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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pilgrims in Solidarity...The Yellow Peace Walk...

“They are odious; they have done abominable things, yet they are not at all ashamed, they know not how to blush.  Hence they shall be among those who fall; in their time of punishment they shall go down, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 6:15, NAB)

Earlier this week, I was forwarded with a humble but urgent request from a fellow pilgrim in Malaysia, to share with the rest of the world...the innocent cries of the peace-loving citizens of Malaysia, led by BERSIH, in their quest for clean and fair electoral reforms; against the sins of corruption, fraud and injustice.

BERSIH means “clean” in the Malay language.  BERSIH, formed in July 2005, represents a coalition of Malaysian opposition political parties and NGOs standing in solidarity with the primary aim of pushing for reforms in the electoral process in Malaysia.

As pilgrims of the world, we are all invited to be in solidarity with the cries of the people of Malaysia who will take courage, wear yellow and peacefully walk on July 9th, 2011 in their brave pursuit for electoral reforms, justice and fairness, by:

Clicking (and spreading the fire on blogosphere) on “Facebook Likes” at BERSIH’s Official Page –

“Only when elections are clean and fair, can citizens be real masters of their own destiny and expect holders of public office to act accountably and effectively.”

As July 9, 2011 beacons, we continue to keep these peace-loving Malaysians in our prayers that they be protected by the Lord against tear gas and water cannons...and shield in the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ against all forms of brutality.

May St Michael the Archangel defend them in their peaceful walk for clean and fair elections and most importantly, protect these brave people from the wickedness and snares of the devil.

The Malaysian Government have deemed this peace walk illegal and in the last couple of days, Police have taken actions to arrest people, especially those wearing yellow, and questioning opposition leaders on what they claim amounts to sedition.

In fact, the humble invite from BERSIH for the ruling Government to also join in solidarity for the peaceful walk for free, clean and fair elections has fallen onto deaf ears.

Unless elections become free and fair in Malaysia, democracy will die a slow death...together with freedom, justice, peace and religious freedom.

However, we know that God is ever faithful and merciful...His justice will surely prevail.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A New Dawn Quietly Rising in Asia...


These were the very words of “Martin” Michael Luther King, Jr.; a prominent American Baptist activist, winner of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, assasinated back in April, 1968.  How very true this words still rings today.  It saddens me this morning to read in many headlines, of much political turmoil and unrests in many parts of the world, especially in Asia.  How can pilgrims like us continue on our journey and not pause to ponder on these?

Whilst the rise of people power has toppled many corrupt governments in certain parts of the world, in South East Asia, human rights abuse has not yet become history.  There is no clear sign that human rights are no longer an issue in this part of the world, which is most disheartening.

In Malaysia, alternative media streams reports that political freedom is not yet a reality…corrupt governance, controlled mainstream media, abuse of the justice system, restrictions to freedom of worship, even state elections are not yet free, fair and clean…each new day, human rights are constantly being threatened, violated, peaceful rallies being hindered, calls for democracy falling into deaf ears – the people held to ransom.

The so-called “supremacy” of Islam as the chief state religion in Malaysia has been reported as having resulted in the diminishing of fundamental religious freedom in the country, more evidently, against Christians.  Advocates of freedom, justice and transparency are threatened with arrest using the primitive “Internal Security Act”; restricting the people’s fundamental freedom of expression.

Thomas Merton has this to say about Malaysia, back in December 1968… ”dark-blue land, islands fringed with fine sand, aquamarine sea…lots of cloud.”  However, looking at the circumstances today, it is an absolute mockery for the-corrupt-powers-that-be to shamelessly proclaim to the world at large that…Malaysia is still “Truly Asia”.  How can this be when the voice of the people is being suppressed, insulted, welfare and rights being blatantly robbed?

Similar corrupt dark ages are recorded in Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia; to a lesser severity, competitive Singapore – a city Thomas Merton once referred to as “…an interesting, “worldly” town…”worldly”…in a Chinese sense…along with big Western buildings…clean and well-kept.”  If only neighbors Malaysia can open up their blindness and be enlightened by the learning of a thing or two from the tiny developed island of Singapore.

Asia…stands for a continent filled with multicultural heritage, strong family bonds, rich cultures, home of many of the world religions, ancient philosophies, literature, smiling faces, good mannerisms, delightful cuisines, freedom fighters…all blended and infused into one.  The clash of traditions and the Western world has made Asia’s journey into the future, dark, unknown and challenging for the basic human being.  Jesus would surely weep on seeing this and hearing the many cries of His people…

Despite developments and progress, the people of South Eastern part of Asia, especially ethnic minorities are still constantly being marginalized, victimized and justice compromised in their quest for freedom, democracy and independence – many of these traits, the Western world simply take for granted.

Could this be that the selfish leaders in Asia are bent on promoting the subtle infiltration of their “twisted” Western educated mindset against the more traditional, spiritual and well-mannered Asian environment; all for the sake of satisfying their own appetite and lust for power abuse, corruption and robnery?

Basic human right violations such as these, when not timely addressed, often form the root and core of challenges in the problem of national disintegration – ultimately, threatening the very core of a country’s integrity and unity of its people.

Asia has and will continue to present to the world many advocates of freedom and justice inclusive of the more well-known Mohandas Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi and Mother Teresa, not forgetting the various People power and justice movements in many countries.

It is a bit of a paradox that Thomas Merton, in his final days in South East Asia, shared that his pilgrimage was an effort to deepen his own religious and monastic commitment.  “I come as a pilgrim who is anxious to obtain not just information, not just facts about other monastic traditions, but to drink from ancient sources of monastic vision and experience.  I seek not only to learn more (quantitatively) about religion and monastic life, but to become a better and more enlightened monk (qualitatively) myself.”

