The promptings of the Spirit

There were moments in the recent campaign to save Convent Bukit Nanas when some people might have wrung their hands in despair. Here we go again, many would have thought.

May 01, 2021

By Anil Netto
There were moments in the recent campaign to save Convent Bukit Nanas  when some people might have wrung  their hands in despair. Here we go again, many  would have thought.

But the campaign to save the convent from  losing its land ownership reached a happy conclusion when the government lease was finally  extended. 

The 28,000 people who signed an online  petition and others who wrote and spoke out  on this issue helped to bring about a change  of heart. 

It is not clear what motivated the initial decision not to renew the lease. This is prime  land devoted to education that could otherwise  have earned huge profits had the owner been  a developer. And no doubt many developers  must be eyeing such relatively untouched urban prime land throughout the country.

Such land for public education in urban areas must be protected for two reasons.

First, it provides education to children of all  backgrounds, ethnicities and faiths, a precious  space where children of different socioeconomic backgrounds can mingle. 

Second, such schools also contain wide  open fields for their students’ sporting activities, thus providing a precious green lung in  congested urban areas. 

This is especially critical as we are short of  parks and green spaces in our concrete jungles.  Perhaps we could ask schools to make their  school fields in city areas available to the public in the evenings. 

It was encouraging that the alumni and people of all faiths spoke out and made a difference in the Convent Bukit Nanas episode.

Several other episodes in recent times have  also shown us how ordinary people can make  an impact in our world. 

The public uproar over the murder of  George Floyd finally saw justice with the perpetrator found guilty in a landmark verdict in  a US court. 

However, it will be much harder to uproot  systemic racism and police brutality around  the world. But that’s not to say it cannot be  done. 

Then, the outrage over “period spot checks”  on girls in schools was quietened when enough  people spoke out against such intrusive action.

Similarly, the courage of a 17-year-old  schoolgirl who highlighted her teacher’s appalling remarks about rape has put the spotlight on what is going on in our schools. The  plucky, enlightened schoolgirl said she was  doing this for other pupils experiencing similar  difficult situations in schools. 

Over in Europe, a plan to set up a European  Super League (ESL) football tournament, involving mainly an elite band of rich teams,  was scuttled when a groundswell of ordinary  fans spoke out against it. They saw this as a  clear manifestation of unbridled greed at the  top of sport. 

The ESL plan was to ringfence the money  from the game — television rights, corporate  sponsorship deals — and share it between a  much smaller group of elite teams, while the  rest of the teams would feed on the crumbs off  the table. 

This is ironic as those who champion free  market capitalism often end up indulging in  monopolistic behaviour, privatising profits  and socialising losses as they grab what is in  the public domain. 

Even in football, we can see how greed gets  the better of people, who then forget what really matters. The same could be said of other  areas such as the provision of healthcare, water  and other essential services, which have been  privatised, enriching a small group. 

Even though the ESL flopped before it  could take off, we shouldn’t be under any illusions that greed does not prevail, even in sport.  Former football star John Barnes said of the  ESL plan: “This is a power struggle between  elite groups …. everybody who runs football  now, and a new group wanting to come in and  take over and exploit football and exploit the  masses.”

Barnes said the failure of the ESL was a return to the status quo, so there isn’t much to  celebrate. 

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised — for  how could football escape the clutches of the  ‘greed-is-good’ mentality and neoliberalism  when almost every area of public life has succumbed to it? 

What was encouraging in all this was the  way ordinary people saw through what was  happening and made their views known in unmistakable terms. And in all these cases, they  succeeded, at least to a degree. 

Before Jesus’ ascension, he told his disciples he would send the Spirit. This Spirit  would teach us all things and open our eyes  and hearts to the will of God. 

Some people try to limit the workings of  the Spirit to people of their own kind, religion,  race or nationality.  But the Spirit is working around the world,  quietly, freely, in the whispers of the wind. 

That said, God also needs the agency of ordinary people to make an impact in our world. 

Today, many around the world are responding to the promptings of the Spirit, even if they  might not be Christian or even particularly religious in the conventional sense. 

Let us be more open to the workings of the  Spirit in our own lives.

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