A prophetic voice calls out to us: Cardinal Soter’s prophetic voice still relevant ahead of GE15

Prophetic shepherds have the insights and wisdom to speak with courage, with voices longing to be heard in the wilderness.

Nov 11, 2022

(Malaysiakini/Azlan Zamhari)


By Bro Anthony Rogers, FSC

Prophetic shepherds have the insights and wisdom to speak with courage, with voices longing to be heard in the wilderness.

Such is a voice we need to recall on the second anniversary of the passing of a great Malaysian. History is not just the passing of time but also involves the recollection of faint memories of persons who have left us powerful and life-giving messages, which hopefully we can nourish and nurture in our hearts and lives.

Although written a quarter of a century ago, the late Cardinal Soter Fernandez’s personal reflection has a universal dimension and relevance to Malaysia, especially in the run-up to the 2022 General Election.

The late Cardinal Soter Fernandez’s 25 years (1978 – 2003) as a prophetic shepherd, with his cry for peace with justice, provides not just stepping stones but milestones for paving new paths for our nation.

Soter wrote the reflection below on October 28 1998, when he was Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur. That was just two months after Anwar Ibrahim’s ouster as deputy prime minister had shaken the nation, throwing it into turmoil and sparking the Reformasi movement. (Coincidentally, Soter passed away on October 28 2020.)

The date Oct 28 is significant in another way. It is now 35 years since Operation Lalang in 1987. My thanks go out to everyone for their thoughts (on the recent anniversary of my incarceration). I recall frequently the morning of Oct 28, 1987 when I was detained – my 2.00am farewell in the presence of the late Archbishop Emeritus of Kuala Lumpur Dominic Vendargon, Archbishop Soter and Fr Pierre Gauthier in Cardijn House.

Upon my release, I was glad to be back in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 19, 1988, Archbishop Vendargon’s birthday. I was under house arrest for another 10 months. All this time it was not history but memories of isolation and friendship that gave birth to dreams of a better Malaysia.

Now, the nation has reached another crossroads and much of Soter’s reflection in 1998 is still relevant.

(Bro Anthony Rogers, a Lasallian brother, is a former ISA detainee who, as director of the Church's National Office for Human Development in the 1980s, worked closely with Soter.)

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