Day of Prayer for Malaysia – Pastoral Letter from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia
Posted date: February 18, 2017
STAND UP FOR OUR FAITH
Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Lord,
In the face of rapidly changing world that is deeply affected by rising secularism, individualism, religious fundamentalism, communalism and even materialism, the Catholic Archbishops and Bishops of Malaysia are deeply concerned and would like to call on our faithful to be aware of their adverse consequences on the lives of the people that are both explicit and implicit. These not only affect our daily lives but also the core of our beliefs and traditions based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The birth of our country was premised on the fact that we are a multi-religious and multi-cultural nation and that freedom of religion or belief should be fully respected and guaranteed. However, in more recent times, changing trends both internationally and locally have sometimes made the expressions of faith far more challenging.
We are at a 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 seem to have been disregarded. For now, we find that even simple acts like hanging a cross on a building are often times deemed offensive and our acts of charity are viewed with suspicion. The lack of understanding and respect of each other’s religion has also contributed to disrespectful exchange of words especially through social media. This trend further raises tension and mistrust among communities.
We are aware and troubled that our children and young people are having to face challenges in schools and universities especially regarding the Christian faith. These challenges come in the form of inaccurate or false information, restriction on expressions of faith, and lack of respect. Some of them who are at times living away from their families are enticed to abandon the Christian faith even without the knowledge of their families and this is often irreversible.
On a wider note, the Church at large also faces challenges: limitations of places of worship, unacceptable controls of the importation and publication of the Al-Kitab, restrictions on public display and expressions of faith among others.
All of these can easily lead us to lose hope for a better future in Malaysia. However, as Christians, we are reminded to be a People of Hope and inspire others to have hope. In order for us to be beacons of hope, we cannot remain passive or silent in the face of these challenges. On the contrary, we need to stand up for our faith. We need to defend our Christian identity and be true followers of Jesus Christ, as Pope Francis has called us to (cf. Homily, 16 Nov 2015).
We the Archbishops and Bishops of the Malaysian Church call on all the faithful to work together with us in steering our nation, society and the Church towards the common good as well as shaping a culture of peace.
Let us first begin by establishing a firm faith foundation within ourselves, our families, our BECs and our parishes. Let simple prayers and outward signs of our faith, by for example, making the sign of the Cross as we start and end our prayers like grace before meals. Let such simple practices become part of our daily routine. Let our daily attitude at our workplace and towards the people we encounter be a visible sign of who we are. When Jesus told His disciples that other people would know that they were His disciples because of their love for one another (John 13:35), He was telling them about the main characteristic of a true Christian.
As Christians, let us also be aware of what is happening in our surroundings and our country at large. Let us reach out to those who are marginalised; let us lift the oppressed; let us find justice for the persecuted; let us be a voice for the voiceless and let us bring hope to those in despair.
On 24 February 2017, we invite you to join us in praying from 7.30 pm to 10.30 pm** in your respective parishes for our beloved county. In a special way, we want to pray for our lawmakers, as Parliament convenes on 6 March 2017, may they be guided in knowledge and wisdom to discern and act for the common good of all peoples, namely, for peace, harmony, respect and justice. Let us also pray that we too as Malaysians, will stand in solidarity with one another, irrespective of creed and culture, strive to be beacons of hope and mercy for in this way we mirror the face of Jesus Christ, which is love.
During this vigil, we will KNEEL in prayer. And then we will STAND UP for our faith.
Most Reverend Julian Leow Beng Kim, D.D.
Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia on behalf of:
Most Reverend Dato John Ha
(Archbishop of Kuching)
Most Reverend Datuk John Wong
(Archbishop of Kota Kinabalu)
Rt Reverend Datuk Cornelius Piong
(Bishop of Keningau)
Rt Reverend Datuk Julius Dusin Gitom
(Bishop of Sandakan)
Rt Reverend Richard Ng
(Bishop of Miri)
Rt Reverend Joseph Hii
(Bishop of Sibu)
Rt Reverend Datuk Sebastian Francis
(Bishop of Penang)
Rt Reverend Bernard Paul
(Bishop of Malacca Johore)
For the Archdiocese of Kuching, the vigil will be at 7.30 pm – 10.00 pm.