Posted by: shermankuek | January 28, 2008

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We have moved to www.RoHMalaysia.net.

 

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Posted by: shermankuek | September 2, 2007

Living Our Faith in Asia’s Social Context

Sherman YL Kuek, OSL

[A brief paper presented on behalf of the Christian Conference of Asia at the fourth seminar of the Asian Movement for Christian Unity held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 11 to 14 June 2007]

I. Suffering – the Most Distinct Social Attribute of Asia

Asia is probably the most difficult area of the world to make generalisations about. It is fraught with a series of diverse realities which the Christian church has to constantly grapple with. 1) Asia experiences economic diversity. The polarity of this economic diversity is incredibly broad, ranging from the poverty of Bangladesh (one of the poorest nations in the world) to the wealth of Japan (one of the economically most affluent nations in the world). The majority of the economies are linked to those of the developed world, particularly the West, in a relationship of dependence. 2) Asia experiences political diversity, for within it we find socialist regimes, monarchies and liberal parliamentary democracies. One important trait of Asian politics (which frequently remains little understood by Western political entities) is that the masses of Asia are generally excluded from the decision-making process of society. 3) Asia experiences cultural and religious diversity. Religion is indelibly entrenched within the life and history of Asia. Asia constitutes the homeland of the great religions of the world – Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Other religions such as Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism and various less prominent religions also find their birth in Asia.

In attempting a more detail delineation of these various diversities within the social context of Asia, one finds a most distinct attribute of Asia’s social context – suffering. Suffering is inescapably innate within each of the Asian social dimensions identified above. 1) Asia experiences economic suffering. More than 85 percent of Asians are said to be suffering from poverty and oppression of some kind. Within the economic arena, the gap between the rich and the poor is ever escalating rather than decreasing. 2) Asia experiences political suffering. Countries such as North Korea, South Korea, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia have all experienced suffering in the form of wars. Japan has constituted both a source of suffering (particular through the World War II) and a recipient of suffering (for example, through the loss of two major cities from being wiped out by atomic weapons during the World War II). 3) Asia experiences religious suffering. Countless Christians in Asia, for example, are suffering for their faith. In China, underground seminaries train their pastors methods of withstanding persecution in the event that they get arrested. In Muslim-dominated countries, evangelism and conversion are deemed punishable by execution. In such countries, non-Muslims (or dhimis, to apply the traditional designation) are accorded nothing more than a mere second-class status.

II. Suffering – the Most Distinct Challenge to Christianity in Asia

The church in Asia may interact with the challenge of suffering at three levels of engagements. The first level involves literary engagement through which the church writes about those various expressions of this reality, providing descriptions, analyses and theological responses towards them. The second level of engagement involves grassroots activism through which the church takes proactive measures to participate in the suffering of the people, and (where possible) attempting to contribute towards the alleviation of such suffering. The third level involves structural activism through which one seeks to effect systemic changes in socio-political structures.

Level One: Literary Engagement. Much writing has been done from within Asia in the last 50 years. A wealth of contextual writings has emerged from East Asia, South Asia, and South East Asia. But this endeavour still leaves much to be explored. For example, much of the contextual theological writings in Myanmar has been preoccupied with a particular social struggle, i.e. the role of women in society, and rightly so. But little has been written on the economic struggle of the people, i.e. poverty, which is by far the most rampant expression of the people’s suffering there.

Beyond that, many of these Asian writings also need to find a deeper sense of resonance from within the Great Tradition. Whilst it is right that most of these writings are spurred by their socio-political contexts, there is a wealth of articulations from the Great Tradition (referring to the synergistic contributions of Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism) which contains wisdom for these socio-political realities. An example of this is the rhetorics of John Chrysostom, the fourth century Bishop of Constantinople, in regard to the alleviation of poverty.

Furthermore, at this point of time, most of the Asian writings find their circulations within academic theological circles and have yet to infiltrate the level of grassroots Christians. The possible problem may be that of the language employed in these writings, which does not reflect the linguistic expression of the populace. It is perhaps important that the thinkers within the Asian church express their observations and theological responses in the language of the people (popular language).

