This evening, I received an SMS with the intriguing question: “So u think Makal Osai shld b suspended?”
Makai Osai of course refers to the Tamil daily that published an image of Jesus Christ holding a cigarette and a beer can four days ago. It was slapped with a suspension from today to 24 September.
It was interesting to see the Islamic Party, Pas, coming out to express displeasure against the depiction of Jesus in the paper. Archbishop Murphy has found himself an unlikely ally, I thought!
Since then, the paper has apologised and Archbishop Murphy has accepted the apology.
Quite appropriately, the quote next to the picture that was deemed offensive read: “If someone repents for his mistakes, then heaven awaits them.”
End of matter? No, the paper was nonetheless hit with a suspension order.
Apparently, there is more to it than meets the eye – a factional dispute within the MIC could be a factor. Makkal Osai is said to be aligned to former MIC deputy president S Subramaniam while its rival Tamil Nesan is linked to MIC president Samy Vellu.
All this hoo-ha over what seems like a genuine and innocent oversight by the Makkal Osai editor.
Even if the “offence” was intentional, I would like to think that nothing we do can take take away from the glory and honour that rightfully belongs to God. Our insensitive actions merely reflect on us.
Many of us think that we too should rally to the defence of Jesus as if he needs us to save his good name. Lest we forget, when the Roman soldiers came to arrest Jesus and take him away to face the ultimate humiliation and degradation, Peter drew his sword in an attempt to come to Jesus’ rescue. Jesus ordered him to put it away.
The Roman soldiers mocked Jesus, stripped him bare and cruelly whipped him. But try as they might, they were unable to take away his dignity.
On the contrary, it was Jesus’ tormentors who revealed to the world for all time the depth of their barbarity and depravity.
So much fuss about an image of Christ when we don’t even know what Jesus actually looks like for certain. Nowhere is his appearance described in the New Testament apart from a couple of inconclusive hints in the book of Revelation.
If you ask me, I would say Jesus would be far more offended at the way we oppress our fellow sisters and brothers in this world through war, exploitative economic systems, torture, detention without trial, oppressive laws and poverty, much of it entirely avoidable. In fact, I think he would be positively outraged.
When Peter eventually denied (not once but three times) that he knew Jesus during his hour of trial, Jesus looked at him. I don’t think Jesus was expecting him to take on the Roman soldiers and stop his suffering.
Rather, Jesus was probably deeply disappointed that the leader of his apostles had effectively repudiated everything that Jesus had stood for. Peter had refused to publicly identify himself with the cause (though he subsequently apologised and that too was graciously accepted and Peter went on to become the head of the early church.)
And what was a core component of the Cause? Apart from bringing New Life to all, Jesus chose especially to identify himself with the least of our sisters and brothers.
“…you are the God of the lowly, the helper of the oppressed, the supporter of the weak, the protector of the forsaken, the saviour of those without hope” (Judith 9:11).
“..whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
So why aren’t we as outraged when the rights of the weak and marginalised are violated and trampled upon on a daily basis? For it is the wretched of the earth with whom Jesus identified most through his life-giving sacrifice on the Cross.
Lift the suspension of the Makkal Osai!