by Jennifer Gomez
The Malaysian Insider
10 June 2014
Malaysia is “losing a generation” that no longer trusts the government, authorities and even each other, given the current trend of religious extremism, says Anglican Bishop Datuk Ng Moon Hing.
Ng, the newly minted president of the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM), said his greatest fear for Malaysia is a societal break-up due to hate speeches, racial hatred and religious extremism that is not being monitored.
“This nation has begun to lose a generation of people who no longer trust the government, the authorities, the elders, the religious leaders, and more so each other,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
Ng said trust and confidence in Putrajaya have plunged to its lowest level with unresolved issues affecting Malaysia’s multi-religious society, including the seizure of Bibles and the controversy over the use of the word “Allah” by Christians.
Racial and religious tensions took a turn for the worse at the start of the year when the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) raided the society’s premises in Damansara Kim, Petaling Jaya on January 2, before carting away 321 Bibles in Malay and Iban languages.
Last month, a seminar on Christology was held at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), where several speakers warned Muslims of the threat of Christianisation, and of undercover priests sent to Malaysia under different guises to proselytise Muslims.
Ng, the former Christian Federation of Malaysia president, said his fear was that if authorities did not put a stop to hate speeches and instigation, the “tear will go beyond repair”.
Until today, Jais, the Selangor state government, the Attorney-General and Putrajaya have been mum on the seized Bibles or why they were not returned.
Ng expressed regret that the incident took place despite promises made by two prime ministers, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri Najib Razak, that BSM was free to bring in Malay Bibles and distribute it among Christians.
During Dr Mahathir’s era, BSM was allowed to import and distribute Bibles to Christians for use in churches and Christian homes.
This was reaffirmed in Putrajaya’s 10-point solution agreed by the Najib administration..
“However overnight, all these promises have gone to nothing.
“It only shows that there is no will in the Selangor state government and in Putrajaya to solve this issue which was first started by them,” said Ng, who heads the Anglican Diocese of West Malaysia.
He said the racial and religious tensions in Malaysia started some time ago when those in power decided to compromise their integrity and moderation with greed and the desire to stay in power at all costs.
“These tensions we see now did not start overnight, it began when the people in power compromised their integrity, true faith, moderation, rationality, peaceful and harmonious co-existence, with self gain, greed, self fame, the idea of staying in power in the name of economic progress, development, education, preservation of race, language and creed.
“All religions have become a toy of politics which has been politicised and manipulated by many politicians,” he added.
As such, Ng said that apart from Christianity, the nation was under threat given extremist elements whose main agenda was to destroy the “muhibbah” (harmony) in the country for their own selfish gain.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q. What is your greatest concern for Malaysia today in light of recent incidents which have heightened racial and religious tensions?
A. My greatest fear is a societal break-up due to non-monitored hate speeches, racial hatred and religious extremism. This nation has begun to lose one generation of people who no longer trust the government, the authorities, the elders, the religious leaders, and more so each other Malaysian. If the authorities do not put a stop to such extremism and hate speeches and instigation as soon as possible and at the same time instill harmonious, peaceful, just and fair living, I fear the tear will come to a stage that is beyond repair.
Q. Is Christianity under threat in Malaysia. Why do you say so?
A. I don’t think Christianity alone is under threat instead Malaysia as a whole is under threat. I mean the original Malaysia of 1963 is being blackmailed by a few groups of extremists. Their agenda is to destroy the muhibbah Malaysia for their own selfish gain.
Q. What was your greatest challenge during your term as CFM president from 2009 until 2013? What were the main concerns for CFM then? Did you manage to solve any issues affecteing Christians/ Christianity?
A. I don’t think me or CFM alone can solve any issue affecting Christians or Christianity. The issues we faced before, during and after my term in CFM, are similar as those faced by other religious groups such as the Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Taoists – i.e., religions have become a toy of politics which have also been politicised and manipulated by many politicians.
Q. What do you envisage your challenge will be as you head BSM during this time when the issue of the seized Bibles remains unresolved?
A. As long as the seized Bibles and all the other related issues such as the usage of the word “Allah” and the raiding of religious places are unresolved, I don’t see how the level of trust and confidence in the authorities and government by the grassroots can improve. It has gone to its lowest level now.
Q. Do you think talking to the authorities, i.e., the minister in charge of Islam, national unity, or the home minister, is a lost cause? Has this avenue been exhausted in the first place?
A. The CFM has been dragged into dialogues after dialogues, meetings after meetings and in the end everyone pushes to everyone and no one wants to be the “bad” guy to make good the wrong.
Q. Is BSM still importing Malay Bibles?
A. In a situation like this, would you still want to import Bibles? Having said this, import or no import, the Bible is already in the net and anyone, anywhere can download or just read it online.
Q. What is your greatest concern about the seized Bibles? Are they destroyed? Desecrated?
A. We hope the seized Bibles will be read by the people who are keeping them.
Q. What is your advice to Christians as we face Christian-bashing and various forms of persecution, including accusations of trying to proselytise among Muslims? Do they always have to turn the other cheek?
A. There is a time for everything, the Bible teaches us. There is a time for turning the other cheek; there is a also a time for “taking the bull by its horn”; there is also a time for dialogues; there is also a time for seeking a win-win situation through understanding and sharing together.
Q. From the time you started off with mission work, do you remember tensions among races and religions being as bad as they are now?
A. All these did not start overnight, it began when the people in power compromised their integrity, true faith, moderation, rationality, peaceful and harmonious co-existence with self gain, greed, self fame, idea of staying in power in the name of economic progress, development, education, preservation of race, language and creed. – June 10, 2014.