There is also a sense in which we need to re-examine much of the theology we have received from our colonial missionaries. Whilst we appreciate the beauty of the gospel we have received from them, Christianity has come to Asia together with a seemingly inseparable Western cultural and theological expression. There is something of Protestant evangelical eschatology, for example, which contributes to our Asian Christian indifference towards socio-political realities. The dualism in which our faith is entrenched has likely given rise to this phenomenon of indifference towards social affairs in the present scheme of things. This calls for a re-examination, and if necessary, a revision of our eschatology in a way that is truer to the tradition of the church catholic.

Level Two: Grassroots Activism. Grassroots activism is an arena of social action which has yet to find the wide support of the Asian church authorities. Many organisations participating in the suffering of the people in Asia are either non-religious NGOs or Western mission agencies. There is little, if any, orchestrated grassroots activism at the ecclesiastical levels.

Perhaps the Asian church’s most apparent concerted effort was rendered observable in her response towards the catastrophe of the Asian Tsunami which occurred on 26 December 2004, one of the deadliest disasters in modern history. The earthquake and resulting tsunami affected many countries in Southeast Asia and beyond, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, the Maldives, Somalia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Seychelles and others, causing some 300,000 deaths. This event witnessed an orchestration of joint efforts and various local churches coming together to contribute to the restoration of demolished cities like Banda Aceh. Donations were sent through various organisations and voluntary relief workers from the local churches were also sent in batches.

However, the kind of help described above is sporadic in nature; hardly anyone from within the Asian church is now heard expressing concern for the forgotten effects of the tsunami. At the heart of the matter is a need for locally inspired and orchestrated efforts within the Asian church to participate in a redemptive work among the peoples of Asia in various concrete ways. These efforts should not merely be sporadic and ad hoc, but rather, sustained over a long-period of time. And more than that, sustained efforts should be orchestrated at an ecumenical level, for it is within such an ethos that power in unity can truly project the heart of the Christian gospel in concretely visible ways.

Level Three: Structural Activism. The Protestant tradition in Asia has perhaps not been entirely well-known for attempting to influence changes in political structures. Rather, much of such attempts has been attributed more to Roman Catholic endeavours, although this awareness is now becoming increasingly apparent in Protestant circles as well. Structural activism is commonly associated with the Liberation Theology movement, which refers to a family of theologies that treat the plight of the socially oppressed as a point of departure for their theology and praxis. Liberation theologies within Asia are sometimes held suspect by political entities because of the perceived employment of Marxist rhetorics in their constructions.

In highlighting some examples on how structural activism in the form of liberation theologies has affected the life of the Asian church, allow me to cite some examples from Singapore. In the 1970s, Christian students at the local universities in Singapore activated, among themselves, action for the cause of social justice despite their awareness of the impending dangers of doing so. They sought to support the cause of the working class in their struggle against poverty, injustice in income distribution, and political oppression. The state was being criticised as utilitarian and meritocratic such that materialism and selfishness had become ingrained in the psyche of the people, whilst the interests of the underprivileged continued to be ignored. English language classes were conducted for Chinese-educated industrial workers and used as a platform for arousing their awareness towards the need for social justice. By this point, suppression by the authorities had infiltrated the student movement efforts. Spies were sent into student groups, leaders were questioned by the internal security branch, and foreign workers who were deemed threats to social stability were deported. In 1976, a Parliamentary directive was issued for the student union of the University of Singapore to be directly accountable to the education minister.

