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Monday, July 18, 2011

Love the Sinner...Hate the Sin...

Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum.
With love for mankind and hatred of sins.”
- St Augustine of Hippo, Opera Omnia, Vol. II, Letter 211

Today, July 18, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI took some time off to meet the controversial Malaysia Prime Minister Najib at the Castel Gandolfo, following the latter’s eventful London meeting with Queen Elizabeth, who just happened to wear an immaculate “yellow” a room at Buckingham Palace which also happened to be decorated with “yellow” flowers (coincidently, the signature color of BERSIH)!  Peaceful protestors in London, parts of the world and especially Malaysia continue to voice their demand for a free and clean electoral system – symbolized by the “yellow” BERSIH T-shirts!

Against the backdrop of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, across cosmopolitan Malaysia, pushing for this “leader” to take ownership and resign following the government’s disgraceful handling of the multi racial 709 BERSIH Rally, desperate efforts are being made by the ruling Malaysian government to establish diplomatic ties with the Vatican (coincidently, the flag is also significantly yellow); possibly, a last ditch effort to win back the almost 3 million Christian votes in the country (almost 30% Catholics), whose population approximates 30 million; comprising mainly peace-loving moderate Muslims.

This is just my simple reflection, to be in solidarity with Catholics and Christians in Malaysia, against the surrounding political events that is becoming more intense and dirty...and of course, this audience with the Holy Father.

For pilgrims in Malaysia, it is often difficult to stand up for one’s faith, especially when so many factors are in disagreement and the rest of the world is watching closely.  Even some “leaders” of the Church are experiencing this difficulty as well, given rising religious tension...perceived to be politically motivated.  Nevertheless, it is always necessary to put God and Faith first and perhaps, to pray, reflect and emulate what Jesus would have done under such circumstances.

Whilst the Malaysian government has publicized this visit to the Vatican as being historic, there was almost no mention of this ‘anti-climax’ trip to Rome during last weekend’s Eucharistic celebrations...not shocking at all, given that the Catholic Church has been present in Malaysia for a very, very long time and absolutely no serious efforts have been taken by this Government to establish any formal ties with the Holy See in the past.

Despite this recent visit having borne good fruit in the agreement to establish formal diplomatic ties between Malaysia with the Vatican, the pilgrims in Malaysia and the world over, are not convinced by the sincerity and integrity of this Malaysian Government.  As such, pilgrims in Malaysia continue to cry out to God for freedom, justice and mercy!  Certainly, our God continues to work in mysterious ways...which are way beyond our finite understanding.  We are called to trust in Him.

St Augustine has constantly reminded us to “love the sinner, hate the sin”.  In this case, it would perhaps be challenging for the pilgrims in Malaysia to make much sense out of this phrase, especially after what transpired on Day 709, whereby the people’s peaceful walk to push for a freer and cleaner electoral system was confronted with massive police high handedness and brutality, controlled media reporting, “yellow” crackdown, city lockdown and the Government’s twisting and turning of events ...even to the extent of media “doctoring” of photographs to seemingly portray “violence” by the peaceful citizens.  This is absolutely childish, shameful and disgraceful!  Why should this government be so afraid of a free and clean electoral process???  Obviously, it does not take brilliant intelligence to figure this one out...

How can pilgrims in Malaysia then “love” such a “leader” while simultaneously hating his long list of sins against the land and its people?  It certainly is a massive dilemma for Christians, when the Church teachings have always been centered along the lines of loving your neighbors...your enemies - love always trumping hate.

We know that Jesus is all about LOVE...yet sometimes, there is a feeling of “hate” within us...seeing and experiencing the reality that surrounds us.  As pilgrims, why do we sometimes so easily succumb to the feeling of wanting to “hate”?  Where did this emotion of “hate” come from?  Well, we know that Jesus certainly did not teach us how to “hate”.

Similarly, the quiet and peaceful Mohandas Gandhi, who reads and appreciates Christian literature, shared with his followers, not so long ago, to “love the sinner and not the sin” with regards to their oppressors; the ultimate objective was to starve off more violence.  Pilgrims simply cannot fight violence with hatred...

Similarly, even in the corporate offices, within our own working environment, when we observe our bosses or superiors behaving in an extremely harsh and oppressive manner, we have the tendency to simply begin “hating”...not recognizing that this emotion will cause us to, similarly, lose our compassion, clarity of thought and stop appreciating the basic human dignity in the other matter who they are.

This day forth, let us make it a point to go beyond ourselves and stop “hating” so easily...stop casting stones too freely.  When such feelings attempt to rise from within us, let us simply remember what our Lord Jesus has taught us in the Gospels and be sensitive to what the Holy Spirit is quietly prompting us...deep within our being.  We are the Light of Christ that shines...penetrates and heals...not burn...

We know that Jesus came to rescue the single lost sheep, to welcome home the prodigal sinner.  Jesus sat, ate, drank, and even mixed with tax collectors, the lepers and prostitutes! Jesus came for the least, the last and the lost!  As pilgrims, we too endeavor to pursue that same mission in our journey.

Nevertheless, despite all that is said, there is still a fundamental prerequisite to hold “leaders” accountable for their actions or missteps in managing or governing the country, in the name of the people...the very people who voted them into office.  Where there is blatant abuse of power and funds, held in trust, for the people...justice must prevail.  In this instance, justice can only be voiced and heard at free and clean elections.

Would it be highly controversial to offer forgiveness to “leaders” whose governments are perceived by their own citizens as practicing and condoning violence, blatant corruption, religious discrimination, injustice, cronyism, nepotism, media control, criminal offences, widespread abuse of power etc?  Let the Almighty God alone be the Judge of that...this, we must believe and simply trust!

No, being a Christian pilgrim is never easy...what more in countries like Malaysia.  Loving your neighbors and enemies is never easy....standing up for justice, speaking up for the truth, finding courage to exercise voting rights, being prayerful, being in solidarity with people of different faiths...trusting that God will hear the cry of His people...trusting that the Church and the Holy Father will be obedient to the will of the Holy Spirit...that’s what Jesus has personally called each one of us to do. Love the sinner, period.

Leave the rest to God.  He will make all things beautiful in His time.  Judge not, that you not be judge.  As pilgrims, this is the paradox...this is the Cross we all have to carry if we are to obediently follow Jesus Christ...the Way, the Truth and the Light.  In dificult times like these, we simply must trust Him even more...


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