December-27-2012 This is Malaysia! (1)
Some Christians in Malaysia seem to become suddenly so super-rich that they even dare to demand their pilgrimage to Israel maximum for 21 days. By the way, I wonder for what purpose they want to stay in the Jewish State of Israel so long? A well-experienced, licenced tour guide could offer a much wiser, efficient travel plan for you.
First of all, they must consider well to encourage more serious Bible-reading habits among the Christians before pilgrimage. Second, they must promote scholastic research on their own Church history in the country more sincerely. Thirdly, they have to support more local Bible translators not only financially but also linguistically.
Only after passing all of these criteria, one might perhaps be able to demand such a longer stay in the State of Israel to one's government.
I should add that Dr. Ng Kam Weng quoted below told me that there were anti-intellectual, anti-theologian tendencies in Malaysia when I met him in Petaling Jaya this month. I also remember that Dr. Victor Wong Kway Shin, the former General-Secretary of the Bible Society of Malaysia, told me before his resignation that the Malaysian Churches were so busy with their own activities to impress others how capable they were that they lacked time to sit and read the Bible alone quietly.
My deep sympathies to the two persons above were based upon my unnecessarily prolonged research about Christianity in Malaysia due to lack of these basic attitude among the local Christians. They might not even notice that they steal my time, which is obviously against the Ten Commandments in the Jewish Bible.
Traveling is easy, but real, proper understanding is another matter. (Lily)
Malaysian Government Relaxes Travel Restrictions on Christian Pilgrims to Israel, 21 December 2012
by Dr. Ng Kam Weng
So, the Malaysia government suddenly decides to relax travel restrictions on Christian pilgrims to Israel? Presumably, with the restrictions lifted, Christians should feel grateful to the government and vote more favourably for BN in the coming General Elections. But this is surely perverse logic.
It should be noted that the government treated the Christian community with contempt when it arbitrarily imposed restrictions on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was not only a high-handed act; it was a grievous violation of the religious rights of Christians, as pilgrimage to the birthplace of any religion (in this case, the Holy Land of Israel/Palestine) represents a major ritual for believers.
Let’s be frank about the matter – the Malaysian government effectively robbed Christians of their religious rights. Of course, for reasons known only to itself, the government now decides to ‘return’ to Christians the freedom to travel to the Holy Land. But this is no reason for Christians to feel grateful. It was rightly pointed out that the relaxation of rules is not a ‘concession’ because of the coming General Elections. How can it be a ‘concession’ when the fundamental right was first unjustly taken away from Christians, and subsequently ‘returned’ to the them? Should Christians be grateful? Well, imagine a robber having seized someone’s belongings, later decides to return the goods to the rightful owner for some inexplicable reasons. It makes no sense to ask the victim to feel grateful to the robber for his ‘concession’.
It should be stressed that fundamental rights (and not just religious rights) is not a gift or concession from any government. These rights are natural, inherent, inalienable rights of any human being. That’s why they are called human rights. The least that any government can do is not to interfere with these natural rights.
The Christian community hopes the Malaysian government will desist from further interfering/restricting the religious rights of the Christian community. Indeed, the Christians are not asking for assistance or financial subsidy from the government which is lavishly given to the Muslim pilgrims. All they are asking is, “don’t restrict our religious rights!”
It is significant that the government reserves the right to change the guidelines ‘subject to the security situation in Israel (guideline 8).’ I am not sure what ‘security situation’ may require new restrictions in the future.
First, I am sure the problem cannot be the case of Christian militants going to the Holy Land to assists some terrorists in their religious crusade. I am confident there has not been one single case of such religious fanaticism among Christians. Second, I am not persuaded that the government earlier imposed restrictions to ensure the safety of Christian pilgrims. As far as I know, there has not been a single case of injury or fatality resulting from some Christians being caught in some violent cross-fire between Israelis and Palestinian.
Many government officials are Muslims and as believers they should understand that any religious pilgrim whose faith is strong will not be deterred from making pilgrimage because of some possible security risks. Indeed, there was simply no evident security problems that could have justified the earlier curb on Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The fact that the government unilaterally imposed restrictions belies its claim to act out of concern for the welfare of Christians.
Even if I should grant the government the benefit of doubt regarding its concern for the welfare of Christians, there should have been prior consultation with the Christian community before imposition of restrictions on Christian pilgrimage. Unfortunately, there was no such consultation. The government has a track record of changing policy guidelines according to its whims and fancies. This being the case, guideline (8) induces a sense of foreboding among Christians that their religious rights (pilgrimage) could again be curtailed in future.
In any case, the Christian community welcomes the present relaxation of restrictions on Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Am I grateful? Of course! But I am not grateful to the government for its generous ‘concession’. I am grateful to God that some human decency and respect for religious rights has returned to a government that has a nasty habit of interfering with the religious rights of Christians.
Putrajaya lifts curbs on Christian pilgrims to Israel , 19 December 2012
by Debra Chong （Assistant News Editor）
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 19 — The Najib administration has rescinded its quotas, age floor and other travel limits imposed last year on Christian Malaysians wishing to make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, say church leaders and a tour agent.
The Barisan Nasional (BN) government’s move, ahead of Christmas and national polls, is seen as a bid to win back dwindling support from the minority community that barely make up 10 per cent of the country’s 28 million-strong population but is regarded as a swing vote group in urban areas and crucial to the battle to reclaim the middle ground.
“Yes! Granted us all the concessions we asked for,” Rev Hermen Shastri told The Malaysian Insider in a text message yesterday.
Shastri, the secretary-general Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM), had previously criticised Putrajaya for “always shifting the goal posts” during meetings between government officials and Christian leaders, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported in July this year.