On 21 May 1987, sixteen young professionals in Singapore were detained for allegedly having been involved in a Marxist conspiracy; a second arrest brought the figure to twenty two persons. The alleged leader was a prominent participant in several Catholic Church groups including the Justice and Peace Commission, Vincent Cheng. This event was deemed to be connected to the prior student movement in that the government claimed that Tan Wah Piow, the student leader from the 1970s and who was now based in London, was the mastermind of the conspiracy. The activists were said to have infiltrated the community with Marxist ideas through bible study classes, religious group meetings, and religious publications (much of which, in the opinion of the government, had little to do with religion). An aggregate of twenty two Singaporeans were eventually arrested consisting of human rights lawyers, church activists, and theatre producers. In August 1987, in allusion to this event during the National Day message, Lee Kuan Yew heightened the public’s awareness of the necessity of avoiding the intertwining of religion and politics. The role of religious communities in Singapore, he added, was confined to the practice of charity and community services. Religious clergy were warned to “take of [their] clerical robes before [they took] on anything economic or political”.

In December 1987, the Christian Conference of Asia (at that time based in Singapore) was expelled from Singapore upon having been charged with several accusations, one of which was the insertion of articles on liberation theology in their monthly publication. Later on, Lee Kuan Yew specifically emphasised that the ideas of liberation theology should not be allowed to translate into action in Singapore.

These examples are cited to highlight the reality of structural activism – it entails a high price, a cost to be borne by the Christian community within a nation. It is perhaps this reality that intimidates the Christian community, thereby causing the church in Asia to pander to a state of political passivism. At the most critical moments, official statements are issued by the church and circulated with little or no impact upon the structural realities of the societal government. This has been most apparent in Malaysia in the recent case of Azlina Jailani, a Muslim girl who became Christian at the age of 26 and subsequently changed her name to Lina Joy. In 1999, she managed to change her name in her identity card, but her religion remained stated as Islam. In a majority verdict delivered on 30 May 2007, the Federal Court rejected her appeal for the religious status to be changed. The various ecclesiastical authorities of the church in Malaysia have issued statements in response to this verdict which is deemed to have violated the right of religious freedom of the Malaysian people. But that is as far as the church can go, for to further engage in structural activism would entail a cost perhaps beyond that which we are ready to face.

III. Concluding Remarks – The Suffering Church

The church in Asia does not – and cannot – exist in an illusive Christendom which has never constituted a part of her historical reality, functioning as if she were the centre of reference for the regulation of the Asian society. She exists amidst a plethora of social realities, much of which brings deep suffering to the Asian people. And to these realities, she must respond.

This response needs to be well thought through, well executed, and expressed in a spirit of unity with the church catholic in Asia. This must be how we pray with the rest of the saints – in ages past, in the present, and in time to come – “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Then truly will the gospel be a gospel for the Asian people and the Christ of the church be truly understood as the liberator of the suffering people of Asia.

Could it be that we in Asia are called to be the suffering church?

Posted by: Sivin Kit | September 1, 2007

THE FOURTH SEMINAR OF THE ASIAN MOVEMENT FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY

THE FOURTH SEMINAR OF THE ASIAN MOVEMENT FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
(AMCU IV)
11 to 14 JUNE 2007
KUALA LUMPUR

A Joint Statement

The Fourth seminar of the Asian Movement for Christian Unity (AMCU IV) was held on 11 to 14 June 2007 at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 24 participants, representing the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), and the Evangelical Fellowship of Asia (EFA), took part. Earlier AMCU seminars (Hong Kong, 1995; Bali, 1997; Chiang Mai, 2001) were jointly sponsored and organized by CCA and FABC. The participation by representatives of EFA in AMCU IV was the result of discussions carried out at the Asian chapter of the Global Christian Forum in Bangkok on 21-23 September 2006.
The theme of AMCU IV was “Our Common Witness in Contemporary Asia” and focused on the importance of Christians of all Churches and Christian communities to be united in responding to the social, political, and religious realities of Asia today. The participants shared their personal faith journeys and then examined the possibilities of joint Christian witness of faith in the context of the social challenges of injustice and discrimination and in the milieu of Asia’s religious and cultural plurality.

The participants agreed that Christian commitment must lead the Christian Churches in Asia to take a prophetic stand against any form of discrimination, such as that of caste, class, race, and gender, as being incompatible with the teaching of the Gospel. God’s message to humankind, as enunciated by the prophets and expressed in God’s word in Jesus Christ, affirms the equal human dignity of all people and condemns as sinful those human attitudes and deeds that oppress and discriminate among persons.

