OPINION

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BISHOP EMERITUS HWA YUNG

Bishop Emeritus Hwa Yung was the bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia from 2004-2012. He was the Principal of Malaysia Theological Seminary or STM (1986-2001) and the Director of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in Asia, Trinity Theological College, Singapore (2001-2004). He has also served on the Council of the Oxford Centre for the Mission Studies and the Lausanne International Board. He has also published several books and numerous articles on theology and mission in international journals.

“Ini kalilah!” finally happened, though five years late! Against the expectations of most seasoned observers, PH won convincing on 9 May. This happened in spite of the shameless gerrymandering of already distorted electoral boundaries, the hundreds of millions of ringgits or more poured into buying votes, the manipulation of the electoral process to give the ruling government an unfair advantage, etc. Even after the votes were finally counted, some presiding officers refused to sign off on the results when this was clearly against the law, thus delaying the announcement of the final outcome!

It was not a Chinese or Malay tsunami. It was a Malaysian tsunami … divinely inspired if you like! It was also spawned in the midst of what appears to be corruption of the highest order, numerous vote buying schemes, regular play on the religious and racial cards for political mileage, and gross abuse and arrogance of power. Countless Malaysian citizens contributed to making the tsunami happen! It was so moving to see the hundreds of thousands or even millions travelling home to vote. And for all the happenings behind the scenes, we must thank the Police (and I hear it whispered, the Conference of Rulers also) for keeping the nation peaceful and calm, thereby allowing for a smooth handover of power.

A new dawn for the nation? YES! But a note of caution … Remember Sabah 1985? PBS was voted into power against a BN-aligned state government known for corruption and abuse of power. Because many PBS leaders were church members from various denominations, many Christians celebrated. However, in no time these same politicians were caught up in similar cycles of corruption as the leaders they replaced. By 1994 when PBS lost power in the state, the church and the Name of Christ had become terribly discredited as a result. The promised new dawn had quickly morphed over the nine years of PBS rule into a dark night of self-seeking politicking and moral compromise. “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton). What Sabah demonstrated here is that you can win an election and still lose everything! And history has a funny habit of repeating itself.

“By 1994 when PBS lost power in the state, the church and the name of Christ had become terribly discredited as a result.”

Bishop Emeritus Hwa Yung

How can Christians help to ensure that this new dawn will break forth into a bright new day for Malaysia? I will not comment on what we think the new government needs to do and what all citizens can do to help keep it on track for a better Malaysia. Others are more qualified than me to address this. I will simply speak to Christians here on what we can and must do.

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First, irrespective of who is in power, we must do all that is within our means to ensure that integrity and accountability prevail in the government. We should demand of our elected officials and civil servants transparency at every level. We should not be afraid to use the press and the social media to expose evil, incompetence and corruption at all levels. As for those of us who are in the government, we should strive to be examples of diligence, honesty and compassion, such as Joseph, Daniel and Nehemiah were in the Bible.

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SecondlyChristians are called to pray regularly “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1Tim 2:2). Significantly, there has been an unprecedented level of prayer within the church for GE14. Every Catholic diocese in the country had called for a day of fasting and prayer. Many Protestant networks have sprung up over the past few years to engage in 24/7 prayer for the church and nation. Others have called for special prayer meetings daily or nightly leading up to GE14. If Malaysia is to see the see the fullness of God’s blessing of a bright new day of integrity, justice and compassion in our nation, this level of prayer must be sustained into the coming years!

“We should not be afraid to use the press and the social media to expose evil, incompetence and corruption at all levels. As for those of us who are in the government, we should strive to be examples of diligence, honesty and compassion, such as Joseph, Daniel and Nehemiah were in the Bible.”

Bishop Emeritus Hwa Yung

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Thirdlywe are called to be the “salt of the earth …the light of world” (Mat 5:13-14). As salt is to food, Christians are called to help prevent moral rot in society and to give it taste and flavor instead. As light we are to dispel spiritual and moral darkness. Christians often fail to understand what Jesus is saying here. If we go into a room at night and find it dark, our first question is not “Why so dark?” but “Where is the light?” But if we check the flood of WhatsApp messages in our phones every day concerning Malaysia, especially before GE14, almost all of them are asking, “Why so dark?” with few asking the right question, “Where is the light?”

The point is that the Malaysian church has often fail to be salt and light in our nation. For example, we complain about corruption, but how many Christians are in the thick of it? We complain about racism in some political leaders, but how much do we (especially middle class Chinese and Indians) care for the poor Malay and other bumiputras? And what right have we to complain about power abuse in government when church leaders often flaunt their positions and function with little or no accountability in our churches?

“We complain about corruption, but how many Christians are in the thick of it?”

Bishop Emeritus Hwa Yung

The late UC Berkeley sociologist, Robert Bellah, has argued that we often underestimate the influence of a small committed minority in society. He states, “The quality of a culture may be changed when two percent of its people have a new vision.” If this is true, can we imagine how much the church can impact the nation for good if only Christians will take up the call seriously to be salt and light, through living godly and holy lives, and constantly reaching out to the weak and needy in love and compassion?

May 13 forty-nine years ago casted a long dark shadow over Malaysia from which we have yet to fully recover. Will May 9, 2018 be a New Dawn that leads to an ever brighter day? For Christians it will depend a lot on whether we pray and live as we are called to!

hwa_profile

BISHOP EMERITUS HWA YUNG

Bishop Emeritus Hwa Yung was the bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia from 2004-2012. He was the Principal of Malaysia Theological Seminary or STM (1986-2001) and the Director of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in Asia, Trinity Theological College, Singapore (2001-2004). He has also served on the Council of the Oxford Centre for the Mission Studies and the Lausanne International Board. He has also published several books and numerous articles on theology and mission in international journals.