Malaysia at the Crossroads: Churches Responding to the Challenge

30/05/2012

There is a stirring in the nation for change and change is going to come”. Those words, uttered by Dr. Michael Devaraj, aptly captured the feeling of Christians who gathered at the recent forum organized by the Council of Churches of Malaysia, which carried the theme: “Malaysia at the Crossroads”.

Three panelists representing political parties and civil society, shared to a packed audience at Trinity Church on 26th May, that all is not well in the country. With the current coalition government, which has enjoyed ruling the country since the nations independence (1957), is under great pressure from a younger generation of Malaysians who are demanding a change in the political culture, which for a long time concentrated power in the hands of a few.

Corruption, lies entrenched at all levels of society, and the clamping-down on civil unrest in the recent years only goes to show that dissent to the political establishment will not be tolerated.

As one of the panelists of the forum put it, “the imminent 13th General Elections of the country will prove to be a watershed in demanding real change. We must reclaim our democracy. We must never ever surrender our freedom.”

References were made by the speakers that the government’s handling of the Bersih 3 Rally held on April 28th, only shows, that there is no political will to conduct clean, fair and transparent elections. The stand-off with the riot police which resulted in clashes, not only marred the rally, but also showed the escalation of violence by the police, and others who were out to create trouble.

Christians make up nine per cent of the twenty-five million people in the country, where the majority are Muslims (over 60%).

In the recent years the growing influence and imposition of Islam at all levels of society has caused alarm to the minority religious communities in the country. Any assertion of minority rights would quickly be interpreted as a challenge to the majority Malay/Muslim domination of national politics.

The forum speakers challenged the Christians to come out of their comfort zones and mobilize people to work for change. The churches could become centers of enlisting new voters to register their names.

The challenge that was issued at the end of the forum was for Christians to go out and make every vote count in the forthcoming elections.

As one panelist put it, “Vote for democracy that is built on the foundations of social justice and debunk racial politics”.

The ecumenical social forums will be a series of programmes that the Council of Churches of Malaysia will organize to assist the churches to discern the issues of the day, and to cast their votes in a responsible way.

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