The Sunday Star
by Roger Tan
When spiritual leaders start to use the church to make fun of the government or endorse a particular political party or candidate, this is wrong.
ON April 15, Roman Catholic Bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing lambasted the government for holding the 13th general election on a Sunday. Tan warned, as reported in a Malaysiakini article, “Bishop says Sunday ballot a bane to Christians”, that for this reason, he would urge Catholics in his diocese to consider carefully before voting.
It is surprising that this Bishop of the Diocese of Malacca-Johor who was also someone who had helped found the Catholic Research Centre could have got his facts so wrong. In this respect, I could not have agreed more with Austin Gonzales’ response to Tan’s unwarranted outbursts (see “Is Bishop Paul Tan being insensitive and callous?”, The Star, April 18) except to reiterate that, firstly, it is not the government but the Election Commission that fixed the election date. Secondly, the 7th, 8th and 11th general elections were all held on a Sunday – Aug 3, 1986, Oct 21, 1990, and March 21, 2004.
If Tan feels so strongly that Catholics in his diocese should not be inconvenienced on a Sunday because it is a holy day, then all the more he should urge them to consider carefully before voting for PAS as the weekly holiday may well be changed to a Friday should they come into power!
I am sure Tan’s sentiments are not shared by many Christian Malaysians. In fact, I am rather concerned that lately the pulpit has been misused for political purposes. Just last Sunday, one woman pastor in an established Kuala Lumpur church purportedly said over the pulpit without any substantiating evidence that thousands of foreigners would be voting in this election.
In the Facebook Group of the Anglican Diocese of West Malaysia, someone was even allowed to post that Sunday had been chosen in order to enable phantom votes to take place in the morning when Christians are worshipping in church! This is indeed a colossal exaggeration. There was also another posting there heaping praise on PAS for fielding Hu Pang Chow, a Christian, in this coming election.
To my mind, what Tan and the woman pastor did was to sow hatred and make their believers angry. They have obviously forgotten the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi to become instruments of peace so that where there is hatred, may they sow love, and where there is injury, pardon.
Tan, in particular, should be reminded by what Pope Francis said recently that hypocrisy has undermined the church’s credibility. In the pontiff’s words: “Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church’s credibility … Those who listen to us and observe us must be able to see in our actions what they hear from our lips, and so give glory to God.”