The common witness that Christians are called to make against patterns of oppression includes self-examination and self-criticism to become more aware of the ways in which sinful structures have also become engrained in the life of Christian communities in Asia. To be credible, Christians must oppose injustice and exploitation, not only when the victims are themselves Christian, but also in those instances where those who suffer discrimination are the followers of other religions or of no religion, and in cases where the perpetrators of injustice are fellow Christians. Christian witness, based on the Gospel imperative of loving service to others, must focus on the needs of the most vulnerable such as victims of natural calamities, oppressive regimes, and all forms of degradation of human life and should confront problems like global warming and other environmental concerns.

Faced with the multiplicity of religions in contemporary Asia, the participants of AMCU IV sought to define some elements of common Christian witness. Faith in Jesus Christ must be proclaimed in full respect for the beliefs and practices of others. Witness to Christian faith should never be carried out by putting down or denigrating the faith of others. Genuine Christian witness understands faith in Christ to be liberation from patterns of human sinfulness and which arises from a free and joyful response to God’s grace.

In the light of the various challenges facing the churches, the participants call upon the component bodies (CCA, FABC, and EFA) to address together the following concerns. One challenge is that of forming Christian youth in a commitment to build Christian unity. A second challenge is that of making our parish communities and pastors to be focal points for deeper involvement in the search for full visible Christian unity.

The three bodies can concretely promote Christian unity by getting to know one another better through mutual discussions and invitations to assemblies and plenary sessions, by engaging in joint projects such as the Asia Conference of Theological Students (ACTS) and the Congress of Asian Theologians (CATS), and by undertaking joint actions such as summer camps for Christian unity for young people. Mutual cooperation and activities at national and local levels are also to be strongly encouraged.

The participants expect to hold the next seminar for the Asian Movement for Christian Unity (AMCU V) in the middle of 2009.

Christian Conference of Asia
Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences
Evangelical Fellowship of Asia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

14 June 2007

Posted by: Sivin Kit | August 31, 2007

A MANIFESTO FOR A REVOLUTION OF HOPE (R.O.H)

 

RoH Malaysia

“Roh is a Malay word which means “spirit” and yet phonetically sounds like ruach, the Hebrew word for God’s Creative Spirit hovering over the world, and through the Incarnation is now in us, amongst us and through the Resurrection is all in all.”

1. BACKGROUND

We live in a world that is being dominated by neo-liberal globalisation which has at the same time imperialised the rest of the world, including erasing national boundaries and local traditional cultures. Now, a timely moment has arisen (kairos) when the Kin-dom movement summons the emergence of a countercultural movement of believers in religion. This calls for Christian believers, especially intellectuals (in the sense of critical thinkers with professional and academic qualifications) to band together and think more concertedly within our Malaysian context so that we may imagine more globally while we act more locally. This comes in the light of the Asian understanding of knowledge and the local cultural wisdom of our people in Asia-Malaysia, not to mention the untold sufferings inflicted on the marginal communities in our midst (the many poor of the various religions and cultures).

To begin the ripple effect of a countercultural movement, a sizable group of Christian activists-strategists needs to come together on a platform that enables theological reflection (emergent contextual theologies). This is to encourage a critical interface between faith (religion) and society, fostering a rich interaction between theology and the social sciences with the clear goal of analysing pertinent issues affecting our nation/society. And thereafter, these thinkers need to articulate a theological response so that critical thinking Christians are guided (as a church emerging) in their lives. Such a theological response would have a societal impact on public policies, mindsets, worldviews and values of fellow Malaysians in their workplaces and neighbourhood.

