PETALING JAYA: The relationship between the Churches and the federal government has been nothing short of tensed as numerous contentious issues have placed both at loggerheads.
Though unspoken, it is an open secret that the faithfuls of the various Christian denominations and their leaders are seething in silent anger.
The grapevine claims that while these shepherds appear to be apolitical in public for obvious reasons, they however whisperotherwise in the ears of their respective flocks behind closed doors.
It has always been said that apart from the devout Christians, the eyes and ears of the government are also present during services in certain Churches to keep track of the subversive elements there.
And the anger of the Christians stems from the policies and actions of the government vis-à-vis Umno such as the legal row over the usage of the Arabic term Allah, which led to the firebombing of several churches.
Then there was the accusation of a Christian plot to seize control of the nation in order to undermine the position of Islam, an allegation put forth by Umno’s mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia.
Another thorny issue was the charge of an attempt to proselytise Muslims.
Several Christian leaders, like Bishop Paul Tan, have been vocal in their criticism against the government and even lent their support to movements like Bersih.
In a bid to mend the strained ties and convert voters, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak flew to the Vatican to shake hands with Pope Benedict XVI.
But observers noted that it did little to convince the Christian electorate.
With the 13th and Najib’s first general election as head of state drawing closer, a public forum will be held this evening with regard to the upcoming contest from a Christian perspective.
And the topic of discussion: What will Jesus be doing in Malaysia today?
The speakers at the 7pm forum which will be held at Dignity International, A-2-7 Pusat Perdagangan Section 8 here are Rev Dr Hermen Shastri and Paul Sinnappan.
Shastri is the general-secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia and former executive secretary of the Christian Federation of Malaysia for 11 years whereas Sinnappan is a lay theologian, social worker in the Church and social activist working with plantation workers since the 1970s.
A media statement on the forum explained that the cowardly fence-sitters are the sole obstacle in preventing political change in Malaysia.
“As the winds of change blow in this most exciting times of political change in Malaysia, the only obstacle that is preventing the change from actually taking place is the Malaysian ‘fence-sitters’ who for the last 54 years have been afraid to make that choice for change.
“Many among this also reside in our Churches and sit glued to benches and pews during Sunday service without fail, listening fervently to what Jesus may be saying to them,” it read.
The statement added that there is a growing awakening among all Malaysians on the need for real change – a reform of the political landscape for Malaysians.
“Yet there seems to be a disjoint of the faith growth within the Churches and the growth without among all Malaysians. This seemingly two worlds of faith and politics are a challenge to all Christians. Are there two lives or only one life, [which] we live according to the will of God?,” it said.
The speakers, read the statement, will take the audience through the Bible to study the political implications and experiences of being a Christian.
“This is to help us enter into present-day reality of the Malaysian political context, and answer the perennial thought: what would Jesus do in Malaysia Today?” it added.