Today, we continue to pray for peace, freedom and prosperity in Asia, especially along the South East corridor, that the Almighty Lord will direct their steps.  May the Holy angels and archangels accompany them on their way so that their future will be one filled with peace, safety, freedom, fairness, equality, equanimity and much joy in the toppling of corruption and power abuse.

May God hear the cries from the People with regards to their supplications and sufferings and make their parts straight.  May the good Lord protect the innocent and walk closely with them onward to the way of democracy, justice, peace, truth and salvation – a new dawn for their countries.  May the good Lord be present to them in the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God, one Allah forever and ever.  Amen.

The Simple Fishermen

Today, we celebrate yet another Catholic feast day.  Has it ever occur to you that the Catholic faith can sometimes be perceived as one heck of a complicated mystery?

So many special days in the liturgical calendar, prayers to memorize, liturgical “rules”, creeds, litanies, saints feast days, encyclicals, sacraments and not forgetting the almost 3,000 paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church!

Nevertheless, the Catholic Christian faith is never meant to be perceived as complicated or burdensome.  After all, the very first disciples were mere fishermen!  Speaking of this, I recalled an email forwarded to me sometime back, on the simple life of a fisherman.  Let me just quote it here for the benefit of all…this is how the story goes...

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican fishing village and a city tourist complimented the local poor fishermen on the quality of their fishes and asked how long it took him to catch them each day.

“Not very long.” the fishermen answered in unison.  The tourist replied, “Why didn't you stay out there longer and catch more.”

The fishermen explained that their small catches were sufficient to meet their needs and those of their families for the day.

“But what about tomorrow, the day after, what then do you do with the rest of your precious time today?”

“Well, very simple…we sleep late, fish a little, play with our children and take siestas with our wives.  In the evenings, we go into the village to see our friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs.  We simply live and have a full life.  Most important of all, we thank God for His blessings for us today.  We acknowledge His presence in our lives.”The tourist seem rather confused and immediately interrupted...

“You guys are lost!  You waste so much time idling away.  Lucky for you, I have an MBA from Harvard, an analytical mind and I can surely help you out of this predicament!  First, you should start by fishing a little longer each day to be more productive.  You can then sell the extra fishes you catch at the market.  With the extra revenue, you can then buy an even bigger boat.”

The poor fishermen looked blankly one another and at the tourist...they simply questioned, “And after all these, what then?…”

The Harvard tourist continued, “With the extra money that the larger boat will bring, you can then buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Your lives will be redefined for the better!  Strategically speaking, instead of selling your fishes to a middle man, you should negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own fishery plant.  You can then leave this little village and move on to Mexico City, big cities like Los Angeles or even New York City…for that matter, in fact, anywhere around the world!  You will have the luxury of more freedom, more choices and lots more wealth!  From these bigger cities you can manage and direct your huge new business empire.”The fishermen humbly asked the man, “How much time would all these take?”

“Fifteen, twenty, perhaps twenty-five years…depending on how much effort you are willing to invest for the betterment of your life and that of your families.” replied the tourist.

“And by the way, sir, what then after that?” the simple folks replied.

“What after that?  Well my dear friends, that is when it gets even more interesting…” answered the tourist-consultant, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can even start buying and selling stocks and make millions!”

“Millions?  Really?  And what more after that?" asked these fishermen.

“After that you will be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends.”

Now, these simple fishermen were even more confused and said to the tourist, “With all due respect sir, but is not that what we are exactly doing right now?  So what is the point wasting fifteen, twenty or twenty-five years? Why wait?” asked the Mexicans.

Like this simple fishermen story, the Catholic Christian faith can sometimes be perceived as a waste of time, tedious, strict and mysterious - indeed a “mystery” to a lot of people.  But, it is precisely because it is a “mystery” that simple and mortal pilgrims like us cannot expect to figure these out by mere intellectual means alone; the finite human mind.

The mysteries of our faith can only be grasped through a personal encounter with Jesus, by the grace and mercy of God…as with a sister, a brother or even a friend – the heart.

Today, we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Holy Eucharist…the mystery of the Most Holy Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.   Today also happens to be the anniversary of the institution of the priesthood…a simple Happy Birthday goes out to all Priests!

Pope Benedict XVI in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas, simply wrote that… “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

Within the reflections on the new translation of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite of the Mass, we come to the heart of the Eucharist, the consecration of the bread and wine, where the priest simply say: “This is my body, which will be given up for you” and subsequently “This is the chalice of my blood, the new and everlasting covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. …The mystery of faith.”

There are many, many mysteries in life and of being human…and no matter how much our finite human intelligence (if one ever wants to call it) attempt to reason…these simply remains a mystery, simply to be embraced…similar to the uncontrolled heartbeat, the Source that sustains us each day, our breath that gives life, the conceived child…including many other simple miracles of life!

Within this exclusive Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, Catholics possess the gift of the real presence and personal encounter with the Lord, Jesus Christ…an extremely deep personal encounter…a mystery that only the faithful can grasp; poor or rich, intelligent or not-so-clever…but nevertheless, a concrete reality of our rich faith!

Yes, our Catholic faith is that simple…just as falling in love is generally simple…but only if we have simple hearts to know where we stand before God…only if we choose to open our hearts to Him…only if we want to make this journey home and have this relationship with Him.

Corpus Christi…the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ…veneration of the Blessed Sacrament…the Sacred Host…the real presence of Jesus Christ gifted to the Catholic Church…like the simple and humble fishermen…let us simply believe and follow Him!

“…blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed.” (John 20:29, Douay Rheims)

“…behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matthew 28:20, Douay Rheims)