Such critical analyses and theological responses must be “translatable” into effective and concrete efforts that command the attention of diverse stakeholders in our nation. “Stakeholders” here refers to the government with its multiple ministries and other agencies in civil society; so that together we move our nation forward in a manner that is Kin-dom-centred. This is aimed towards the greater good of all in Malaysia, especially the marginal communities.[1]

Such interdisciplinary, intercultural and inter-religous efforts can be seen as our cooperation with God in transforming our nation into the “playground” where Malaysia becomes a more harmonious society wherein all in Malaysia begin to live more and more as equal disciples and equal persons before God.

Ultimately, R.O.H’s hallmark is its sensitivity to the voice of the Spirit and its capacity to be the dynamism, the sap, the force within that sustains an emergent Malaysia. Out of R.O.H, there emerges too a host of theologies borne of a Gospel Faith that speaks together with the social sciences so that the Church emerging is seen and heard to be speaking into the joys and sorrows of fellow Malaysians and the wider society.

2. RESPONSE

a. Level-One Response (The Core Team)

The team devoted to this effort we call R.O.H comprises six people. Our primary goal in the configuration of this team is to reflect an adequate representation of both genders, both the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions, and both the social-scientific and theological disciplines in interaction with each other. We have come to participate in this effort propelled by various collective motivations and reasons:

  • Integrating local spiritualities into our understanding;
  • Learning from people working with real socio-political issues to feed into theology;
  • Finding like-minded people to write together and form theologies together (writing theology can be a lonely journey);
  • Tying in faith and life together;
  • Translating words into action on the ground, ensuring people at the grassroots level are defended;
  • Western-driven theology that has caused us to think about the need for an Asian-driven theology, a local contextual theology;
  • Disillusionment with Western-centric theology;
  • Growth into self-identity;
  • Creating a tradition for the future generations.

The R.O.H Team consists of the following personnel:

Tricia Yeoh Su-Wern

BBusComm Econometrics and Marketing (Monash, Malaysia);

MSc in Research Methods in Psychology (Warwick, UK).

Tricia is currently Senior Research Analyst at the Centre for Public Policy Studies, at which she engages in national socio-economic issues through research, analysis and fostering policy dialogue. This covers a wide range of issues, dealing for example, with inter-faith dialogue and economic policies. Her work involves interacting closely with the country’s socio-political environment. She hopes to work constructively toward a matured and united Malaysia, and envisions faith and vocation as one, as we seek common goals and platforms in the long-term nation-building process.

Veronica Anne Retnam

BSc in Resource Economics (UPM, Malaysia);

MEd in Educational Psychology (Cardiff, Wales).

Veronica started off with working with out-of-school youth and was then responsible for the formation of Catholic undergraduates in Malaysia. Then for nearly 18 years she was an economics lecturer at UiTM (previously Institut Technology MARA). Her concerns are about reaching out effectively to poor communities and working with them in empowering partnerships. Her interest is also developmental psychology with a focus on research for policy change. She is currently starting off with training and development for low income communities through her own business enterprise.

Rachel Samuel

BSocSc in Development Studies (USM, Malaysia);

MSocSc in Development Studies (USM, Malaysia);

PhD candidate in Management (USM, Malaysia).

Rachel worked with the Consumers Association of Penang for three years on issues pertaining to the rural sector and health and safety issues. She took up the Bukit Merah people’s case against the radioactive company and worked closely with them throughout the period of their legal struggle. She has also worked among drug dependents (women and HIV carriers) and been involved with the AIDS Hotline, the Community Clinic and the One Stop Crisis Centre. Rachel co-authored Women and Drugs, Domestic Violence in Penang, and Shame, Secrecy and Silence: A Study on Rape. She is currently involved with Women In Action in Melaka, Education and Research Association in Kuala Lumpur, the Melaka-Johor Office of Human Development, and the Counselling Ministry of the Melaka-Johor Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church.

Jojo M. Fung, SJ

MA in Theology (LST, Manila);

MA in Social Anthropology (London, UK);

STL (Berkeley);

Doctorate in Contextual Theology (CTU, Chicago).

