Feeling the need to be spiritual, I walked into a Catholic church this morning. It’s a sweet surprise to listen to the sermon of the priest who also happened to be a holiday-maker.
He led the congregation praying to the loving Allah for, amongst others, that the government-controlled and owned media will give fair coverage to the opposition parties especially when elections approach; that the Prime Minister who has broken quite a few promises will at least keep one, that to set up the IPCMC; that the immoral ISA be abolished.
The Catholic priest saw no room for a personality split and hypocrisy. You cannot teach your children not to bribe and at the same time show them how to settle a traffic offence with the policeman. You cannot teach your children not to steal and at the same time finding ways to evade tax.
It reminded me the messages about social justice at home, peace in Middle East and poverty in Africa that I received on Sunday mornings from an Anglican Church in an English parish. I first learned there about the killings in Darfur, where the victims were no Christians.
Sadly, religious leaders like the Father I met this morning are rare to find in Malaysia.
Some are passionate about politics but unfortunately also too keen to control the state or court the state to control others.
On the other end, many others too often shy away from their public responsibility. They teach their followers to be good believers, good parents, good spouses, good children, good in-laws, good friends, good neighbours and good colleagues but not good citizens.
They condemn crimes committed by individuals but keep quiet about sins committed by governments.
They believe that religions should avoid politics.
I cannot help admiring this priest who ties a yellow ribbon on his car and wear yellow every Saturday. His sermon this morning was such a lovely new year present.
And as a free thinker, I cannot help admiring the Catholic Church which played an instrumental role in regime changes from Portugal to the Philippines and from Latin Amercia to Eastern Europe since 1973.
Like how I admire the Buddhist temples in Burma that reject offerings from the generals and soldiers, and closer at home, groups like Jemaah Islah Malaysia (JIM) and Sisters in Islam (SIS) that have stood against ISA and other oppressions.