The latest Catholic Herald weekly has carried a report seeking to downplay the Christmas tea party controversy.
Meanwhile Special Officer to the Prime Minister Hardev Kaur has expressed regret in a Malaysian Insider report here and here. It was not an instruction but just a ‘request’ or suggestion, on her own initiative, for symbols to be removed from the rostrum, she claims. (The Insider has disabled comments to these reports.) Hardev is an officer in the Finance Ministry (which is headed by Najib) and formerly Group Editor of NST.
Here’s the Herald report, written by someone who attended the tea party:
Much Ado About Nothing!
Published on: January 06, 2011 at 11:30 AM
KUALA LUMPUR: No crucifixes were taken down as there were no crucifixes mounted anywhere in the car park area fronting the residence of the Archbishop Murphy Pakiam. It is surprising that those who carried the news report in their various portals did not check the veracity about the statement of the ‘removal of crucifixes’.
There is no proper place to host a large gathering in or around the Archbishop’s residence. So on the eve of Christmas, the car park area was cleared of all cars and Bedouin like tents were put up as a make shift reception hall to celebrate Christmas. It was a simple celebration without much fan-fare.
The invitation cards were sent out to a number of people. Much of the programme as listed on the reverse of the card was carried out without much delay. The arrival of guests was scheduled for 3.00pm. The Chancellor of the Archdiocese, Fr Justus Pereira said the opening prayer, followed by the reading of the Gospel by Fr Julian Leow of College General, Penang. With that spiritual rite the carollers from the Cathedral of St John’s International Community began to sing a number of carols in their native languages.
There is that realism that the Church in Malaysia is also universal and is not just the Catholic population of Malaysia alone. The carollers were from Nigeria, Myanmar and Vietnam. To say that there wasn’t any singing of carols is to ignore their singing and their presence as well. So to say that the Archbishop complied with the requests of Ms Hardev Kaur from the Prime Minister’s Office is to DENY TRUTH.
At least one portal stated that “among the directives given from the Prime Minister’s Office” were:
To remove any overt Christian symbol, such as crucifixes, from the party premises.
Take a look at this: The Archbishop was seen wearing his pectoral cross and there were other Bishops who were also wearing their pectoral crosses. More crucifixes were put up than removed!
That carollers not belt out hymns. The carollers did sing a carol. It was Joy to the World.
Not to quote from Scriptures or say any Christian prayer during the visit.
We repeat, the Scripture was read by Fr Julian Leow and prayer was led by Fr Justus Pereira. We must always witness to the truth, for Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Each year under the auspices of the Christian Federation Malaysia, an open house Christmas celebration is held.
The 2009 Christmas celebration was held at the Mar Thoma Church but the Prime Minister was not able to attend it, but for the 2010 Christmas celebration at the Archbishop’s residence, the Prime Minister was there till it was time for him to leave for KLIA.
For me, the moral of the story is simple. We need not waste time accommodating worldly politicians during what is supposed to be a spiritual occasion to celebrate the Incarnation, the entry of a great Light to dispel the oppressive, murderous, unjust and corrupt forces of Darkness that grip the world. If anything, we need to be speaking some hard truths to (worldly) power about justice, accountability and respect for basic rights.
If political leaders want to attend the celebration, that’s fine and they would be welcome – but as guests who are welcome to come and leave as they please like everyone else, for everyone is equal in the sight of God. Thus, ‘requests’, ‘suggestions’ or ‘instructions’ from political leaders or their aides to the hosts are surely out of place.