Thanks Evelyn Samuel for her permission to repost her reflections up after she joined us for the recent RoH Malaysia Merdeka 2007 Event.
25th November 2007
The mass media had been abuzz with the gathering of supporters who wanted to present a petition to Her Majesty’s Government at the British High Commission, which was just ten minutes away from home. Thousands were expected to show up but the Malaysian Police had warned the public to stay away. A clash of wills appeared to be imminent so the smart thing to do seemed to be to leave home before the crowds gathered, and take a different route to church. But the elevated highway was already thronging with pedestrians of Indian origin who seemed to have been walking for some time already; some tried unsuccessfully to hail taxis. Could the train stations have been shut? What about the buses? There’d already been postings that hotels were refusing to register guests who might be planning to defy the ban on the assembly as a permit had been denied. I felt moved by their determination, because their places of worship had been rudely demolished and spouses among them had outrageously been denied the right to live together; even a small baby’s breastfeeding had been stopped!
Along my route streams of purposeful ethnic Indians flowed towards the KLCC, and as I pulled up at a traffic light the driver next to me sounded his horn and gestured that I should take a safe route to a rallying point ahead. Though nodding in acknowledgement I felt a pang of guilt – should I be standing with them in solidarity instead of heading to the comforts of ‘church’? Isn’t this people group the reason my grandfather left his kith and kin and came to Malaya to serve, recognizing them as a group of God’s objects of love? How would grandfather – a church planter – have wanted me to continue at least part of his legacy?
Later on a fellow worshipper recounted that he had to walk to church from his expatriate neighborhood, and be subjected to blasts from the water canon (laced with chemicals) and dodge the canisters of tear gas that were being thrown into the passive crowd. Hmmm I wonder what his next letter or phone call home said.
That afternoon the Revolution of Hope aka ROH held a meeting to share its objectives, and part of what was said only reinforced my already stirred and shaken emotions about where and how God works. What is church? How does God want us to worship Him? Is it merely all about us, preaching, teaching, and how we address issues that face us, or could we have missed realizing that with or without us, God is always lovingly at work among all people groups anyway, because He loves everyone and is not dependant upon us of shower His Grace and Love? What might these questions mean to how we worship Him and ‘do church’?
The ROH was formed to write local theologies for the Malaysian context and the ROH team comprises Christians who are ecumenical in their faith. Tricia Yeoh (Public Policy and Planning specialist) made a crystal clear presentation of the powers at play in Malaysia and emphasized the need for the practice of a civil society. Sherman Kuek (Doctoral candidate, Contextual Theology) went back to the basics of how God revealed and reveals Himself not only in the structures of what we call ‘church’, but through every form of human expression, including ethnicity and culture – so that every human being can access and enjoy humanity at its fullest, in the ways that God intends and still accepts. Rev Sivin Kit (coordinator of Emergent Malaysia) continued with this theme, and shared The Hermeneutical Cycle of Experience, Reflection, Input and the resulting Adaptation of hearts, minds, hands, knowledge, values, and resulting skills. Veron Retnam (Resource Economist) plunged the dagger of reality into the meeting by giving examples from her work among marginalized children. The stark reality is there are young ones hungry for physical food and education – some as young as 4 years who help forage for scrap so that the older 7 year old can sell the scrap for food. (Are there children in this age group in your family?) There is a father who is in jail for stealing, and the grandmother who despairs that she cannot care for her small grandchildren and might have to given them up to only God-knows-what. With such backgrounds of deprivation, what is the projected fate of the marginalized living among us? How do they affect our societies and what will their contribution be to our politico-socio-economic development? Social Scientist and Jesuit priest Father Jojo underscored the message of Hope through examples of cheerful trust expressed by the marginalized folk he works with and validated the call to engaging in positive actions, with verses from the Bible.
He offered that God has a social contract with all people, through His promise that all nations would be blessed through Abraham, and that we must defend the social contract in our country’s Constitution to serve all Malaysians, by being a blessing to all, regardless of race or creed. Drawing on the account of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8, Jojo issued a wake-up call to persevere in acting constructively to appropriate justice for the oppressed, and to engage in teaching and equipping the marginalized how to regain their humanity and dignity. They have God-ordained rights and privileges which should not be denied them. Is this ‘doing church’?
Back home the evening news clips showed the law enforcers doing their part to prevent the marchers from reaching the British High Commission. They had indeed succeeded in winning the battle but what about the ensuing highly publicized war of opinions? The Bar Council monitored the rally from within it, as did the local and foreign mass media who, like my fellow church-goer were inconveniently subjected to the tear gas and water cannon. And the church at large? What shall we do in response to our national version of an inconvenient truth which threatens to come upon us well before the perils of global warming do?