Wednesday, May 30, 2007

News from Malaysia

1) Lina Joy, arguably Malaysia's most well known Christian convert. Born a Muslim, the local courts just had her request to drop 'Muslim' from her identity card rejected. This seems to be rather unacceptable in the eyes of the West, where the freedom to practice one's life and faith is sacrosanct. Not in Malaysia. Not if you are born a Muslim. The laws are so strict that one cannot even practice their chosen religion freely, despite the willingness to be excommunicated from their communities. (For example, non-Muslims are not allowed to share non-Islamic religions with Muslims.) If one is born a non-Muslim in Malaysia, there are apparently choices to choose whatever religion one wishes. However, if one is born a Muslim, these rights are not applicable. Why the discrepancy? It all boils down to the definition of Muslim/Malay identity. For Muslim Malays, religion and ethnicity are tied so close together that it is anathema to think about separating them. Here lies one of the biggest defining reality of society in Malaysia. If one is a Chinese, there is a 65-75% chance that one is Buddhist/Taoist. If one is an Indian, there is a 55-70% chance of being Hindu. If one is an Eurasian, or caucasian parents, one is most likely a Christian. There is also one more rising influence: Secularism. By birth, one may have their religion chained to their ethnicity. However, in practice, many more people have chosen the religion of materialism and secularism. Sadly, this is one way in which the different races 'unite' or share a common destiny.

It is important here to remember that Malaysia has gone through many years of racial and ethinic tensions which have frequently led to violence. This episode is not merely an individual freedom issue of Lina Joy. It is a potent mix of racial and religious tensions which can be easily ignited by radical religious fundamentalists. Ultimately, for the ruling powers, it is all about retaining control up the ranks. The best thing that Christians can do is to pray. Pray for peace. Pray for proper sense. Pray for the right moment to speak against injustice for all persons, not only Christians. Let consistency be so genuine, that Christians are not people who simply stand for rights of Christians, but of people in society. Speak against the social ills of the country. Stand up against powers which threaten the livelihood of the poor and weak. In the meantime, it is important not to let emotions take control. Let prayer be the guiding methodology and lifestyle. For through prayer, God gives wisdom and knowledge. Through prayer, God's hands move in ways hands cannot move. In prayer, the peace which passes all understanding will dwell in the hearts of many.

1) Houston Chronicle
2) The Australian
3) Aliran

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