Christian Malaysians had voiced their unhappiness with Putrajaya after churches were allowed to send only up to 20 pilgrims to Jerusalem a year besides limiting their stay there to a week, among several constraints, acts they saw as further erosion of their religious freedom guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.
In recent years, the Christian and Muslim religious communities have been engaged in a tug-of-war over the word “Allah”, with the latter group arguing that its use should be exclusive to them on the grounds that Islam is monotheistic and the word “Allah” denotes the Muslim god.
While Malaysia bans travel to Israel, the government had previously shut an eye to Christian pilgrims journeying to the historic city regarded as holy to three of the world’s main religions — Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
An official with the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) confirmed the umbrella body — which represents 90 per cent of the country’s nearly 2.8 million Christians — had last month received a letter from the Prime Minister’s Office informing that the government had relaxed the rules to allow Christian Malaysians to enter Israel.
LIST OF NEW TRAVEL GUIDELINES FOR CHRISTIAN MALAYSIANS
1. No quote on religious pilgrimages to Israel
2. No limit to the number of members in a tour group
3. No restriction on where to visit in Israel, subject to approval from Israeli authorities
4. No mininum age limit
5. No restriction on how many times a pilgrim can visit Israel
6. Maximum duration for visit to Israel is 21 days
7. The security while in Israel is the responsibility of the applicant
8. These guidelines can be changed subject to the security situation in Israel
“Taking into account the needs of Christian Malaysians, the Home Ministry has amended the religious pilgrimage rules to Israel as follows,” wrote Wong Nai Chee, political secretary to the prime minister in the letter dated November 28 sighted by The Malaysian Insider.
In its list, the government removed the quota on the number of Christian pilgrims per year; the number of pilgrims per church group; where Christian pilgrims can go in Israel; and the frequency of their pilgrimages; as well as extended the stay in Israel to 21 days from seven previously; and cancelled the 18-year-old minimum age requirement.
The new guidelines were effective from October 30, Wong stated in the letter.
According to the CFM official who declined to be named, it was the first time the government had issued any travel guidelines to Christian Malaysian pilgrims, a point backed by a local tour agent who has been organising travel arrangements to Jerusalem on behalf of churches for the last 15 years.
“Previously, the only black-and-white we received were when they rejected our applications,” said Inbam Solomon of World Discovery Travel.
She told The Malaysian Insider that prior to 2010, Christians in this Muslim-majority country have been freely performing pilgrimages to the holy city despite Malaysia having no diplomatic ties with Israel.
Then in January 2010, the government banned pilgrimages to the region, ostensibly due to heightened security risks posed by the long-running Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
When Putrajaya finally lifted the ban in April 2011, it tightened travel rules for Christian Malaysian pilgrims, Solomon related.
Her agency, which had helped organise pilgrimage tours for an average 2,000 Christian Malaysians before the 2010 clamp, saw the numbers severely cut by nearly 90 per cent.
Churches were also required to deal directly with the Home Ministry for permission to travel to Jerusalem, a role that had been performed previously by travel agencies, she said.
Christians were also subjected to additional scrutiny from the Home Ministry, including the police, and were required to submit their baptism certificates or endorsement letters from their respective churches to prove they were genuine followers of the faith, Solomon added.
Word of the government’s new travel guidelines have already spread among Christians, who told The Malaysian Insider they were heartened by the government’s decision.
“We are grateful we can once again go to worship in the Holy Land,” Catholic priest Father Lawrence Andrew said when contacted.
Andrew, who edits the country’s sole Catholic paper, had run a short news report on the new guidelines in last Sunday’s edition of Herald.
The Star 20 Dec 2012
Government Relaxes Israel Travel Ban , 20 December 2012
by Lee Yen Mun
PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia has relaxed restrictions for religious visits to Israel, lifting the quota on the number of pilgrims and allowing travel to anyone for up to 21 days at a time.
According a letter issued by the Prime Minister’s Office to the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) on Nov 28, Christians can also, among others, visit Israel as many times as they want as well as travel anywhere, subject to approval from the authorities there.
Previously, pilgrimages to Israel were limited to 700 Malaysians each year, with only 40 from one church and a stay of only up to 10 days at a time.
The pilgrims, who must be at least 18 years old, were also not allowed to visit Israel more than once in three years.
CFM executive secretary Tan Kong Beng said the Home Ministry used to impose the yearly quota on the number of pilgrims to Israel, with which Malaysia has no diplomatic relations.
“There are now no more quotas for those travelling for religious purposes to Israel. The decision came after a meeting with the Government in the middle of this year.
“This is part of a consultation process with the relevant agencies,” he told The Star adding that he expected more Christians to apply to go to Jerusalem for religious pilgrimages.
He also refuted news reports that the relaxation of the restrictions, contained under an eight-point guideline in the letter, was carried out as part of a “concession” by the Government with the general election around the corner.
“It was a result of a consultation, a part of a process in which the Prime Minister has engaged with religious groups in dialogues to discuss issues and matters of concern to the public,” said Tan.
He said the guidelines were, however, dependent on the security situation in Israel, which was currently in a long, drawn-out conflict with Palestine.
“As far as we understand, the Government will not allow us to visit if there is a security situation in Israel, which is fair,” said Tan.
Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak‘s political secretary Wong Nai Chee confirmed that the guidelines in the letter, which was addressed to CFM president Bishop Ng Moon Hing, were effective from Oct 30 this year.
Israel is considered a place with many holy sites including Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, and Jerusalem for the 2.7 million Christians in the country, who make up 9.2% of the population.
It is understood that a 10-day visit to Israel could cost between RM8,000 and RM12,000.
Malaysia lifts curbs on Christian travel to Israel, 19 December 2012
Malaysia has removed quotas and other restrictions on Christians from the Muslim-majority nation making their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, government and church officials said.
