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.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Does God Answer Our Prayers?

We are His 'mtracle workers'among men

To overcome the numerous problems and challenges in life, all of us resort to prayer. Very often despite our earnest prayers our problems only seem to get worse by the day with no hopes for solution. Often we ponder whether God really answers our prayers. The following is a simple parable that is derived from the Jewish Mishmash which may help to answer this question that bothers all of us at one time or another.

A small village in Rural Russia was beset by drought one year and all the crops failed. The village rabbi prayed to the heavens, "Why don't you do something about this dreadful drought?" But the heavens remained silent. So the rabbi organized a charity food drive with the neighboring villages to feed his people.

When the rains came, they came in heavy and the local river flooded, killing all the livestock. The rabbi again prayed, "Heavenly Father, my people are suffering so much, save us from this flood!" But, again, no help from God seemed forthcoming. So the rabbi lobbied the government authorities to provide financial assistance to replenish the herds lost in the deluge.

Finally, in the wake of the flood, infection and disease ran through the inhabitants of the village. The rabbi prayed once more, "Now surely God you will help us!" But the diseases ran their course. So the rabbi marshaled and organized the able bodied in the village to care for the sick.

Months later reflecting on the tragedies of the past year, the rabbi turned to God and accused Him, "Why did you not answer the prayers of my poor villagers? Why did you not send help to them when we were beset by drought, floods and pestilence?"

After many hours of anguished entreaty, a quiet voice answered the rabbi in the depths of his heart, "Of course I sent help; I sent you!"

Yes, God definitely answers our prayers and sends help with or without our knowledge. We need not even ask him to grant what we want. He knows what is best for us under the circumstances we are in. Being Christians and believers in God we must have fundamental faith in Him.

Very often God does not give us what we ask for and this may even lead us to despair and even loss of faith. But be assured many years later we will realize what he did was indeed right and for our good.This is a lesson I learnt through my experiences over 50 years of my life.

God does not perform miracles and magic to solve our problems. If we are waiting for such acts, we will be sadly mistaken and disappointed. Like the rabbi in the above story, we are his “miracle workers” among men. He has given us our intelligence, talents and skills to perform his “miracles” to help others. The pertinent question here is whether we are prepared and willing to be His “miracle workers” and catalysts to disseminate his love among our fellow men. As followers of Christ we have no option but to say ‘YES’.

Dr.Chris Anthony