People are still talking about the PM’s aide asking the church to remove religious symbols at the Christmas tea party to which the PM and opposition leaders were invited.
In today’s Malaysian Insider, Utusan’s Ridhuan Tee has chipped in with his idiotic two cents’ worth. (I don’t know why people pay attention to what he says. If he is worried about the widespread visibility of Christmas decorations in shopping malls and other retail outlets, then it might comfort him to know that many Christians are just as concerned about the widespread secular commercialisation of this occasion. What would Jesus make of all this?) Meanwhile, a priest phoned me just now to find out what exactly had happened. One Christian emailed, was critical not only of the PM’s aide but of the Church itself: the big question, he wanted to know, was did the Archbishop agree to the aide’s demands/instructions/advice? What concessions, if any, were actually made?
The Christmas party is an annual event organised by the Christian Federation of Malaysia, an ecumenical umbrella body representing the main Protestant, Oriental Orthodox, Evangelical and Catholic churches in the country. This year, it was the turn of the Catholic Church to play host and so it was held at the residence of Catholic Archbishop Murphy Pakiam – or more precisely at the car park of the premises – where the issue of religious symbols didn’t arise in the first place.
A source familiar with the planning told me organisers had planned a two-hour programme from 3.30pm to 5.30pm. This was made known to the PM’s Department.
One of the PM’s aides, an ‘overzealous’ female non-Muslim, contacted the organisers with the now familiar ‘instructions’ about religious symbols. The organisers were also told that the PM could only make it for one hour during which official speeches would take place.
Church leaders, I gather, were not amused.
Because of the now limited time for formalities, the grace before meals, carols and scripture readings in the programme were done before the PM arrived at 4.00pm. Rosmah showed up towards the end, at about 4.45pm, for a few minutes. During the PM’s visit, an African group performed before a crowd on the tarmac further away, with drums and songs. Guests were seated further away, not really paying attention.
Of course, we have grown accustomed to hearing about the BN folks’ usual nonsense (this time, those ‘instructions’). No real surprise there. But I think the CFM needs to come up with a clarification to clear the air surrounding the controversy and the ‘concessions’, if any, that may have been made.
Perhaps for future events, the churches might want to train their spotlight more on the real reason for the celebration – the incarnation of Divine Justice in our world – and pay less attention to worldly dignitaries or political leaders, some of whom may be out to score points with the electorate through their attendance at such events.