DUMC raid: it’s about what’s right for the marginalized

Shock at DUMC raid by Jais

Already there had been issues that had risen in the recent decade with rights of Muslim converts to Christianity to change their designation on their ID, the Alkitab issue, and the accompanying bomb blast at a Kuala Lumpur church. Last week, with shock I read that the Damansara Utama Methodist Church(DUMC) was raided by 20-30 Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (Jais) officers. Just June, last year, I had been at dumcthe Petaling Jaya megachurch. The church’s community arm, Harapan Komuniti was holding a dinner event to thank its donors, leaders, volunteers and the beneficiaries of the NGO that assists the poor and the needy, including women, children, and victims of HIV/AIDS and natural disasters, regardless of race or religion. Most governments would be happy to see volunteer organizations raise funds and mobilize volunteers to help needy citizens. But reportedly, having received a complaint, the religious officers had gone to the Aug 3 event at 9.45pm to check if there were Muslims present which is not allowed under the Syariah Criminal Enactment (Selangor) 1995.

The Singapore way

Without patronising or saying that we have a better way of managing such matters in Singapore, or that I endorse it, inter religious harmony legislation has been accompanied by comprehensive pre-emptive monitoring of the relations between the religions. It is common knowledge among pastors of megachurches and mullahs of popular mosques that in their audience there may be plainclothes intelligence  officers taping and listening for speeches that may incite inter-religious trouble. Complaints from the public are followed through judiciously. Phone calls and appointments have been made to give caution. Hands have been slapped before, public warnings have been issued, but never an intrusion of such expression nor proportion.

Searching for political capital instead of the capital’s marginalized

When the politicians came into the picture to squeeze some capital out of it, the issue seemed to have developed a life of its own . It is certainly fascinating for a Singaporean like me to follow the ongoing news reports, though for a Malaysian it would probably be viewed with consternation and frustration. To have an idea of how different parasites are feeding off this situation, read Wyngman’s obsevations in his blog post of how six “blinded” parties “see” the raid: The DUMC raid: are we forgetting someone?

He concludes with a poignant appeal for everyone to focus on the real issue, and he is right:

In a word, the politically motivated see only what they want to see. But what they can’t see is that segment which they must be most responsible for i.e. the least of ‘the people’. I’m talking about the homeless, the AIDS victim, the drug addict, the retarded, the orphan, the widow, the handi-capped i.e. the very people for whom the DUMC dinner was thrown – who sees them? Only, it seems, DUMC and Harapan Komuniti.

The drug addicts and homeless are those which society doesn’t enjoy seeing, so all the more reason why our leaders must take a good hard look at how they came to be. The orphans are the ones for whom GE13 will make hardly a whiff of difference, so it’s critical that voters make a difference at GE13 bearing these children in mind. The handicapped are the ones who will continue to suffer after the media shit’s been cleaned (off the fans and the surrounding ‘areas’), so we need to bring them to the top of our political priorities lest it makes our talk of justice and a ‘high-income society’ full of shit.

A Muslim cleric who sees more clearly

Blogger James Lim in a blogpost cited a report by the Malaysian Insider that Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, an influential Muslim cleric and former Perlis mufti said it was not a sin for Muslims to receive aid from non-Muslims and questioned the efficiency of the distribution of zakat(alms) to the poor. He is reported to have said:

“Where have all our wang zakat (alms) gone? Collections of hundreds of millions of ringgit are announced every year,” said Asri in an essay sent to The Malaysian Insider today.

“Is it not enough to help the poor get out of their poverty without them having to ask others for help?” he questioned.

“Why is there so much red tape blocking the poor from getting alms? There is so much red tape just to get even RM100 to RM200. This is despite the zakat offices looking opulent, the high salaries for officers and bosses, and advanced equipment,” Asri lamented.

“Is the high cost meant only to find donors, but without sufficient willpower to find suitable recipients?” he asked.

“It is the right of anyone to help whomever they want. As long as rules and laws are followed, one can help another regardless of race or religion,” said Asri.

“There are many questions that Muslims must ask themselves before blaming others,” said Asri.

True religion

The tragic fact is that after all have been said and done about this issue, people are going to assert that they are in the right and others are wrong, and the marginalized will continue to be the neglected marginalized. But it’s not about who is in the right, but it’s all about what’s the right, compassionate thing that Malaysian society are going to do about the marginalized. Will all currently interested parties step in to contribute their abundant gifts of energy, time and money to help them?

Only they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. (Galatians 1:10)

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to9 keep oneself unstained from the world.(James 1:27)

The New Covenant Church: this is how church is meant to be

Pastor Peter and Kenny at Duck Inn, PJ

Grace happenings

Pastor Peter welcomed me warmly with a dinner on Friday evening at Duck Inn- a place where the lowly duck has gone four stars. Eusoffe and Joey and he regaled me with story after story of how God had been at work in the New Covenant Church. Changed lives, healings, answered prayers, and marriages in reconciliation. The last time I was here was January, but the stories they told animatedly were mostly fresh. From 8 we talked, or rather they talked and I wah-ed, till 10.  A distinct thought Eusoffe n Joeycame to mind – This is what church is meant to be. There should be wondrous grace happenings that are not cooked up by human shoving and whipping. Where Jesus was exalted, and the actors felt they were privileged to be in the front row to watch what God had done. This is what church is meant to be: people focused on what God was doing and not on what the church was lacking.

