OPINION

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EUGENE YAPP

Eugene Yapp is Director of Kairos Dialogue Network, a network of Christians with a shared social vision, particularly in establishing strong Christian-Muslim relations. He is conversant in the historical dynamics Christian-Muslim relations, and carries a solid vision of the Christian presence in a plural society.

4 May 2018

An emotional clip appearing on social media entitled Harapan featuring former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has gotten people talking, whether in gratitude or cynicism. The start of the video depicts the situation in the country, before moving on to Tun M explaining his decision to continue participating in politics to two young children. In one scene, Tun M explains the significances of “Merdeka” to the little girl Aisyah wherein he mentions “freedom”.

Freedom is an indispensable part of human life and interest. It is a right of humanity yet much more. It is a virtue, a special condition without which humanity cannot flourish and thrive. Paulo Freire, in his celebrated work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, once said, “freedom is not an ideal located outside of man; nor is it an idea which becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion.”

Freedom is therefore creativity; capitalising and converting potential opportunities of life into good or goodness. Imagine, what would the world be without the likes of the Wright brothers or Jobs or Gates?

And yet, we see the world, in Malaysia today, the prize of freedom denied. The freedom of expression by anti-fake news laws, the freedom of religion by apostasy and blasphemy laws, the freedom to inquire by black-out on massive financial scandals and disappearance of persons and the freedom of thought and conscience by ‘national security’, whatever that means. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it”.

Dare we believe and act on the words of Abraham Lincoln? Or are we to just pray at a specified time, for a number of days and a number of minutes? Or are we to look out for “the Lord as a man of war who will fight for us and we have only to be silent?” (Ex 14:14)

April marks the 50th anniversary of death of the great civil rights activists, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on 4 April 1968. A few years prior to his death, King had the occasion to write an open letter which has come to be known as the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” In it, King responded to public statement of concern and caution issued by eight white Christian leaders of the South calling King’s activities as unwise and untimely.

King’s response, although written 55 years ago still rings true for us in times such as this as we face our coming GE and what next.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Eugene Yapp

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

But we know through painful experience that this freedom (for justice) is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

But the contemporary Church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the Church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the Church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.

The early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.

But that is not the case today. All too often, many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows and the beautiful decorated halls of our churches whether with fast paced or nice, soothing inspiring music.

The judgment of God is now upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth (or twenty first) century. Inspired from Martin Luther King, Jr, ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’, 1963.

Would we want our churches to be an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the 21st century? It’s up to us now in this 21st century ….

God bless Malaysia!

eugene-yapp_profilepic-1024x1024

EUGENE YAPP

Eugene Yapp is Director of Kairos Dialogue Network, a network of Christians with a shared social vision, particularly in establishing strong Christian-Muslim relations. He is conversant in the historical dynamics Christian-Muslim relations, and carries a solid vision of the Christian presence in a plural society.