Friday 26 August 2011

Bishop Paul Tan hails Asri, lauds Morgan

Catholic Bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing today hailed former Perlis mufti Asri Zainul Abidin as an “emancipator” and lauded nominal Muslim Barry Morgan's “candor” in the latest round of exchanges on the vexed question of Christian proselytisation of Muslims.

Asri, fast gaining a reputation as a preacher of unconventional depth, chided the authorities for being negligent of the welfare of the Muslim poor, the more desperate of whom, he said, were forced to seek recourse in Christian charity.

Muslim apathy to their poor, said Asri, was what drove some desperate adherents of the faith to apostasy which was then blamed on aggressive Christian proselytisation.

NONEThe issue boiled up on the national horizon after an incursion by Jais on a fundraising dinner in aid of HIV/AIDS victims at the Damansara Utama Methodist Centre on Aug 3.

The presence of 12 Muslims among a crowd of 120 attendees has become a national cause celebre.

In an immediate reaction to Asri's remarks, Bishop Paul, who is head of Catholics in the diocese of Melaka-Johor, told Malaysiakini:

“When I read what Asri said, I felt the instinctive reaction one poet had for another's work when he said, 'I wanted to go to the man that wrote that and say something.' This from me to Asri would simply be, 'Thank you, emancipator'.”

Bishop Paul Tan, who is concurrently president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Malaysia, elaborated:

“If I were to say what he said, I would expose myself to accusations that I was intruding on Muslim affairs.

NONE“Asri has said what many of us Christians have wanted to say but could not for fear of offending Muslims: that they should look to their poor before accusing us of proselytising.”

The Jesuit-trained prelate added: “I call Asri an emancipator in the same sense of Christ's description of the truth as that which will set you free.

“What Asri has said is true and has set Christians free of bondage to a lie: that Christian charity, which is mandated by the faith and rendered to all who are in need, has in some cases led to Muslim apostasy, which some Muslims regard as subversion.

“This is the lie that Asri's remarks have nailed; hence my calling him emancipator.”'

Candid views by a Muslim

Bishop Paul Tan said he was delighted to read the comments of Malaysiakini reader Barry Morgan, a nominal Muslim, whose disclosure of his difficulties in nurturing an adopted child “helped to shed needed light on the same issue of Christian help to those in need.”

“Morgan's candor about his and his wife's difficulties spoke of the pain many feel in their personal journeys of faith in this world and their encounters with people willing to help.

“Morgan's story illustrates the insight of a saint Catholics revere. This is Francis of Assisi who said that it is in giving that we receive. Christians are encouraged to give because in doing so they feel they receive God's grace.”

The bishop concluded: “One can hide truth for a while but not for too long. Truth has a way of rearing its head and coming down hard on the one who hides it.

“I don't want to go further because it is in the peculiar nature of religion that it becomes feeble in the utterance. So I shall stop here except to once again iterate my salutations to Asri and my respects to Morgan.”

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