The move comes after a string of clashes in recent years between the government and the Christian minority and ahead of national polls which must be held by the middle of next year.
Malaysia bars travel to Israel but the government has previously allowed Christians to travel to the historic city regarded as holy to both Christians and Muslims.
However, according to the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), the government imposed a quota of 700 pilgrims per year, with any one church only allowed to send one group of 40.
Visits were also limited to 10 days and pilgrims were only allowed one visit every three years, CFM executive secretary Tan Kong Beng told AFP today.
But a letter sent from Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’soffice to CFM president Ng Moon Hing on Nov 28 said these limits no longer applied save that visits could be for a maximum of 21 days.
“But I think even Israel might not allow (such a long visit). We wouldn’t call these concessions as it was a process of consultation,” said Tan, who confirmed receipt of the letter.
However, Ng was guarded about the move, noting that in the past, “one minister can say something but things turn out differently”.
“The letter should be issued from the Home Ministry,” he added.
Najib’s political secretary, Wong Nai Chee, confirmed that he signed off on the letter but did not give a reason for the move as “it is a cabinet decision and I am just relaying it to CFM.
“Taking into account the needs of Christian Malaysians, the Home Ministry has amended the religious pilgrimage rules to Israel,” he wrote in the letter seen by AFP.
Malaysia has largely avoided overt religious conflict in recent decades but tensions have simmered since a court ruling in late 2009 lifted a government ban on the use of ‘Allah’ as a translation for ‘God’ in Malay-language Bibles.
The ban had been in place for years but enforcement only began in 2008.
The 2009 ruling triggered a series of attacks on Christian places of worship using Molotov cocktails, rocks and paint.
Muslims make up 60 percent of the country’s 28 million people, while Christians account for about nine percent, most of whom come from indigenous groups in the Borneo island states of Sabah and Sarawak.
Covert (correction: Brazen) Islamization Using MyKad (National ID Card)
Another case of brazen violation of the religious rights of non-Muslims by officials from the Malaysian Islamic Departments and the civil service (in this case the NRD). Perhaps the authorities will respond to the complaint from Christian leaders; perhaps they will follow through with some token corrections and ignore many other cases not highlighted. Still, such violation should never have happened in the first place.
Be assured, the government officials will continue with their brazen misdemeanors because their mischief is often unnoticed, and they know they will not be penalized by their superiors in cases where their misdemeanors are exposed. Hmm…perhaps these are not random misdeeds of overzealous small time operatives, that it, these officials are actually following directives from their superiors (who often feign surprise and ignorance when complaints are brought to their attention)…Saya yang menurut perintah
Related Post: State-Sponsored Covert Conversions Unbeknownst to Bumiputra Christian Victims
Additional Report by Malaysiakini added on 17 Dec 2012 given below.
MCCBCHST: NRD Must Recognise That Historically “Bin” And “Binti” Used By Both Christians And Muslims In Sabah And Sarawak
Majlis Perundingan Malaysia Agama Buddha, Kristian, Hindu, Sikh dan Tao Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism
18 November 2012
MCCBCHST Press Statement: NRD Must Recognise That Historically “Bin” And “Binti” Used By Both Christians And Muslims In Sabah And Sarawak
The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) notes with alarm the National Registration Department’s (NRD) actions in Sabah where they have unilaterally and arbitrarily listed practising Christians as Muslims in their identity cards simply because they have ‘bin’ or ‘binti’ in their names.
The NRD’s further decision that it would continue to list such Bumiputra Christians as Muslims until they have obtained an order from a Syariah court to say that they are not Muslims is a violation of the affected persons constitutional rights and Fundamental liberties as enshrined in Article 11 and 12of the Federal Constitution.
The NRD should note the Historical position that in Sabah ‘bin’ and ‘binti’ does not necessarily mean they are Muslims. More so as the test case filed by Intim bt Lambaran and her 2 daughters show that they had been baptized as Christians and were never at any time Muslims. These facts have been sufficient for those like Intim binti Lambatan to be listed as Christians in their MYKAD by the NRD.
In the present case Intim binti Lambatan should have filed a Writ action in the Civil High Court to compel NRD to list them as Christians in their MYKAD and not the Shayriah Court, as the SYARIAH COURT HAS NO JURISDICTION OVER NON-MUSLIMS.
In the latest case of SITI HASNAH VANGARAMA ABDULLAH v TUN DR MAHATHIR MOHAMMAD (as the President of Perkim) & ORS (Current Law Journal dated 30/7/2012 – Express Reporting Services) facts showed that Vangarama’s Hindu parents had converted to Islam in 1983 and purportedly converted her to the Islamic faith. The Islamic Religious Department, Pahan through an Affidavit stated that Vangarama’s parents had converted to Islam in 1983 and also converted their 5 children to Islam including Vangarama who was only an infant aged 1 year 3 months at the time. Vangarama contested her conversion and despite PERKIM and Majlis Agama Islam Negeri Pulau Pinang saying that Vangarama was properly converted and that her case must be tried by the Syariah Court. The Court of Appeal refused to accept this argument and ruled that there being contest of facts, the matter must be decided by the Civil High Court. The Court of Appeal further added that there were also important constitutional issues to be decided, which came under the Civil High Court jurisdiction only and not the Syariah Court.
The NRD is thus acting unconstitutionally and in an arbitrary manner. Intim binti Lambatan and her daughters are advised to file a writ Action immediately against the NRD Department as advised in the Vangarama’s case quoted above.
The People of Sabah should demand accountability from their government and elected leaders for this sad state of affairs. They are the ones who have allowed this to happen and remained passive.
MCCBCHST therefore urges that the Home Minister direct the National Registration Department to rectify and reflect the true religion of the aggrieved party upon notification without reference to any third party.
