Monday, May 31, 2010

Malaysian Politics, Money and the Church

One of the many fallout from the Sibu by-election in Sawawak in which the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) lost is the the money given to four Methodist churches in Sibu just before the polling day.

Haris Ibrahim a Muslim made some insightful comments in Desperately seeking Peter. The Methodist church is in need of your ‘rock-like’ foundation

While I share the sentiments of Goh Keat Peng in his blog ‘We don’t take such money’

I respectfully appeal to the churches directly involved in this episode:
If it isn’t true and it didn’t happen, then please say so.
If it is true, offered and received, give it all back.
WE DON’T WANT SUCH MONEY. Let the church be poor (as a church mouse) but
as the Book of Proverbs say, poor but happy keeping a clear conscience.

I also respectfully appeal to all Malaysian churches through the Christian Federation of Malaysia:
Please let us send a clear, unmistakeable and irrevocable message to the country and the world. As citizens and tax-payers we deserve to practise and observe our religious faith in peaceful and orderly fashion and we should get reasonable amounts of resources to enable us to do so. Any sitting government is welcome to sit down with us, discuss and understand in a timely and civil way our religion and our community’s needs and concerns regarding places of worship, burial grounds and our bibles in Bahasa Malaysia as well as how we will continue to serve all Malaysians in need through our social services. Provide the facilities and resources justly due to us but please don’t give us “special grants” only at the eve of by-elections. WE DON’T TAKE SUCH MONEY. No, thank you. Never under such circumstances.

However it must be noted that in Malaysia, Christians often only get a break before by-elections or the general elections - approval of building plans, conversion of land for religious use or permit for large Christian gatherings. Is that Malaysian politics or God answering prayers?


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Blogger Reb Anthony Loke said...

the churches can take the money. afterall, it is tax payers' money in the first place.

the issue is that the grant was given just before election day, and hence whatever well-meaning intentions on both sides can be badly construed.

since the money is already taken, to return it to the government can also be mistaken i.e. the church is on the side of the opposition.

while the churches are caught in a dilemma, there is always a noble way out: the four churches thank the government for the grant but because of the timing, they will not personally use the money for themselves but channel the money to help those in need e.g. the bumiputras in the areas, the poor and those doing charitable work, the flood alleviation scheme for rejang park etc.

in that ways, a sort of balance is achieved. it is not a compromise but more of a 'what is the wiser thing to do at this moment'.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

Hi Anthony,

I agree with your suggestion. Instead of returning the money as Keat Peng suggests, it should be given to the poor of all ethnic groups.

We have to recognise the limitations of being church in an Islamic country.

However, we are also called to be "salt" and "light." This I believe it to mean not only that we must be above reproach but we must also be seen or perceived to be above reproach.

I do not really know the real circumstances and chronology behind the churches receiving the money. However the fact that it may be misconstrued should gives us food for thought.

4:53 PM  
Blogger sp lim said...

I think the argument that it's tax payer's money may leave a lot of bad taste in some people. After all why give to the 4 Sibu Methodist churches only? What about other churches, temples and places of worship? Personally speaking I didn't pay my taxes for it to be used to repair or maintain those church buildings.

I feel in future we the church should not even apply for such grant. It's our responsibility to make sure that our church buildings are well maintained. I always think it's a blessing in disguise that there are so much restrictions in having a church building. Otherwise church buildings will mushroom all over the place and we will get ourselves in debt. Grandiose church buildings are nothing but the visible representation of the pastor's and congregation's ego.

I cannot verify this but there has been people who said that those churches actually put out ads in the local newspapers on the eve of the election to thank the Govt for the grant. If this is true, all this talk about being non partisan is really bull-shit(forgive my language).

The issue if not about being pro Govt or pro Opposition. The issue is whether it is right to accept the money under such circumstances. Is calling for the abolition of ISA pro Opposition since the Opposition has been calling for its abolition since time immemorial?

I think the only saving grace now is for the churches to do as what Reb has suggested i.e. donate the money away. But from the statements made by some of the church leaders, this seems unlikely.

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If barisan people gives me RM100 to vote for barisan at the polling station, and I cannot reject that, why?

because if I reject that would signal that I take side with opposition!

Is that the argument?

obviously flawed!

7:30 PM  

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