 30th, 2009 at 4.04am

Dear Andrew
To agree with u on one point, I would be furious if I were to find out that the Church is not or has not been helping anyone seeking its help on humanitarian grounds. In this case, I believe the church did help.

However, I would be equally as furious knowing that the church is applying all the moneys donated, to help every single ppl in Penang on humanitarian grounds as well. This is not the Church’s responsibility. The church ought to only help to a certain extent.

When i was a kid, I was told that churches ‘do not make a profit out of a donation’ and when I asked my mum why should I donate to the church every sunday (being a kid, I donated rm0.50 as a token), I was told that it’s to HELP THE CHURCH so that the church can operate and cover its operational expenses. Then, i enquired whether this would mean that the church will be very rich. Well, i was told that we will not know that. In any event, I was further told that catholic churches always seem poorer than other churches (i dun know why and the priest doesnt look rich so i dun think he squanders the donation).

The bottom line is, if I were to donate money to the church, i dun expect the money to be utilised to permanently help the same poor family for anything more than 2 years. The church should help but not on a permanent basis forever, or not, every tom dick and harry will live off the church forever. Why not go to a temple instead? You see..? It is wrong. No doubt as these institutions should assist but not to take over the government’s obligation to permanently assist and to house a person (It should be the society’s obligation as a whole, not just the church).

If any housing assistance should be given on a permanent basis, there should be a proper fund for that purpose. That’s why I am asking for all you complaining readers to donate to them. U cant just obliged others to help these poor (same people) for years and years. What about others who need the church’s help? Are the moneys enough to support everyone?

Definitelty No. Then, can the bishop choose to prefer to assist one particular group of family on humanitarian grounds for as long as the public thinks he should? Definitely No as well. That would be an abuse of our donation for him to help a special group of people only. He merely needs to assist.. but not to be put to a duty or assume the responsibility to take care of your housing needs.

Hence Andrew, are u willing to help out monthly through a fund? U havent indicate anything yet. If u wana help, u help. But u never demand or obliged others to help. They help on their conscience, and in this case, the church did assist and we should agree that there is limitations to that assistance.

31. Mercy on May 30th, 2009 at 4.45am

How many of you remember the proposal to sell the land next to the St Joseph’s orphanage? It is the sacred burial ground of our Catholic ancestors.
After much protest from the descendants of the people buried there, that sacred burial ground is still with us (but for how long?)
Looks like history is repeating itself.

I sincerely hope that an amicable solution can be reached.
Both sides must have time to sit down and discuss this.
Are these poor folks being victimised?

Is the Catholic church being heartless and unfair?
May the Holy Spirit enlighten all parties concerned.

32. wira on May 30th, 2009 at 5.43am

Those are God’s children and the church has a responsibility towards the weak and the infirm.
We’ve seen congregations in other churches raising million
s to pay up for their church buildings. Bishop Selva should not disappoint God.

Gary on May 30th, 2009 at 6.00am

Somehow, I do agree with Lucia and Joe Jambo. Did we really understand or find out exactly what transpired between the Church and the villagers ???

34. rosalind lee on May 30th, 2009 at 6.31am

Hi Anil
I don’t know how to reach u. I received this mail last week & I waited to see whether you would blog about it since you’re talking about SFX issue. Is city people more entitled than urban folks huh? Please check out issue. Is it true? No media news!

“Fr Jean Claude have been called in by the police for an ‘interview’ at the Triang police station tomorrow, Friday (22/5/2009)… Allegedly the instructions come from the Inspector General of Police (IGP)..

Last Sunday at 4pm, there was a special mass (prayer service) at the St John’s Chapel in Triang, i.e. that 83 year old chapel, that the Pahang Government is threatening to demolish.

Lots of yellow coloured St John’s Chapel parishioners were there, and there were many more persons that came from other churches around the country to show solidarity.

After mass, there was food and drinks served, and a little talk by me on Freedom of Religion.

Now, the police has called in the Parish Priest, Fr Jean Claude Lourdes, for questioning tomorrow.

What are the police doing? Trying to put some psychological pressure to stop this desparate attempt by this community to save their 83-year old chapel? I wonder..
Fr Jean Claude said that he will be going in to the Triang police station at 2-30pm tomorrow (22/5/2009).