The Reverend Father Jojo Fung is an ordained priest in the Society of Jesus, an order of the Roman Catholic Church. He is the Director of the Campus Ministry, the Orang Asli Ministry, and the Ministry of Eumenism and Interreligious Dialogue in the Diocese of Melaka-Johore. He is also the Coordinator of I.N.T.R.Asia and Co-editor of the Arrupe Papers. Father Jojo is a prolific writer on issues pertaining to the gospel as it relates to local contextual issues.

Sivin Kit

BTh (STM, Malaysia);

MTheo candidate (SEAGST).

The Reverend Sivin Kit is a minister of the Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore (LCMS) and pastor of Bangsar Lutheran Church. Sivin is primarily concerned about ecclesiastical interactions with local social-political realities and desires to see the emergence of more contextual responses towards these realities. He brings with him a wealth of pastoral and missional perspectives in contribution to this conversation so as to ensure that our constructions are based on realistic observations.

Sherman Y.L. Kuek, OSL

BSc Management (Bradford, UK);

MDiv (Trinity, Singapore);

DTh candidate in Contextual Theology (Trinity, Singapore).

Sherman is an Adjunct Lecturer in Systematic and Contextual Theology at Seminari Theoloji Malaysia. His primary areas of interest are contextual theological methodologies and the recovery of the Great Tradition in the theological thought of the Christian community. It is therefore natural that Sherman also has a concern for ecumenics. He is presently completing his doctoral thesis on a theological critique of modernity in Asia.

The direction of the R.O.H. Team is guided by several individual Patrons who have kindly agreed to endorse our effort and be our guiding wisdom:

Revd Dr Hwa Yung

Bishop, Methodist Church of Malaysia

Among his various other involvements besides being Bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia, Bishop Hwa Yung is the Honorary Secretary of the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) and the Chairman of the STM Council. On the international scene Bishop Hwa Yung is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS), Oxford; the Vice-Chairman of the Asian Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (ALCWE); a member of the Executive Committee of the World Methodist Council and an Executive Committee Member of the International Association of Mission Studies (IAMS).

Bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing, SJ

Bishop, Melaka-Johor Diocese

The Catholic Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur

Besides having been the Bishop of the Melaka-Johor Diocese since May 2003, Bishop Paul is the Chairman of the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) and the Vice-Chairman of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism & Taoism (MCCBCHST).

Revd Dr Simon Chan

Ernest Lau Professor of Systematic Theology,

Trinity Theological College Singapore

Dr Simon Chan is a renowned Asian theologian. He is the author of Liturgical Theology; Spiritual Theology: A Systematic Study of the Christian Life; Man and Sin; and Pentecostal Theology and the Christian Spiritual Tradition. He is also an ordained minister of the Assemblies of God in Singapore.

b. Level-Two Response (Friends)

The effort also seeks to be a platform for the coming together of other like-minded Christians in Malaysia to share in the dream together. It will simultaneously create a voice for other scattered Christians who in their individual capacities have begun to, or desire to, make a change in Malaysian society. This is akin to causing minute but significant ripples.

Therefore, the next layer of involvement in this R.O.H effort consists of others who may be equally interested in this initiative and committed to its cause. We seek to draw upon their experiences and resources, and will endeavour to receive their contributions seriously, through personal conversations, writings, and organised gatherings. Where appropriate, their concerns will find their way into our constructive efforts.

3. OUR COMMITMENTS

a. Our Commitment to the Neighbourology Principle

The neighbourology principle expresses the deepest motivation for our contextual engagements with the local contexts. It is important to begin with how we see people in our nation firstly as neighbours, and what this involves. Authentic love for the neighbour involves a “kin-dom” mentality (based on an idea of “kinship”, which is very consistent with the Asian paradigm of societal life).

