Do not be oblivious — push for justice

The Parish Ministries of Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs (PMEIAs) of the Petaling District under the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur hosted Christian Unity Week (CUW), with Assumption Church as the host venue.

Feb 12, 2019

By Ivy Tan
The Parish Ministries of Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs (PMEIAs) of the Petaling District under the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur hosted Christian Unity Week (CUW), with Assumption Church as the host venue.

Fr Gerard Theraviam challenged the clergy and laity to step out of their comfort zones.

Describing the 14th general elections as a “pivotal event” with the fall of the 61-year rule of the Barisan Nasional government amidst cries of corruption and cronyism, Malaysians are reminded that we must keep the Pakatan Harapan government in check and accountable to their Manifesto promises.

The parish priest of the Church of the Divine Mercy also bemoaned the great wealth disparity, “in a world where 42 individuals own the same amount of wealth as the 50 per cent of the rest of the world.” Besides highlighting the plight of migrants and refugees who are “open to extortion and abuse by persons in authority,” Fr Gerard also alerted about “businesses which put self-interest before care for the environment.”

He also cited the existence of soup kitchens as a testimony of the urban poor, while referring to the rural poor, especially the Orang Asal, in Semenanjung Malaysia. He expressed that there are groups who are denied the right to openly practise their faith, women who are told to cover up, LGBT made to feel lesser, as examples to impress the need for compassion, justice and fairness.

Urging those gathered that “we cannot be partners or perpetrators of injustice and that we have to look beyond the Christian community and to join people of all faiths to tackle common problems,” Fr Gerard indicated that current issues and subtle persecutions are universal and everyone has a role to make a better tomorrow.

Rev Dr Herman Shastri, General Secretary of the Council of Churches, summed up Christian unity aptly when he said, “the theme (of justice) is reflected in the crucifixion of our Lord, that God did not send his Son to suffer under injustice.” He added “if you want to talk about Christian unity, at the very heart is the Cross.

Unless we identify with and walk the path of the Cross, we will never be able to understand the liberating power of the Cross and the breaking of God’s justice.”

In his presentation about the environmental destruction wrought upon Malaysia’s wildlife and tropical forests by uncontrolled deforestation, former CEO and Executive Director of WWF-Malaysia, Dato’ Dr Dionysius S.K.

Sharma highlighted the plight of displacement faced by the Orang Asal who depend on plants and animals.

Statistics revealed that from 1999 to 2015, some 100,000 orangutans in Malaysia alone were killed, and poachers make a beeline for the tusks of elephants in Sabah in the ivory trade. How is justice to be served?

How should one overcome these evils?

It is easy for urban Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya, Shah Alam and the neighbouring KL residents to praise the change of government in line with the ideals of democracy under a “New Malaysia”, but what does the theme of justice mean to others, eg refugees or the environment, and how can we, as Christians, strive to achieve such values of justice?

Two refugees gave accounts of their harrowing journey to Malaysia which made the Malaysians present reflect that despite the shortcomings of the former and new governments, Malaysians with citizenship today live in a more peaceful situation than these refugees.

Their accounts tugged at the heart-strings of the congregation. In Malaysia, they live in fear of unlawful arrests whenever authorities stop them to check their identities.

As Myanmar is now “observed” to be peaceful with “democracy restored and no more killings,” UNHCR will not provide these refugees with “refugee” status. There will be no third country resettlement for the Kachins in Malaysia, and they will be sent “home.” The sharings by this duo mirrored the current fears of other teenage Myanmarese refugees about displacements, anxieties for the future upon repatriation “home”, a nation whose bloody history caused them to flee more than a decade ago. The choir’s rendition of Let My People Go and Benedictus revealed their sense of statelessness. Questions abound as to what will happen to them when they reach “home.”

More than RM2,000 was donated by those present for the Myanmarese children who are cared for by Ruth Education Choir (RUC). The funds were handed over by Assumption parish priest, Fr Gregory Chan, to Mr Michael, leader of the Myanmar choir.

CUW brought about 500 parishioners from various denominations for a common prayer for justice, as Jesus would have desired the betterment of all peoples, especially the downtrodden and marginalised.

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