Daozhang Tan Hoe Chieow, AMS President, MCCBCHST
Sardar Jagir Singh Deputy President, MCCBCHST
Venerable Sing Kan Vice President, MCCBCHST
Reverend Dr. Thomas Philips Vice President, MCCBCHST
Mr. RS. Mohan Shan, JMW, AMK, BKM, PJK Vice President, MCCBCHST
Mr. Prematilaka KD. Serisena Hon. Secretary General, MCCBCHST
From FreeMalaysiaToday LINK
Sabah MyKad error: ‘Ensure NRD staff know directive’ Dec 13, 2012
The Sabah NRD has changed its tune and is now suddenly claiming that it can ‘rectify immediately’ errors in the MyKad.
KOTA KINABALU: It’s common knowledge that between the “directives” announced by Prime Minister Najb Tun Razak and “delivery”, there is period of “nothingness” when civil servants claim they are not informed or are waiting for the “order” to implement the decision.
With this in mind, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) secretary-general Teo Chee Kang has urged the authorities to immediately ensure that a “proper guideline” be put in place to deal with the issues in the National Registration Department (NRD).
“I am glad that the federal Cabinet has cleared the air on this issue. But I propose proper guidelines be formulated in the NRD so that the officers can be guided accordingly,” he said.
Teo was commenting on reports that the Cabinet had given the NRD the go-ahead to rectify mistakes in the religious status of non-Muslim Bumiputeras in their MyKads.
Non-Muslim Bumiputeras whose names bear the word “binti” and “bin” have had their religious status tagged as “Islam” in their MyKads by the NRD.
The NRD has always maintained that it would continue to list Bumiputera Christians in Sabah as Muslims as long as they are known by “bin” or “binti”.
The department has also refused to entertain any requests to amend this status, saying that it would only act upon receiving an order from the Syariah High Court clearing the applicants’ status as to whether these Bumiputeras were indeed Christians and not Muslims.
Yesterday, reports quoting federal Minister Bernard Dompok noted that Najib had agreed to allow NRD to rectify the error without having to wait for the Syariah Court certification.
Said Teo: “I believe it is fundamentally wrong for NRD officers to require an order from the Syariah Court to amend a person’s religion which was mistakenly registered as ‘Islam’.
“I welcome the decision of the Cabinet, as disclosed by Dompok [United Pasok Momogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation president] that such rectification will not involve the Syariah Courts and that it could be done at the NRD.”
Meanwhile, Sabah NRD director Ismail Ahmad has denied that there is “difficulty” in rectifying errors in the MyKad.
He claimed the mistaken tagging of the religious status of non-Muslim Bumiputeras were “technical glitches” that occurred when NRD first started computerising its system.
“Sometimes we make mistakes but this is actually something that can be rectified immediately. All you have to do is point out the mistake and we will rectify it for you,” he said.
In Sarawak, meanwhile, four cases of “stateless” children have led Assistant Minister of Communications Lee Kim Shim to believe that it is only the tip of the iceberg.
“I believe and suspect there are many, not only children but also adults, who are still without identify cards and birth certificates, particularly those living in the squatters in the city and in the rural interior,” he said.
He urged the NRD to send out its mobile units to squatter areas, villages and longhouses to register those without the identification documents.
He also urged the NRD to speed up the process of registering the “stateless” children so as not to deprive them of education and healthcare.
He said he would also write to the Home Ministry to request for a taskforce to be sent to Sarawak to look into the matter,
“Stateless” children are a big problem in Sabah and in Sarawak.
While the numbers in Sarawak are sketchy, aid workers and NGOs in Sabah estimate there are about 50,000 stateless Indonesian children and thousands more of Filipino descent.
Most of these children were born in Sabah but do not possess birth certificates or any form of documentation to prove their nationality.
A Press Statement from The NECF Commission on Sabah Affairs (COSA)
KOTA KINABALU (Saturday) The NECF Commission on Sabah Affairs (COSA) welcome the Cabinet’s decision to resolve with urgency the long standing dilemma of Bumiputra Christians in Sabah wrongly classified as Muslims in their MyKad.
“This is a step in the right direction to avoid further confusion over the status of Bumiputra Christians in Sabah,” said Datuk Jerry Dusing, chairman of the National Evangelical Christian fellowship Commission on Sabah Affairs in a statement today.
The statement also said the assurance by the State National Registration Department that the error in recording the religious status in MyKad can be resolved immediately is a positive move.
COSA hopes with this, the injustice and the huge back log of unresolved MyKad cases can be cleared quickly without having to go through the Syariah Court.
COSA will immediately seek the intervention of both the Cabinet and the state NRD to remove the long protracted dispute from the Kudat Syariah High Court where it will have to determine whether three baptised Christians who have been Christians since birth and have never been Muslims are indeed Christians and not Muslims. After a series of postponements, the case is scheduled to be heard five days before Christmas.
The statement said COSA urge the authorities to act with utmost urgency to amend the error in the entry in their MyKad as Christians and not Muslims so that the Syariah Court is not forced to make any judgment or order which may further complicate the problem.
COSA said the controversy came to light when a test case was mounted by a 53 year-old widow of Banggi ethnicity, Intim binti Lambatan, and her two adult daughters, Norina binti Nuhudan,28, and Listin Nuhudan, 22, after they were classified as Muslims in their MyKad when all three are baptised Christians belonging to the Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) denomination.
The statement said the Jabatan Hal Ehwal Agama Islam Negeri Sabah – JHEAINS – or the Sabah Islamic Affairs Department, had clarified their names are not on the department’s register, thus indicating they are not Muslim converts.