Two crucial features of the neighbourology principle are:

  • that we must ensure our ultimate goal is for the long term. Critiques although necessary will be driven purely for the sake of achieving desirable results for the nation in the long run. Loving the country necessitates honest criticism at times. And we critique the country because we believe she is worth critiquing.
  • the objective of building bridges. This involves healing wounds between different races, religions and any other factors that have since divided the Malaysian society.

b. Our Linguistic Commitment to the Target Audience

While we intend for our audience to be largely urban and educated in nature, this necessitates an inclusivity of experiences from the bottom up, including the marginalised and grassroot communities. Formal English will be used but care will be given to ensure it is not necessarily academic or technical to ensure laymen comprehension.

Because the Malaysian church has a long way to be exposed to such local contextual theologies, we will be targeting the church primarily and only at a later stage speak to society at large. In other words, our primary concern relates to what it means to be “the church in the world”.

In regard to our use of language for the communication of our theological constructions, we will make it a point to employ the language of social scientists and other relevant disciplines in the midst of our theological articulations. This is to ensure that our articulations are not found dislocated from a proactive interaction with the language of other disciplines. Yet, our articulations should also reflect the language of the intended audience as afore described. Whilst social-scientific and theological jargon may be an inevitable, the employment of such jargon has to be unpacked and written in a manner understood by our readers.

c. Our Commitment to Holistic Reflections

We are not in favour of our articulations constituting knee-jerk reactions towards unexpected occurrences in the life of the nation. Much of the Christian community’s statements and positions on socio-political issues in Malaysia is reactionary in nature. These statements and positions are issued only upon an urgent need to do so, and are seldom undertaken with sufficient theological reflection given to the purpose. It is hoped that we will provide holistic reflections upon local Malaysian issues, as opposed to the mere knee-jerk reactions in response to perceived external threats.

d. Our Commitment to Basic Governing Principles

There are generally five key principles that the group considers essential in governing our local theological constructions:

  • Socio-Political Context. This will include crucial issues which will be identified in our subsequent meetings to develop a proper contextual framework for our theological reflections. It is important that this framework must include a concern for marginal communities.
  • Social-Scientific Disciplines. Our theologies will be dislocated from reality if we do not seriously engage the findings and analyses of the social-scientific disciplines in our society. The role of the social-scientific thinkers in our team is therefore crucial.
  • Local Cultural Wisdom. The cultural paradigmatic realities of the society in which our theology is entrenched must be accounted for in our theological constructions. This is also known as the principle of inculturation, wherein local epistemologies are taken seriously.
  • Christian Tradition. The approach we are taking herein is an ecumenical one. Our joint concern is for the wellbeing of our neighbours, our nation, and not the disagreement on our respective distinctives. In fact, in deep appreciation of how our distinctive traditions may contribute positively to this conversation, we take the guiding voice of the Great Tradition as a non-negotiable in our constructions.
  • The Gospel. This principle is not necessarily separate from the fourth, but accentuates a point of importance. Our theology must come to terms with the heart of the gospel, which essentially speaks of the ultimate and full establishment of God’s reign in the world.

e. Our Commitment to Various Levels of Socio-political Involvement

There are three possible levels of socio-political involvement by the Christian community: i) writing, ii) helping immediate needs (e.g., helping the poor and alleviating immediate suffering), and iii) effecting structural change. Historically, Christians in the Protestant Malaysian Church have been active within the first layer but little else has been done in either of the other two. It is noted that the situation is not very far different for the Roman Catholic Church in Malaysia.

The objectives and strategies of R.O.H. will be in attempting to achieve all layers of socio-political involvement. This however is an incremental and dynamic cultivation and change, as the process is subject to growth and alterations in time.

f. Our Commitment to the Dissemination of Our Ideas

We are committed to the dissemination of our social scientific analyses together with the accompanying theological constructions in various forms of publications. This may involve web publications, books and monographs, journal articles, and sporadic articles in newsletter.

In time to come, there is also a great possibility that we may organise events involving relatively small clusters of young thinkers who share in our concerns and who would be keen to participate in conversations pertaining to these concerns.

The R.O.H. Team

31 August 2007

50th National Day


Endnotes

[1] These marginal communities include the poor, the Orang Asli, women, persons with disabilities, plantation and factory workers, migrants and refugees, and children at risk, among others.

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