Stepping stones for greater peace with justice

In the past two months, many adverse happenings have taken place in our country and this has created much confusion.

Nov 11, 2022

We have heard many comments by various persons and groups. The mass media itself has given contradictory news and views. I therefore wish to take this opportunity not to make an analysis of the situation but to share my personal reflection on the same.

Based on the 1998 National Day theme Our Nation - Our Responsibility, the bishops of Malaysia highlighted various achievements and concerns of our nation. We pointed out that:

“We are perturbed by the lack of openness, transparency and accountability in the management of financial matters, making it vulnerable to easy manipulation by those who are unscrupulous. It cannot be denied that our selfishness and greed, in accumulating wealth by unjust means and at the expense of others, has brought undue affliction to many ordinary citizens, especially the lower income groups and the poor.”

I believe that Our Nation is Our Responsibility. Hence, the preservation of peace and harmony should be our dearest concern.

The cause of the anguish and hurts experienced today are diverse and they are also deep-rooted. The anger and despair are expressions of deeper tension in our lives as a nation.

These moments call for the Church to be in solidarity with the human family and with those longing for truth and justice. It is this burning desire to be one with the human family in a more intimate manner that prompts us to recognise the importance of this time for us to turn our minds and hearts to seek guidance from the Lord.

This time with the Lord is neither a gesture of cowardly withdrawal nor a sign of indifference and apathy. On the contrary, it is an invitation to read more earnestly the sign of the times in the light of the Gospel. This quiet discernment is even more demanding in the context of our situation today.

We need to remind ourselves and to reassert our fundamental belief and dream that peace and harmony cannot be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency or economic efficiency.

It is my firm belief that it is the right for each person to have one’s voice heard and for each community to make known its views. We need to convince ourselves of the centrality of the democratic process and take upon ourselves the responsibility to promote and ensure greater peace and harmony.

Peace and harmony are not instant achievements but the fruits of lifelong struggles. It has to begin with the going back to the root causes of our ills today and bringing a radical transformation to the core of individual and national lives.

The different faces of both Malaysia and also Malaysians themselves that we have witnessed over the past two months have made all of us ask a number of soul-searching questions.

In the light of our faith that finds expression in justice and truth, it has to begin with the ‘way of the human person’ — the value and the inherent dignity of the human person and the sanctity of each person’s right.

It is this respect for the individual and for his or her right that ensures the common good of the nation as a whole.

“To the extent that the rulers of a particular country apply themselves to building a fully just society, they are already contributing decisively to building an authentic, firmly based and lasting peace.” — Peace on Earth by Pope John XXIII

I do not believe that we can truly respond to the current crises by offering simplistic solutions to complex problems faced by our people. Neither should we fall into the temptation of condoning the sin or condemning the sinner.

I firmly believe in the importance of being promoters of peace and harmony and I am convinced in the value of our voices being heard and the right to express feelings in a respectful way.

We should not be just satisfied with representative democracy but look for more creative forms of participative democracy. There can be no path outside the democratic process and we cannot accept ways that will cause a vicious spiral of violence based on hate and anger. We as Malaysians are being challenged to enter into dialogue with those who are longing for justice and peace, for truth and freedom.

The promotion of justice and peace does not begin with slogans on one’s lips but with conversion of hearts. This conversion is an invitation to people of all faiths to enter into new relationships based on our greater openness and willingness to encounter God and the Divine in a renewed way. In this lies our hope for the future to fully utilise the wealth of religions and spiritual traditions in our land.

If all of us dream the dream together of a united yet diverse community of Malaysians, while praying and working together, our prayers and effort will surely be answered and realised beyond our wildest expectation. This is our urgent responsibility today.

“We who are called ‘perfect’ must all think in this way. If there is some point on which you see differently, God will make clear to you. Meanwhile, let us go forward on the road that has brought us to where we are.” Phil 3:15-16

We need a unity of vision. At this moment in the history of our nation, we ask ourselves whether we are stumbling blocks to peace and harmony — or are we ready to be stepping stones for greater peace and justice in our lives.

If we are to make any difference to our lives, it can only be the result of our renewed Faith that releases power to see anew. Faith moves us to Hope that gives us motivation to do; finally, Love impels us to love in deed and in word.

Archbishop Anthony Soter Fernandez
Feast of Saints Simon and Jude
October 28, 1998

If Soter was around, he would just smile and say: Archbishop Dominic was the Shepherd who built in Kuala Lumpur archdiocese churches; but I was told that I stirred the hearts of the People of God. We have together now prepared this Church as communion to journey together in synodality to the Kingdom... We have been in solidarity with God’s people in Malaysia over the past 500 years. We have been blessed to plant the seeds, light the candle, infuse the salt and gently place the leaven in the hearts of Malaysians. It has been a small presence … “the little flock” … but driven by a power from within that flows from the Gospel of Jesus and the will of the Father of all peoples.

Blessings for a New Malaysia.

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