More grace happenings

The next day, Simon Yap brought me out for lunch. We wanted to eat from a famous K.L. “all black” Hokkien mee stall, but it was closed. As it turned out, we had food to eat that was better: stories of faith and God’s grace in action. He shared his journey and Kenny n Simon(how can a Spurs fan wear Barcelona?)some interesting grace happenings that took place some years ago and some as recent as a week ago. Ahh…another immersion in wonder.  God’s grace is amazing. Again I thought, This is what church is meant to be. Exciting. Christ-exalting. No one taking the glory. Believers who were deeply satisfied and caught up in one lovely surprise after another. When I sensed  a “cloud” of his presence settled, I told him- I want to be alone to process this and spend some time with the Lord.

Sitting quiet in the bible college apartment, I whispered – Lord, this is what church is meant to be. This is what church is meant to be.

Bow bent, string drawn

The rest of the day was spent to order the thoughts for the message for the church on Sunday. What have I to say to these people who seem to be experiencing the early showers of a book of Acts downpour. I was too smart to have accepted this invitation, I thought. Should have told Peter I was on sabbatical, period. However, by evening, all was ready, and the bow was bent, and the string was drawn.

Sunday, Facebook, and healing

At Sunday breakfast, Peter was sharing a pastoral case, as he didn’t want me to get the wrong idea that there were no problems. Being with the New Covenant Church was comfortable because I was there before and because of Facebook. Wanted to see friends I had added, but wondered if I would recognize them if they had not introduced themselves. As it happened, I could not.

praise team

The praise and music had progressed and there seemed to be an enriched sense of God’s presence. The worship leader, Karen, was Karen caught up in Himwith it, and in it, and caught up in Him. This was followed by holy communion, which they served every Sunday. Later Chermaine testified how she had been suffering from chronic pain after giving birth to her child twelve years ago. The piercing pain would shoot down her back to her legs occasionally when she stood up. One night she was prayed for and she felt a lasting warmth on her back. After a Chermaine: healed!!!few days she discovered she was completely well and could even jump about for joy. It was no small thing for her to be set free completely.

Baptized in the Father’s Love

The title of the sermon I preached was “Baptized in the Father’s Love” and I dwelt on two key passages: Mark’s account of Jesus baptism, and Zephaniah’s famous 3:17-

“The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you in His love, He will rejoice over you with singing”.

It was a gradual build up, and their warm response to what I was saying, and the anointing, lifted me beyond self-consiousness, and I felt the message was getting through. I told the Sunday morning crowd, which seemed fuller than three months ago, This is what church is meant to be: where grace happenings fall like gentle rain week after week. We ended up with a beautiful response: we stood and worshipped, and the Lord  soaked us in His love.

Billy, Kenny, Alex, Simon, Amy

E-book

They served lunch every Sunday and I caught up with the people I knew like Aileen Tan, Billy, Simon and Alex. Talked for quite some time with Billy, an entrepreneur who had just recently ventured in an online business. What perked my interest was that he had already been selling an e-book and audio book online for some time, and I found out more. Lord give me an idea for an e-book.

The Alkitab (Malay Bible) issue: different Malaysian Christian responses

Allah in AlkitabOur Malaysian brethren across the causeway are a united body and I do admire their solidarity and united responses to many of the issues of government and religious encroachment and intrusion that they have experienced in the Muslim dominated federation of Malaysia. However this issue about 30,000 Alkitab (Bahasa Bibles) unlawfully stamped with “For Christians Only” has stirred different reactions from Malaysian Christian bloggers. This issue can be viewed from so many angles: legal and constitutional, theological, ecclesiastical, historical, religious, socio-political and global and I find it too deep and wide for me to wade into.

Admittedly, as a Singaporean bystander, I have been indifferent to the  fracas. Its like overhearing some family squabble in some neighbour’s house. You feel perturbed, and you pray for peace to prevail, but you wouldn’t want to knock on the door to try to help. Who are you to do so, and how are you qualified? However, we are the body of Christ, and when one member suffers, other parts of the body should feel the pain, or at least should seek to understand or sympathize or pray with the Malaysian brethren. So I have come up with a list of links in an order that will help us learn from our Malaysian brethren, and think and feel about the situation and at least pray:

Dr Ng Kam Weng on Desecration of the Holy Bible: what if this is the spirit of the antichrist?

Alwyn Lau on Desecration? Really?(which also contains Dr Alex Tang’s comments)

Bishop Ng Moon Hing : Official position of Christian Federation of Malaysia

Dr Tony Siew on Malay Bibles in Malaysia

Sze Zeng on Stamping of Malay Bible (Alkitab): how to approach this issue?(he assesses other’s positions too)

Clara Chooi’s report on Arab Christians express concern about Malay Bible row