Humility needed to overcome inter-faith impasse
The most important issue in 2013 that affected us in the Church and Christians and continuing to haunt us is the on-going Allah controversy.
While the whole world, including the International Muslim community, accepts the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims, our government and our judiciary, refuse to grant that freedom for us in Malaysia. In fact a simple issue has been turned into a major political one that has adversely affected the Muslim-Christian relationship in the country and threatens the peace and harmony between the majority Muslims and minority Christians in the country.
It is extremely sad that our judiciary had succumbed to the pressures of their political masters to totally disregard all the historical and legal facts that favour us in our fight to safeguard our religious and constitutional rights that are enshrined in the Federal Constitution and clear for everyone to see.
The Christians must be commended for their patience and willingness to take blows of injustice peacefully without hatred for their fellow Muslim brothers. This action of Christians is indeed Christ-like who took all the blows before his death with love and compassion, even forgiving all those who struck him mercilessly to death.
The Allah issue is just the tip of the iceberg, as the bigger issue at stake is not religious but political. The fear of proselytization of Malay Muslims by Christian Bumiputras from Sabah and Sarawak whose population in Peninsula is increasing steadily is causing fear to Umno which has a strong hold on the Malay Muslims in the country. Any dilution of this Malay-Muslim population will be a severe blow to its strength in the federal government. Therefore it has to go all out to stop this influence of Christians on the Malay Muslims. Umno is least bothered about the Chinese and Indian Christians as they know the Malays will not be significantly affected by them.
This issue should have been ideally settled by dialogue but unfortunately now rests in the courts whose decision even if unjust must be adhered as otherwise it would be seen as contempt of court, another serious offence. We must understand the dispute is with Umno and the institutions under its control not the Malays in general who are kept ignorant of the real facts of the case. Unfortunately Umno with is vast power has turned the issue as a fight between Christians and Muslims in its favour. This has put the minority Christians in a dilemma on what to net to get out of the impasse amicably.Will an appeal to the Federal Court make any difference?Nobody in the right mind will say yes.
The Muslim-Christian relation has come to a dangerous standoff that must be diffused with care.One party must give in and the question is who would be that one who can swallow their pride and give in for the sake of greater peace and harmony in the country.It is not about winning or losing and definitely not about who is powerful.It is about humility,peace and harmony.Obviously present day Umno does not have the humility to do that as it has more to lose. For the Christians on the other hand humility is one of the most important virtues taught and demonstrated by none other than Jesus Christ himself. To them humility is not a sign of weakness but strength.
Will the year 2014 be any different for inter-religious harmony?It all depends on the moderate Muslims in the country who make up a mere 10% of the Muslim population.Can the Christians appeal to this minority who are sympathetic to them to champion their cause for religious freedom? Will the moderate Muslim Malays rise up and try to influence their brother Muslims to get rid of the unfounded fear for their fellow Christian Malaysians?
What more can we do to regain our rights? As true followers of Christ we cannot fight them by confrontation, we cannot win them by force but can only win them over with love. Are we prepared to do that? The answer depends very much on us and the Allah issue is not the only thing that matters as there are much more important issues at stake for us Christians and other non-Muslims in the country.It will foolish to allow a smaller issue to stand in way of more important matters at hand.