Why is this old chapel being targetted for destruction suddenly…something is amiss.
Is there some corruption involved? Maybe the anti-corruption body need to just investigate to be sure…
Or, is it just some form of ‘punishment’ being meted out to the Catholic community in Triang? Why? Because of the problems that the Catholic Church been causing - i.e. that Allah case, the conversion and religious rights issues..

Maybe, it is because the church sits in that odd seat that has repeatedly elected a DAP ADUN - but then the MP, is BN Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob…
Najib is from the Pekan Constituency, adjacent to the Bera Constituency, and I believe our new PM should step in and ensure the continued existence of this little chapel which has served the Triang community as shelter during bad times…”

Thanks Rosalind. Charles Hector has been covering this issue in depth in his blog. Take a look. I don’t have access to enough information from here to write much about it. - cheers Anil

35. logical on May 30th, 2009 at 7.48am
“The love of money is the root of all evil.”
It seems the followers of the master who
preached unconditional love have forgotten
the above.

36. Observer on May 30th, 2009 at 8.40am
I would urge commenters here to open their homes to the elderly folks mentioned in this posting. Someone who attends the Penang Catholic Church, please organize a committee to rehouse these old folks with the support of your parishioners.
Where are these old folks’ kids? Are their kids so useless? Someone please chase after them and lecture them on filial piety.

37. Observer on May 30th, 2009 at 8.42am
I see there are Astro satellite receivers on these old folks’ home. If they can afford Astro, surely they can afford some decent accommodations?

38. Seow on May 30th, 2009 at 8.45am
I think its pretty easy to come to the conclusion that the church/bishop cant take the high ground here. Id think that their values and beliefs as religious men would teach them and everyone else to champion the poor and downtrodden, which they clearly are not doing here.

We arrive at this conclusion because as pointed out by others, there is ample space in other properties owned by the church to use for whatever it is the bishop wants to use the land for. It is perplexing that he doesnt just use 1 Bell property, instead choosing to evict these people.

Furthermore, what is so difficult with letting them live there? No one is asking the bishop to realistically give up his property for the poor, but to ask the same of old men and women who have been in service of the church to move out is heartless. Already for me as a 21 year old its so hard to find accomodation, what with unscrupulous landlords. Imagine the difficulty of the old people.

Ultimately it boils down to morals. Men have done much more for their fellow man. Look at Guan Eng, how he had to go through 2 years in prison just because he tried to help a girl who was raped in Malacca. If people like Guan Eng were to be self-centered and care-free (dare I say like Mr.Bishop), itd be a grave day for Malaysia indeed. I never thought Id see the day politicians take the moral high ground over men of religion.

39. caravanserai on May 30th, 2009 at 9.11am
The Catholic Church Penang
Showing the flock the way to good living
Let them take shelter under the lights

Of the Lord of Heavens
It is the flocks of the innocents
The invalids and the homeless
The flocks of needy souls
O Church of Catholic faith
Why must people suffer?
When you don’t use the land

Show the way you preach
Not the way to acquire
Of things never needed in heavens
Have you forgotten it?
The Catholics in Penang
Show the Church the door
For the Bishop has forgotten

It is the people who make the Church

40. Lucius on May 30th, 2009 at 9.59am

More option should be provided on humanitarian ground. Having provided a 1 year extension of their stay on the land, the church could go have done more, for example, to engage welfare organization to provide help for these old folks. But again, it’s not compulsory for the church, as perceived, to extend all means of help.

Anil has done a great job by emphasizing the news in this blog. From here, I think the society should take over, especially the welfare organization, either those belong to the government or private.

41. chris anthony on May 30th, 2009 at 1.07pm

Congrats Anil.A good report .I think you should send this to Herald.You will be surprised…

The ’scandal’ has been reported in the mainstream media.The bishop cannot remain quiet anymore.The credibility of the Church is at stake.He must explain the real situation to reveal the truth,which will finally prevail.What have we got to fear when God will always be on the side of truth?

It is very unfortunate that secular state government (non-Christian) has to preach morality and charity to the church.I take that as an embarrassment to us all.