The Malaysian church is being overtly political.
Bishop Bernard Paul’s circular to the flock dispensing Christian advice with regard to GE14 has upset some Muslims due to its incitive political content. It is learned that a police report was lodged against him yesterday.
The Right Reverand Bernard, who is the bishop overseeing the Malacca and Johor diocese, had encouraged the faithful to “study the track record” of the caretaker government.
In his message on Wednesday (Apr 11), he pointed to the “corruptions & scandals, failed institutions …[and] increasing foreign debts” plaguing Malaysia, among other things. The content of his circular can be accessed from a Herald Malaysia online report titled ‘MJ Bishop encourages faithful to vote wisely’.
Incidentally or not, Herald was also the Christian publication that sued for the right of Christians to use the ‘Allah’ word.
⇓ Bishop Bernard Paul during his ordination ceremony
Christians urged to save country from ‘oppressive’ rule
The police report against Bishop Bernard was made yesterday afternoon in Kubang Pasu, Kedah. It called on the authorities to investigate the bishop for sedition, citing certain contentious passages in his circular which read as follows:
• “Some call this the Second Independence Movement of the nation. Once we freed ourselves from the colonial rule; now we are labouring to free ourselves from oppressive, demoralising ‘deadwoods’, who lie to themselves, that they ‘mendahulukan rakyat’.”
• “There is no clean government nor governance; no clean elections; no clean institutions; no clean law enforcement; no clean management of finance and resources; no clean reputable leaders. […] This is a frightening track record.”
• “Thousands are needed to watch and stop election rigging and cheating. You will be trained.”
⇓ Evangelical poster girl Hannah Yeoh marching for the missing pastors
Christians and their Kingdom of God in M’sia
Political analyst Dr Kamarul Zaman Yusoff, in his comment on the controversy, has interpreted the paragraphs cited above to mean the church’s strong condemnation of the caretaker government and the many state institutions.
Dr Kamarul fears Bishop Bernard’s message might have the effect of stirring Malaysian Christians to overthrow the establishment, i.e. the same one accused of possessing that “frightening track record”.
Furthermore, Bishop Bernard appears to believe that not only there will be “no clean elections” but that “election rigging and cheating” are on the cards as well, and hence his appeal to Christians to volunteer as a Polling Agent or Counting Agent (PACA) to watch over the May 9 proceedings.
The bishop’s call for Christians to establish together “God’s Kingdom” is, moreover, something that is suspect in Dr Kamarul’s eyes. The phraseology adopted by Bishop Bernard, i.e. “Together Building God’s Kingdom” has strong echoes of the strident motto evinced by the DAP evangelical politicians.
On Thursday, Dr Kamarul uploaded a hotly debated Facebook entry titled ‘Gereja mula bersuara untuk menangkan Pakatan Harapan’.
It’s quite true that the church, in recent years, seems to be darkening the political landscape and inclined towards the federal opposition.
Bishop Bernard’s immediate predecessor, Bishop Emeritus Paul Tan Chee Ing, is himself a political animal. Bishop Emeritus Paul Tan has been an occasional feature in Malaysiakini, providing his politically flavoured views through journalist Terence Netto.
Earlier in 2015, the Most Reverend Julian Leow Beng Kim had attended the Bersih 4.0 street protest. He is archbishop of the archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur. Several churches under his archdiocese even opened their doors as places of rest and refuge to the rallygoers.