But the NRD would not rectify its error and asked Intim to go the Kudat Syariah High Court for a declaration that she is not a Muslim. After several delays, the case came up for hearing on 29 Oct 2012 but both JHEAINS and the NRD did not turn up, forcing another postponement.
COSA cited press reports that the United Pasok Momogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko) president Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said the matter has been resolved at the Federal Cabinet level. He said Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has given the NRD the go-ahead (to rectify the errors) instead of having to go through the Syariah Court.
Dompok, who is also the Plantation industries and Commodities Minister, said the Cabinet had also decided to appoint him as the “focal point” in Sabah while Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Unggah Embas was directed to monitor Sarawak. Dompok said that he will render the necessary assistance.
Meanwhile, COSA added that the Sabah state director of NRD Ismail bin Ahmad said the errors were caused by “technical glitches.” He assured those facing such problems that all they need to do is to go to his office and point out the error and it would be rectified.
・See report in The STAR
Added on 17 Dec 2012
Gov’t told to start correcting Sabah MyKad gaffes
Malaysiakini 15 Dec 2012
The bumiputera Christian community in Sabah, set to celebrate Christmas in 10 days time has welcomed the cabinet decision to resolve their long-standing MyKads dilemma recording some as Muslims, and wants swift action.
National Evangelical Christian Fellowship Commission of Sabah Affairs (NECF-COSA) said they will seek immediate cabinet and state NRD intervention to remove the long protracted dispute from the Kudat Syariah High Court which is to determine whether three baptised Christian , adhering to their faith since birth, are not Muslims.
“We urge the authorities to act with the utmost urgency to amend the error in the entry in their MyKads as Christians and not Muslims so that the Syariah Court is not forced to arrive at any judgment or order which may further complicate the problem.”
NECF-COSA in a statement said the cabinet move was a step in the right direction.
“NECF – Cosa welcomes the cabinet decision to resolve with urgency the long-standing dilemma faced by bumiputera Christians with regards to their MyKad.
“This is a step in the right direction to avoid further confusion over the status of bumiputra Christians in Sabah,” said Jerry Dusing, chairman (right) of the NECF, today.
“The assurance by the state National Registration Department (NRD) that the error in recording the religious status in MyKad can be resolved immediately is a positive move.
We hope this injustice and the huge back log of unresolved MyKad cases can be cleared quickly without going through the Syariah Court.”
Last month, it was reported that NRD practice of randomly including “bin” or “binti” in Sabah Christians names which identifies them as Muslims had come under strong attack.
United Pasok Momogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation president, Bernard Dompok, who is also the Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister, had said the cabinet and Prime Minister Najib Razak, had given the NRD the green light to rectify the errors without going to the Syariah Court.
The cabinet had also appointed Bernard as the “focal point” in Sabah while Natural Resources and Environment Minister Douglas Unggah Embas had been tasked to monitor Sarawak.
Christians classified as Muslims
The controversy, came to light when a 53-year-old Banggi ethnic widow, Intim binti Lambatan, and her two daughters, Norina binti Nuhudan, 28, and Listin Nuhudan, 22, were classified as Muslims in their MyKad when all three had been baptised Christians of Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB).
Even the Sabah Islamic Affairs Department had clarified that their names are not on the department’s register, thus indicating they are not Muslim converts.
However, the problem remains as the NRD would not rectify the error and asked Intim and her daughters to get a declaration that they are not Muslims from the Kudat Syariah High Court.
The case, NEFC-COSA said surfaced last October but was postponed due to the absence of other concerned parties.
NECF-COSA added that the Sabah NRD director Ismail Ahmad blamed the errors on “technical glitches” and requested those facing such problems to call on the office for rectification
« A Fine-Tuned and Designer Universe
The End of the World: Getting it Right (Part 2) »
Mayan Apocalypse 21 Dec 2012? Doomsday is Nearer Than You Think (Part 1)
December 14, 2012
How strange can it be? Everybody is excited about the Mayan ‘prophecy’ regarding the end of the world on 21 Dec 2012. Mankind has only 7 days left but nobody seems to be panicking. People are more worried about having only 11 days left for Christmas shopping.
Can it be that the world is really coming to an end? Indeed, Doomsday is nearer than you think!
How do you react when you come across a hippy looking character pacing the sidewalk, proclaiming, “Repent, Doomsday is near” while waving a placard announcing the end of the world? I guess you might keep a safe distance – and barely able to hide your feeling of smug amusement towards the poor misguided social paranoid. You shake your head and say to yourself, “Poor fellow, he is off his rockers.”
A mixed reaction combining wariness and amused condescension is not surprising since we do come across silly people who abandon society and join dubious cults, only to be disillusioned when the prophesied Doomsday fails to come to pass. Worse, we fear we may have another lunatic like Jim Jones or David Koresh to deal with. In contrast, more sober minded people like us should carry on with the serious business of making the most of life. We have more pressing concerns to worry about, like keeping our jobs to enable us to service our mortgages and educational insurances for our children, and improving the quality of our lives.
Still, Christians cannot rule out the possibility that planet Earth may be on an unavoidable collision course with some cataclysmic forces in the future. Certainly, we cannot disregard the book of Revelation with its graphic imageries – of the seven seals, seven trumpets and seven bowls, each of which initiates a global catastrophe. Surely, any one reading of the four horsemen’s final visitations on earth – the white horse with a spirit of false messianic conqueror, the red horse that spreads war, the black horse which presages global famine and finally the ashen horse that bears death will feel a sense of foreboding.
The second book of Peter is not any more reassuring. To be sure, chapter 3 tells us that the world will not be destroyed again by a global flood (a super tsunami?). But frighteningly, we are told that the earth and everything in it will be consumed by fire. What sort of fire it will be I dare not venture to speculate.
