O Lord, protect us in our struggle against evil. As we begin the Lenten journey, make this season holy by our self-denial. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
adapted from International Committee on English in the Liturgy (via Verse and Voice)
There are two seasons which has a special place in my own spiritual journey. The first is Advent, the other is Lent. Both seasons somehow concentrate my attention towards a climatic point, the two pictures that capture this climax is the cradle and the cross of Christ.
This is my first season of Lent away from my home country. So, the Lenten journey opens up a a different possibility to reflect on the regular themes only in different geographical location, but also in a different spiritual location in this season of my life.
My connection back home to Malaysia, is primarily through the internet either on Facebook or reading the news and views online. A quick glance of the thoughts in So, why is Malaysia on the Human Rights Council again?, especially the following caught my attention:
The dialogue on human rights in this country has been strange and very often contradictory. It’s not for nothing that we have been accused of being “champions of double talk.” Consider the fact that time and again, our policymakers have repeated the line that human rights is solely a Western device not suited for Asian communities. A number of religious figures have even stated that human rights is not compatible with Islam, never mind that the Quran is in fact, when read and interpreted properly, chock-a- block full with the spirit and principles of human rights and justice. The Malaysian government has also argued that international standards of human rights are not applicable to Malaysia because of the over-emphasis on the rights of the individual as opposed to the rights of the community.
So why then are we on the Human Rights Council? Why did we make those pledges during the campaigning and lobbying to be elected for a seat (yes, Malaysia did work hard and made several pledges to be on this august group). Malaysia stated clearly as one of its pledges that it would “engage constructively in the evolving modalities of work of the HRC to make it a strong, fair, effective, efficient and credible vehicle for the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide.” If Malaysia doesn’t believe in human rights as it is understood by the international community, why then continue to be a member of the HRC?
So my mind comes back to the opening utterance from the prayer:
O Lord, protect us in our struggle against evil.
In this season of Lent, our struggle against evil not only includes confronting the rights and wrongs – good and evil within us so we can be an ‘Upright Human’, but this whole debate on ‘Human Rights’ alerts us to the struggle of right and wrong – good and evil outside of the comforts of computer screens and the solitude of our souls.
We are very well aware that when our ‘souls’ are corrupted by evil, this corruption is destructive to our ‘body’ life and our relations with other people, culture and even nature. I doubt it is that different when the ‘soul’ of a nation is corrupted by evil in and through self-deception, questionable intentions, methods of control, and a range of other expressions would in any way help the ‘body’ life of our society. The lines from the Lord’s Prayer is shouts aloud in the classic translation, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”.
So, as I enter this Lented journey as an individual, and together with a corporate body as a church both institutionally and organically, I wonder what this Lenten journey might mean for us in Malaysia as we are gearing towards what some have labeled as potentially the ‘filthiest’ general election in Malaysian history.
For me, my prayer is for all who are struggling against evil expressed in varied shapes and sizes – whether is corruption or a ‘dirty’ election. This does not mean that when we pray this prayer everyone who is not like us are ‘demonized’, it’s a call to ALL to recognize the ‘war against evil’ is truly a struggle because no one is exempt from its temptation.
"You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities." – Psalm 51:6-9