Among other issues plaguing the nation, Catholics nationwide yesterday prayed to uphold a single system of law in the country, one that is in compliance with the federal constitution.
This refers to any attempts by PAS or the ruling government to implement hudud law in the country.
They were also told to reject corruption in whatever form and pray for more transparency and accountability in the country’s financial management.
Across the country last night Catholic churches in the nine dioceses all over Malaysia gathered in their respective dioceses to make a stand on their faith in simultaneous prayers from 7.30pm to 10pm.
The congregation also vowed to fight racism, extremism, religious supremacy and promote diversity and pluralism.
Their collective call was led by bishops nationwide, who have been boldly making public statements over several controversial issues plaguing the country.
Bishop emeritus Paul Tan Chee Ing has voiced concerns over PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s plan to get amendments to the syariah law passed in Parliament so that an “enhanced” hudud law (with increased punishment) can be implemented in Kelantan.
Johor and Malacca Bishop Bernard Paul joined last year’s Bersih 5 gathering in Kuala Lumpur, which was organised to call for electoral reform and for Prime Minister Najib Razak to step down over the 1MDB financial scandal.
‘Religious freedom disregarded’
In Penang, Bishop Sebastian Francis shared a statement prepared by the Conference of Bishops, endorsed by the archbishops on how Catholics must respond to international or national issues that threaten their faith.
He said the Catholic archbishops and bishops are deeply concerned over the adverse consequences of the rise of secularism, individualism, religious fundamentalism and communalism and even materialism on the lives of the faithful.
He reminded the congregation that the country was premised on multireligious and multicultural ideals, adding that freedom of belief and religion must be fully respected and guaranteed.
“We are at the point of our nation’s history where the freedom to practise our faith we once enjoyed and the Church as an important player for nation building seems to have been disregarded,” said Francis during mass in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.
Francis said now, even simple acts like hanging a cross on a building are often deemed offensive.
The bishop did not elaborate, but in December 2015, the council of churches in Malaysia were unhappy that action was not taken on protestors who had demanded a cross on a building in Taman Medan be taken down.
This trend further raises tension and mistrust among communities, Francis added.
“Our acts of charity are viewed with suspicion.
“The lack of understanding and respect of each other’s religion has also contributed to the disrespectful exchange of words, especially through social media,” he added.
‘Stand up for our faith’
Francis also expressed concerns that children and young people of the Christian faith face challenges in schools and universities.
These challenges come in the form of inaccurate or false information, restriction on expression of faith and lack of respect, he pointed out.
“Some who are at times living away from their families are enticed to abandon the Christian faith even without the knowledge of their families, and often, this is irreversible,” Francis warned.
Francis noted that the Church at large also faces challenges, including limitations of places of worship and unacceptable controls on the importation of the Al-Kitab (Malay language Bible).
“All these can easily lead us to lose hope for a better future in Malaysia,” he said.
However, Christians are reminded to be a “people of hope”, but in order to do that, they cannot remain silent or passive, the bishop said.
“We need to stand up for our faith, to defend our Christian identity and be true followers of Jesus Christ,” he added.
“Let us reach out to those who are marginalised; let us lift the oppressed; let us find justice for the prosecuted; let us be a voice for the voiceless and let us bring hope to those in despair,” he said.
The statements read in all the Catholic churches yesterday were jointly signed by the three Metropolitan archbishops Julian Leow Beng Kim (Kuala Lumpur), John Ha Tiong Hock (Kuching) and John Wong Soo Kau (Kota Kinabalu).
Francis, bishops Bernard Paul (Malacca-Johor), John Lee Hiong Fun-Yit Yaw (Keningau), Julius Dusin Gitom (Sibu) and Richard Ng (Miri) also signed the statement during a meeting of all the bishops in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 16. – Malaysiakini