Critics may mock at us and counsel us to drop such ludicrous primeval fears and have faith in modern technology to create safe and conducive living environments. After all, humans have survived for millennia without developed technology. Today, with modern technology at our disposal, we should expect the human race to live on indefinitely. Indeed, the very idea that global disasters will come along to wipe out the entire human race is irrational.
But is it really irrational to imagine that the human race may be on the brink of extinction as a result of cataclysms? Skeptics may be surprised to learn that the possibility of human extinction has been seriously discussed in some of the most learned journals of science and philosophy. For instance, Nature magazine has discussed the controversy over the so-called Carter-LeslieDoomsday Argument since 1993.
The Doomsday Argument claims to be able to calculate the future lifetime of the human race based merely on a given estimate of the total number of humans born so far. I now give two very simplified calculations so that readers may be assured that current discussion about Doomsday is not based on hazy thinking or imagination but on serious mathematical reasoning, in particular the application of the Bayesian Theorem of Probability. Readers without the prior mathematical knowledge needed to grasp the concept may skip the mathematical examples.
Let us imagine our fractional position f = n/N along the chronological list of all the humans who will ever be born, where:
• n is our absolute position from the beginning of the list.
• N is the total number of humans.
Now, we can say with 95% confidence that f = n/N is within the interval (0.05,1). In other words we are 95% certain that we are within the last 95% of all the humans ever to be born. Given our absolute position n, this implies an upper bound for N obtained by rearranging
n / N > 0.05
N < 20n.
If we assume that 60 billion humans have been born so far, then we can say with 95% confidence that the total number of humans, N, will be less than 20 X 60 = 1200 billion.
Assuming that the world population stabilizes at 10 billion and that humans have a life expectancyof 80 years, one can calculate how long it will take for the remaining 1140 billion humans to be born. The argument predicts, with 95% confidence, that humanity will disappear within 9120 years.
Example 2 (Given by John Leslie, an analytic philosopher from University of Gelph, Canada, in his famous book The End of the World (Routledge 1996), pp. 200-202.
Imagine my lottery ticket is placed into one of one hundred urns along with 999 names. Suppose there is a 98 % probability that a lottery urn with my name in it contains 1000 names, and a 2 % probability that it contains just 10 names. What if I next find that my name is among the first three names drawn from the urn? Calculations using the Bayesian formula [2% x 3/10]/ [(2% x 3/10) + (98% x 3/1000)] yields a probability of 67%.
Notice the 2% probability that the urn only contains just 10 names has increased to 67%. – a significant shift indeed!
Leslie now asks us to consider two opposing possibilities. Doom Soon – a scenario in which the human race will be extinct by AD 2150, and Doom Late – a scenario in which the human race will survive for a few thousand centuries.
Now suppose that the chance of a human being alive in the short-lasting race is 1/10. Assume a reasonable estimate that Doom Soon has a low 1% probability. Doom Late then has a 99% probability. We proceed with our calculation on taking into account your existence at this time.
Using Bayes’ Probability Rule the revised estimate of the risk of Doom Soon becomes:
[1% x 1/10] / [(1% x 100) + (99% x 1/1000)] which yields a probability of 50%. Notice how the prediction of a 1% Doom Soon has suddenly jumped to a good half-chance!
Obviously, the calculations have been much simplified. Furthermore, one can change the variables. We can increase the limit of humans and allow the possibility that our descendents might attain fantastic technology that will enable them to migrate to more hospitable parts of the galaxy. But other calculations I have read elsewhere acknowledge that the main point of the argument remains intact, that is, the likelihood of an early disappearance of the human race is much greater than normally supposed.
For some people, the Doomsday Argument may prompt suspicion of trickery. Many philosophers have tried to refute the Doomsday argument but most concede that its logic is sound. The reason the argument is rejected is because the consequences are too ‘inconceivable’. People find it incredulous that the eventual destiny of the entire human race can be deduced through a few steps of mathematical reasoning.
However, Leslie offers some concrete examples of possible causes that might be responsible for the extinction of the human race, that should strengthen the Doomsday Argument.
Accidental Nuclear War
Most research agree that the real cause of human extinction in a nuclear war is not the heat or radiation from nuclear explosions but the resulting nuclear winter that will set in. Leslie believes there is a 70% chance the human species will be extinct 500 years from now (p. 146). He seems to think the main risk at present (even if not 500 years from now) is accidental nuclear war: “Probably, however, it has been accidental nuclear war between the United States and Russia which has represented the most immediate danger to humankind since Russia’s development of the H-bomb” (p. 32).
Historical analysis of past pandemics suggests that disease is the most likely cause of human extinction. In the 14th century, a third to two thirds of Europe’s population was killed by the plague. In all, some 25 million people died as a result of the plague.
The outbreak of the Spanish Influenza virus from 1918-1919 killed between 40-50 million people, four times as many as were killed in the First World War. About 700 million people were infected. There was no cure for the flu. Thankfully, the disease disappeared on its own accord after claiming the lives of ‘only’ 40-50 million people. One wonders how many more will die if the dreaded Avian Flu or Ebola virus should become pandemic given the much higher fatality rate of these diseases.
Comets and Asteroids
According to NASA and other studies, the probability that Earth maybe hit by a comet or asteroid is reckoned to be one in two million (Leslie, pp. 84-85 citing The Economist Sept 11, 1993). The most pessimistic estimate suggests a chance of 1 in 200 that an extra large impact from a comet or asteroid, at least 500 million people within the next 50 years.
The last instance of mass extinction which saw the end of dinosaurs occurred 65 million years ago, Scientists speculate that the last historical extinction of homo sapiens (100,000 BC) was caused by an asteroid hitting the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. It exploded with the energy of 100 million megatons of TNT, about ten thousand times the energy locked up in the world’s nuclear arsenals when at their largest (Leslie, p. 82).
