The silent vigils when I cannot stay silent

candlelight-vigilBy Christopher Ling

Dear friends,

It’s been nearly five months since Pastor Raymond Koh disappeared, even longer for Pastor Joshua Hilmy, his wife Ruth Hilmy, and activist Amri Che Mat.

A convoy of vehicles with well-trained men abducted Koh within 40 seconds in broad daylight on Feb 13. Watching the CCTV recordings of the military-like abduction sent a chill through me. It was later learnt that Amri was abducted in a similar manner. As for Joshua and Ruth, how they disappeared, no one knows as there were no witnesses.

I do not know Koh personally, but at the first candlelight vigil in Johor Bahru, I felt as though I had known him… because I know his Lord.

He is a man with compassion. There is something that a man with compassion cannot not do. He cannot see a helpless person and not help. He cannot see a hopeless person and not extend hope. A good tree bears good fruit and a good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart. I also know his Lord is with him wherever he is.

This brings to my mind something I read about Martin Luther King and “the most important night of his life”, as David Garrow put it – “the one he always would think back to in future years when the pressures again seemed to be too great”.

King was thrust into civil rights leadership in Montgomery, Alabama, after Rosa Parks made the brave decision not to give up her seat at the front of the bus to a white man. A boycott was organised, and King, who at age 26 looked “more like a boy than a man”, was chosen to lead it.

As soon as King’s leadership of the movement was announced, the threats from the Ku Klux Klan began. Not only the Klan – within days, King was arrested for driving at 30mph in a 25mph zone and thrown into the Montgomery city jail.

The following night, King, shaken by his first jail experience, sat up in his kitchen wondering if he could take it anymore. Should he resign?

It was around midnight. He felt agitated and full of fear. A few minutes before, the phone had rung: “Nigger, we are tired of you and your mess now. And if you aren’t out of this town in three days, we’re going to blow your brains out, and blow up your house.”

King sat staring at an untouched cup of coffee and tried to think of a way out, a way to quietly surrender leadership and resume the serene life of scholarship he had planned for. In the next room lay his wife Coretta, already asleep, along with their newborn daughter Yolanda.

Here is how King remembers it in a sermon he preached (taken from a taped sermon):

“And I sat at the table thinking about that little girl and thinking about the fact that she could be taken away from me any minute. And I started thinking about a dedicated, devoted and loyal wife, who was over there asleep… And I got to the point that I couldn’t take it anymore. I was weak…

“And I discovered then that religion had to become real to me, and I had to know God for myself. And I bowed down over the cup of coffee. I never will forget it…

“I prayed a prayer, and I prayed out loud that night. I said, ‘Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right. I think I’m right. I think the cause that we represent is right. But Lord, I must confess that I’m weak now. I’m faltering. I’m losing my courage.’

“… And it seemed at that moment that I could hear an inner voice saying to me, ‘Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo I will be with you, even until the end of the world’.

“… I heard the voice of the Lord saying still to fight on. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone. No never alone. No never alone. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.”

“I am with you” – the message King received may well be the same message Koh received.

Bob Pierce once said, “Don’t fail to do something just because you can’t do everything.”

Confronted with the injustice against Koh, Joshua, Ruth and Amri, I will stick to the two things I can do:

Pray and attend the silent vigils when I cannot stay silent.

And this letter is an invitation to you to do the same and continue to do the same.

Note: The next vigil in JB will be held on July 9, from 8.30pm to 9.30pm at IPD JB Selatan, Jalan Meldrum, JB.

Christopher Ling is an FMT reader.

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