Malaysians should put the country first before any personal or political interests and work towards greater unity for greater progress, local Catholic bishops said today.
In their Independence Day and Malaysia Day message, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Malaysia also urged for greater understanding among the different races in Malaysia to build respect and trust, stressing that “racially and religiously motivated forms of polarisation” currently faced by the nation must not be allowed to gain ground.
While saying that lawmakers, civil leaders and those who implement the law have to uphold the Rukun Negara principles and the Federal Constitution, the Catholic clergy asked Malaysians to be prepared to sacrifice for the country amid such challenges to national unity.
“Meanwhile, for us as citizens, the spirit of patriotism and love for our country must impel us to speak out courageously against the ills besetting our country and to make sacrifices when called upon. We must act charitably and constructively for the good of our country,” they said in their joint message.
Noting that “strategies for growth and progress can only be significant if they are steered towards national unity with a spirit of love and patriotism”, the bishops pushed for bridges to connect people and a mindset change towards “inter-racial solidarity, mutual religious respect and acceptance and mutual upbuilding”.
“Let us place our country and society above individual and political interest and enthuse a culture of peace by intensifying our linkages of friendship and fostering goodwill and harmony so that all Malaysians can live and prosper together as one integrated nation, enriched by our ethnic and cultural diversities. United we stand, divided we fall,” they added.
In the same message, the bishops said the government must carry out its obligation with a greater sense of accountability, transparency and integrity amid various problems that are affecting the nation and require urgent action.
The Catholic clergy listed current issues like the controversial National Security Council Act 2016, the country’s financial situation that is putting a greater burden on the people due to “excessive levies”, loss of jobs and government wastages as among problems that must be tackled immediately.
They also expressed extreme concern at the threats and acts of terrorism globally, while also calling on everyone to be vigilant and band together to combat the “inhuman” kidnappings in Sabah.
“The kidnapping of Malaysians off the east coast of Sabah for huge ransom and the merciless killings of victims by militants have caused much fear and anguish to their families and to the general public. These acts of violence are, in fact, crimes against humanity and ought to be condemned,” they said.
Five Malaysian sailors were taken hostage by militant Filipino Muslim group Abu Sayyaf in July, and little is known of their fate since.
The regional terror group based in southern Philippines, linked to global terror network the Islamic State, have stepped up their kidnap-for-ransom raids on Malaysians in waters off the Sabah coast in recent months and have proven they are not above killing their hostages if demands are not met. Sarawakian engineer Bernard Then was beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf last November.
The bishops also reminded Malaysians that a nation’s strength is determined by how it treats the weakest members of the society such as those who are poor, unemployed and struggling with disabilities.
“Money must serve, not rule,” the local Catholic bishops said, citing the Catholic Church’s leader Pope Francis’s call for a financial reform that requires “a change of approach on the part of political leaders” and for the rich to help and respect the poor.
The message was signed off by the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Julian Leow Beng Kim who is also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia on behalf of the Archbishop of Kuching Datuk John Ha, the Archbishop of Kota Kinabalu John Wong, the Bishop of Penang Datuk Sebastian Francis, the Bishop of Malacca-Johor diocese Bernard Paul, the Bishop of Keningau Datuk Cornelius Piong, the Bishop of Sandakan Datuk Julius Dusin Gitom, the Bishop of Miri Richard Ng and the Bishop of Sibu Joseph Hii.
The Malay Mail Online