Some scientists suggest that about once in every thirty million to one hundred million years the earth is hit by a comet or asteroid large enough to vaporize the oceans, causing global climatic distortion and mass extinction (Leslie, p. 83).
If one is pushed to give a time frame for such a disaster, the most likely year for human extinction is 2126. At this time a comet (named the “Swift-Turtle” – dubbed by some as the Doomsday Rock), will pass dangerously close to the Earth. It is possible that gravitational perturbation may cause the comet to crash into planet Earth, causing the mass extinction of the human race.
Swift-Turtle is dwarfed by an even greater threat that is, the threat of possible supernova explosion. Should a star in Alpha Crucis, four hundred light years away (near in astronomical terms) explode as a supernova, the resulting radiation will be deadly enough to obliterate all life forms found within its path.
Where does the raging and controversial discussion on the Doomsday Argument leave us? The mathematicians and philosophers have promised us that they are refining the arguments and will devise more robust thought-experiments to test their logical validity. Meanwhile our anxieties are heightened with each report of an imminent pandemic like the Avian Flu and we nervously look into the sky to make sure there is no previously unknown asteroid is streaking toward Earth, bringing with it a fiery end for humankind. It certainly seems as if the end time catastrophe described in the Book of Revelation can no longer be brushed aside as a fanciful product of the overactive imagination of paranoid believers.
For Christians however, the ongoing controversial debate as to whether the next catastrophe will destroy a major portion of the human race or entirely wipe it out only distracts us from a more frightening truth – that is, we can be sure that at least one catastrophe of cosmic proportion will visit earth in the near future, whether it causes human extinction or not. As Scripture testifies,
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace (2 Peter 3:9-14).
The conviction that the prophecy of 2 Peter will be fulfilled is strengthened by the current convergence between philosophical arguments and scientific estimates for the imminent (in cosmic terms) destruction of planet Earth and the extinction of the human race. Doomsday is inevitable and it will come sooner than you think.
Thankfully this passage of Scripture gives Christians cause to look beyond the global cataclysm and to affirm not just the hope of survival but the flourishing of redeemed humanity in the new earth.
LINK TO PART 2 – The End of the World: Getting it Right LINK
Additional note added on 15 Dec 2012 – NASA’s brief analysis on why the world will not come to an end in 2012. Read the FAQ article at NASA website/facebook, “Beyond 2012: Why the World Won’t End” LINK
Mayan Apocalypse 21 Dec 2012? Doomsday is Nearer Than You Think (Part 1)
Religious Dialog and Democratic Deliberation »
The End of the World: Getting it Right (Part 2)
December 14, 2012, 12:08 pm
End of the World or the beginning of God’s New World? Biblical prophecy is God-centred. It strengthens faith and assurance by reminding us the God is sovereign in history regardless of increasing chaos in the world. Repent from itchy ears that seek to hear the latest ‘revelation’ from God. Make eschatological hope (concerning end-time matters) a foundation for faithful living and growing conformity to Christ, not an escape from discipleship.
Recent experience of extensive natural disasters and increasing outbreak of deadly diseases has generated a pervasive mood of anxiety. Some readers may be surprised to find such anxiety reflected in religious literature found in ancient Israel. One may refer to the apocalyptic literature in Ancient Israel written during the Inter-Testamental period (from 400BC to New Testament times). A sample passage taken from chapter 11 of the Book of Enoch should help readers get acquainted with the imagery typical of apocalyptic literature.
The Holy Great One will come forth from His dwelling,
4 And the eternal God will tread upon the earth, (even) on Mount Sinai,
[And appear from His camp]
And appear in the strength of His might from the heaven of heavens.
5 And all shall be smitten with fear
And the Watchers shall quake,
And great fear and trembling shall seize them unto the ends of the earth.
6 And the high mountains shall be shaken,
And the high hills shall be made low,
And shall melt like wax before the flame
7 And the earth shall be wholly rent in sunder,
And all that is upon the earth shall perish,
And there shall be a judgment upon all (men).
8 But with the righteous He will make peace.
We can compare this passage from Enoch with a passage from the Book of Revelation:
The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter. The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night (Revelation 8:10-12).
The imagery of the passages above is representative of apocalyptic literature. The average reader is naturally overwhelmed by the strange and fascinating images which are certainly unsettling, if not frightening. Whether we read such passages literally or otherwise, they convey something ominous.
The bizarre imagery also pushes some readers to end up with an extremely fanciful but wrong interpretation of such passages. It is therefore vital that Christians know how to avoid having an overactive imagination that leads to distorted interpretation, especially when they encounter apocalyptic passages embedded in the prophetic literature.
Keeping in mind the historical context in which a prophecy was given will set limits to how prophecy should be interpreted. The moral earnestness of the prophets emphasizes that primacy should be given to forth-telling (declaring the will of God) rather than fore-telling (predicting vague possibilities in the distant future). As the Robert Mounce explains in his commentary on Revelation, “A major role of the apocalypse [Book of Revelation] was to explain why the righteous suffered and why the kingdom of was God delayed. Prophecy had dealt primarily with the nation’s ethical obligations at the time when the prophet wrote. Apocalyptic focused on a period of time yet future when God would intervene to judge the world and establish righteousness.”
However, the lack of a clear context in sections of the prophetic writings that are more evidently apocalyptic means that prophetic literature is vulnerable to distorted reading. To gain a balanced perspective, it will do well for us to recall a basic truism of reading, which is simply that the reader must be sensitive to the intention of the writer, and must respect the genre (type of literature) at hand.
