Must Christians turn a blind eye to past sins?

It was during Mahathir and Anwar’s time that crosses were removed from mission schools, says the writer.

From Christopher Chin

With nomination day upon us and polling day fast approaching, election fever is getting intense, as it should be.

Even the Catholic church appears to be in on the act, although Catholics are small in number, with two of its leaders issuing recent statements.

On April 25, Archbishop Julian Leow called on Catholics to cast their votes in favour of “the best possible political leaders who are free of corruption” and who will “promote justice, stand up for principles with integrity”, and “strive to build a cohesive, harmonious and prosperous nation.”

Prior to that, Bishop Bernard Paul had claimed that there was “a clamour for change, for respectability, and for regaining our lost *maruah *and *martabat*.”

In recent weeks, opposition politicians and NGO leaders have jumped at the chance of entering church halls to give talks and to attend forums, apparently in the name of conscientising the Catholic faithful.

Barisan Nasional leaders, however, true to form, have stayed away: perhaps out of embarrassment, or to avoid accountability, or because they cannot be bothered, or maybe because they have no real message for the rakyat.

The result is that opposition politicians and NGO leaders have been handed an unchallenged platform to air their views and prescribe their remedy for an ailing Malaysia.

But are Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim what Malaysia needs now?

The fact that these two can even form an alliance after falling out so spectacularly in 1996 would itself be cause for concern.

That aside, Christians who recall the Mahathir-Anwar period as “the good old days” should remove their blinkers and acknowledge the truth.

It was under Mahathir that:

  • the Alkitab, the Bahasa Malaysia translation of the Bible, was first banned in 1981;
  • the Alkitab was confiscated from the Daughters of St. Paul bookstore in Petaling Jaya in 2000;
  • it became illegal in 1984 for Christians to use the word ‘Allah’;
  • Malaysia suddenly claimed to be an Islamic state;
  • pilgrimages to Jerusalem were limited to a mere 700 Christian pilgrims per year, 10 days per visit, and one visit every three years;
  • the Syariah Court began in 1986 to claim judicial might, and Islamisation of laws began in earnest, especially in matters relating to religious conversion, matrimony, children’s custody and burial; and
  • unusual restrictions began to be imposed on the building of non-Muslim places of worship

It was Mahathir who brought the radical Anwar into mainstream politics.

And then it was Anwar who:

  • as Education Minister, in 1988 allowed the termination of non-Muslim school principals aged 55 and above;
  • allowed Christian religious education in our schools to be replaced with “moral education”;
  • allowed the removal of crucifixes and crosses from the buildings and badges of mission schools;
  • allowed the revision of history books used in our schools so as to promote Islam;
  • made “Islamic Civilisation” a compulsory subject for all university students;
  • promoted and enhanced shariah laws throughout the country and gave a much more Muslim character to our laws;
  • began the prurient obsession with moral surveillance, enforcement and punitive measures against Muslims.

The present government is not without fault either, and some may argue that the choice is about who represents the lesser of two evils.

Unfortunately, I am not convinced that Mahathir and Anwar are that lesser evil.

Christopher Chin is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect that of FMT.