The Church needs to do something fast to resolve the issue of the settlers near the St Francis Xavier Church along Penang Road with fairness and compassion.
The controversy, involving the settler-descendants of church workers and their families, should be of pastoral concern to the church. Resorting to church lawyers instead of persevering with face-to-face discussions and negotiations to deal with the settlers suggests that something is not quite right.
When I wrote about the issue last year I received some flak (directly and through the grape vine) from certain quarters within the church, the thrust of which was that I did not know the real background to the issue from the church’s perspective etc etc (although I had spoken at length with the residents). I was duly briefed on what the church thought of the residents.
As far as the church is concerned, the residents have relatives or children elsewhere who can look after them. See this Youtube clip for the official position:
One thing I realised was that communications between the residents and the church leaders appeared to have broken down. How did a little Catholic community living just next door to a church for decades grow increasingly estranged?
Anyway, I held my silence since then – despite phone calls from the residents’ spokesperson pleading that I do something to assist them. Now, another notice of eviction has been issued. And the other day I got a worried phone call from a long-time human rights activist, a Catholic, in KL telling me that her elderly aunt was among those worried about the future of her home there. I tried to phone the Bishop just now to find out the latest development, but couldn’t get through.
A couple more media reports have also surfaced. If this issue continues to fester, we are going to get more reports like this one ‘Unkind, uncaring, un-Christian’ published by Free Malaysia Today, which may not be entirely accurate. For instance, we were told last year that the land in question had not been sold to a developer or third party – contrary to what the report suggests.
Meanwhile, should we just pretend that this ‘inconvenient’ problem doesn’t exist or hope that it will somehow just go away? I think it’s in the best interest of the church – and the settlers – to reach a fair and just resolution to this issue. For that to happen, face-to-face discussions and a just settlement are necessary.