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Why the faithful in Malaysia 'turn the other cheek'

You will not find Christians demonstrating in the streets, burning effigies or calling for bloodshed

Terence Fernandez for the Malaysian Insider

Terence Fernandez for the Malaysian Insider

Published: December 17, 2014 04:58 AM GMT

Updated: December 16, 2014 04:58 PM GMT

Why the faithful in Malaysia 'turn the other cheek'

A Roman Catholic devotee offers a prayer in front of an image said to be the Virgin Mary (unseen) that appeared on the window of a Malaysian hospital in Subang, outside Kuala Lumpur on November 11, 2012 (AFP Photo/Mohd Rasfan)

As Christians we learn from early on to “turn the other cheek”.  When someone does you wrong, do not retaliate, instead pray for him.

This is emphasized during sermons and Bible study.

The spiritual or staunch would follow this guide to a T as easily illustrated by my late father in law who would often utter the phrase “It’s okay. Bless him” when faced with or talking about everyone from road bullies to corrupt officials.

The Bible has many examples of forgiving transgressors and sinners, the most profound of course exemplified by Jesus on the cross before he drew his last breath: “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Before he died, he asked God to pardon his executioners who comprised Roman soldiers, high priests and the mob who had been baying for his blood.

I would like to think that it is based on the basic tenets of love and forgiveness which is drummed into our heads every Sunday that Malaysia remains peaceful in spite of current affairs.

After all, the recent volley of transgressions and harassment of the Christian community by the authorities is unprecedented — from dictating how Malay-speaking parishioners should worship, to the seizure of Bibles and even detention of priests.

“How much more can we take?” asked a priest during a recent service I attended in Kuching.

However, the sermon which was mostly in Bidayuh concluded that one should remain calm and never ever retaliate but to continue the passive approach in defending the Constitution which outlines the freedom of worship.

Certainly the government and its lackeys have picked the right group of people to victimize. You will not find Christians demonstrating in the streets, burning effigies and warning of blood on the streets.

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No, this is not the style and nor is it the style of the majority of peace-loving and rationale Malaysians — both Muslim and non-Muslim.

Perseverance and forgiveness has always been in the forefront of Christian belief.

The Lord’s Prayer which is one of the highlights of mass has these words: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”.

The Book of Matthew further illustrates: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15) 

Matthew also illustrates a very important conversation between Jesus and his disciple Peter:  “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.’” (Matthew 18:21-22)

Just like Islam, Christianity also emphasizes the need for knowledge which is why Catholic priests in Malaysia are also required to learn about other religions, where Islamic Studies form part of their theological course.

Hence, in some churches you witness something peculiar — priests defending Islam and explaining to their flock that Islam has nothing to do with the current oppression of Christians in this country.

Weekly masses also offer prayers for our leaders that they will be enlightened with wisdom and a sense of responsibility hence a change of heart.

Christians are reminded that practicing their faith in a manner that the government forbids is not inconsistent with the Constitution which upholds the position of Islam as the official religion of the Federation, yet recognizes and protects the rights of others to worship freely.

More importantly, it is not inconsistent with Islam. Even the secular masses understand that the teachings of the Prophet do not prohibit others from practicing their faith.

Hence it is pity, not spite, to see the guardians of the faith — some self-proclaimed — falling over themselves in justifying the need for federal and state control on Christian worship.

Whatever disagreement and discontent have been taken to the courts of law to be resolved — along with private meetings with the powers-that-be and pressure through the media and international support — these, along with prayer, are the weapons of choice.

This is how it has been and always will be for the Christian community, even when church approvals are delayed, chapels in Orang Asli settlements demolished and crosses taken down from mission schools.

The Bible, after all warns of enduring hardship for practicing one’s faith: "They will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.  But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.  For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” (Luke 21:12-16) 

Terence Fernandez says with the Yuletide season in full swing, it has never meant more than now to wish “peace on earth, Goodwill to all mankind”. He dedicates this article to the many Muslims who stand beside their Christian friends at this time.


Original Story: Why Christians are turning the other cheek

Source: The Malaysian Insider

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