For example, when we read the book of Genesis we do not read it as a scientific treatise. Genesis tells us why God created the world, but science tells us how God created the world. The book of Proverbs is not a collection of sayings designed for fortune cookies; it is God’s instruction on how one should conduct one’s life to reflect the order and justice of nature, which in turn reflects the order and harmony of creation. Finally, we read the book of Revelation to gain assurance that God is in control of a world that threatens to run amok; it is not a horoscope forecasting the future.
Readers are advised to keep in mind the following characteristics of apocalyptic literature:
First, apocalyptic exhorts a righteous remnant to remain faithful and to continue serving God despite immense persecution. In contemporary sociological terms, apocalyptic is akin to an ideological pamphlet for the marginalized and disenfranchised.
Second, there is a decisive rejection and denunciation of evil. It is acknowledged that the people of God are poor and insignificant in society. But at least, they continue to keep themselves from the pollution of sin or the corrupting influence of the world and live a morally higher life. More importantly, apocalyptic proclaims the imminent overthrow of the present unjust and evil social order.
Third, the worldview of apocalyptic is one of dualism. The contrast is between the pure and exclusive community of the faithful remnant, and the evil social order at large. According to D. S. Russell, apocalyptic records and reflects the difficult experiences of the faithful remnant. As such, apocalyptic “cannot be understood apart from the religious, political and economic circumstances of the times, nor can the times themselves be understood apart from these books whose hopes and fears echo and re-echo the faith of God’s chosen people.”
Fourth, apocalyptic sounds the clarion call of imminent divine judgment to unrepentant believers. In contrast, the faithful will experience a salvation that is both universal and transcendent (deliverance to an other-worldly order). Apocalyptic gives meaning to life by relating it to the imminent end of the world, with the promise of a new and total solution to the human problem.
G.B. Caird’s succinct summary on the purpose of apocalyptic is most pertinent:
“…to encourage Jewish resistance … by showing that the national suffering was foreseen and provided for in the cosmic purpose of God and would issue in ultimate vindication … against a background of world history, the present struggle as part of the age-long struggle between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness, and victory over the immediate enemy as the embodiment of the final victory of God.”
Apocalyptic literature may serve as a source of inspiration to resist evil. Unfortunately, it can also be perverted to justify a pessimism that leads to withdrawal from the world. Significantly, apocalyptic has proved, historically, to play a crucial role in the rise of millenarian movements. Apocalyptic denounces the evil in the social order and spawns rebellion by the poor and underclass. Unfortunately, these millenarian movements have proved to be more destructive than constructive.
Sociologists have identified several factors that give rise to such millenarian movements.
• There exists widespread malcontent among the poor.
• This social group holds to a common set of beliefs exemplified by apocalyptic literature.
• A calamity brings extensive suffering and intensifies the discontent, which finds articulation by a charismatic leader who claims spiritual empowerment and has gained unquestioned allegiance.
• Some leaders may suggest that the community wait passively for divine intervention to save the exclusive community.
• More dangerously, the leader manages to persuade his followers to rebel since his spiritual power assures them success in overthrowing an evil and unjust social order.
Sadly, some churches have been vulnerable to manipulation by so-called experts in matters of endtimes who claim to have the special key to unlock the mysteries of the book of Revelation. Their influence in recent times has tended to lead Christians to withdraw from constructive social engagement. The consequences could be worse.
How can Christians avoid been misled by distorted reading of Biblical prophecy? First, we must bear in mind that apocalyptic elements found in the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation are subordinate to the overall purpose of biblical prophecy, which is to reveal the will of God.
Second, we must avoid any purported claims to new revelation that is man-centred, where the focus is on the supposedly extraordinary experiences of the recipient of new revelations. I have in mind new age books like the Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield) or A Course In Miracles (Helen Schucman).
Interestingly, the elements of apocalyptic have gain prominence in contemporary films. We may enjoy the special effects we get in films like The Day After Tomorrow, Armageddon, The Core or the remake of H. G. Well’s War of the Worlds, but the pessimism is undeniable since man is left on his own. The Hollywood twist in celebrating the eventual triumph of man over the threat of his extinction does not hide the fact that humankind is perceived as vulnerable to extinction.
In contrast, biblical prophecy is God-centred. It strengthens faith and assurance by reminding us that God is sovereign in history regardless of the appearance of increasing chaos in the world. In this regard, the book Revelation ultimately offers a positive message of faith and assurance. It portrays not an imaginary ‘Never-Never Land’ but God’s ‘Ever-Ever land’.
Finally, Christians must remember the warnings given in the book of Deuteronomy chapter 18—if a purported prophecy or revelation does not come to pass, or if it leads the community away from true allegiance to God or distracts God’s people from obeying God’s revealed word (as preserved in the Bible), then the community should vehemently reject such teachings.
In conclusion, it is hoped that the following suggestions will serve as an antidote to the trivial pursuits of an apocalyptic age.
• Maintain without compromise, the blessed hope of Christ’s physical return. Any talk about an invisible Christ who has supposedly already returned, is often exploited to cover-up wrong prophecies, and immunizes pseudo-prophets from being taken to task for their mistakes.
• Reject decisively any date setting or countdown to Armageddon. Such actions are not very different from the way ancient pagans resorted to the reading of animal entrails to divine the future.
• Acquire some basic understanding of apocalyptic and prophetic literature through systematic reading. A palate that is nourished by a wholesome diet of sound theology can instinctively identify unhealthy junk food served by false prophets.
• Admonish and correct anyone who exploits the fears and anxieties of people with speculative predictions. Christians should repent from having itchy ears that seek to hear the latest so-called ‘revelation’ from God. Above all, make eschatological hope [concerning end-time matters] a foundation for faithful living and growing conformity to Christ, not an escape from discipleship.