Monday 18 July 2011

Pope visit not panacea — Jacob Sinnathamby

JULY 18 — I bear some bad news for Prime Minister Najib Razak and his advisors: this trip to meet Pope Benedict XVI and score some points with the Christian community is not going to yield much dividend.
And here are several reasons why I have reached this assessment:

* Catholics, Christians and, for that matter, any other fair-minded Malaysian will not rush to judgement on one act or omission. We will study behaviour over a period of time and then reach some conclusion. And this is the problem for Najib and his government. Your performance vis-a-vis Christians has been inconsistent and poor.

You objected to Catholics using the word Allah; you refuse to recognise the High Court judgment allowing the use of the word and strangely the case has disappeared. You accuse Christians of being behind some imaginary plan to take over the government and you allow your newspaper to ridicule the religion.

And you have classified our Holy Book as a national security threat and your home minister has mocked our Holy Book.

So do you believe that having diplomatic relations with the Vatican changes everything? Note to Najib’s advisors: the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church. Catholics form one part of the Christian community in Malaysia.

* Nearly every Christian church supports the noble objectives of the Bersih movement, which are free and fair elections. Churches around the country prayed for the safe participation of the Bersih people before July 9 and, after that, generally lauded the patriotism of the people and were dismayed at the crackdown. Should anyone be surprised?

Religion teaches us to uphold noble values and always pick good over evil. Those who believe that the pulpit is not a place for politics are on magic mushrooms. The pulpit is the place where the Word of God is transmitted to us and the Bible is full of stories about goodness, oppression and standing up for what is right.
Sad to say, the government is not on the right side in the Bersih issue. They have locked up some individuals, tear-gassed a hospital and even blamed Christians as instigators of Bersih!

So does Najib believe that having diplomatic relations with Vatican changes everything?

I actually believe Najib took the least painful measure to try and win back some Christian support.

Any other measure to regain the support of the Christians would have called for substantial change in the way he, his government and his party actually view Christians and the value system important to this community.

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