Thursday, January 22, 2009

Defying "Allah" ban regretable

Herald must rethink its decision

It is regrettable and deeply disappointing to realize that the Catholic weekly “Herald” has decided to defy the government order to refrain from using the word “Allah” in its publication while awaiting the court’s decision on the matter. Although we may not agree with the ban but it is only right that we continue to approach the issue with much civility and tolerance and with great regard for the general peace and stability in the country with a multiracial and multi-religious population.

It is one of the rare occasions we agree with Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar that this issue must be sorted out in an environment which is not confrontational but in an environment of goodwill and understanding. We tend to agree with him that if any one religion decides to show its strength it can be dangerous and can lead to chaos. All religions should be treated as equal as they all teach good values to its followers and should be respected by followers of other faiths.

Disputes between different faiths are inevitable but it is paramount that these should be settled in a peaceful manner with love, tolerance and moderation as the guiding principles not egocentrism and confrontation.

The attitude of the Herald reflects the thinking of the Catholic Church in Malaysia. Does the Church want its congregation to adopt a confrontational attitude in solving its misunderstandings with their non-Christian brethren? Isn’t subjecting oneself to authority a sign of humility, and putting the wishes of others above our own preference a sign of love? Aren’t these the great virtues that were demonstrated by Jesus himself?

So much emphasis is made on owning and reading the Bible but not on practicing what it teaches.We must recall that Jesus himself submitted freely to authority, even to the authority that he very well knew would unjustly sentence him to death. What was the message Jesus was trying to convey to us by such an extreme act of humility?

We are entering into the season of such a great virtue of humility - Lent. We are not unjustly asked to give up our lives like Jesus but just to comply with an order to refrain from using the word “Allah” to address God, which we perceive, is unjust. If we cannot emulate Jesus to be humble in very small ways, how can we be worthy to call ourselves his followers?

The Catholic Church has been given a good opportunity to show all Malaysians the true values of Christianity. The Church and the Herald in particular must abandon its decision to go ahead with defying the ban on the use of “Allah” in its publication as a gesture of goodwill and for the overall peace in the country.

This particularly comes at a time when there are positive political developments towards greater racial and religious tolerance and a multiracial approach in governance. These changes may be slow but with God’s grace, have definitely begun. The Church which claims to promote inter-racial goodwill should not stubbornly stand in the way of what the people of all races want or she would have to take the blame for the perpetration of racism and religious fanaticism that has plagued Malaysians for over 50 years.

Dr.Chris Anthony