The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim a year of the LORD's favour
Proclaiming release to the Captives. This was the theme of the special Mass that was held at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit on Monday.
Here's a little background for our non-Malaysian readers. Malaysia is a very polarized country. The citizens of Chinese descent have recently been insulted by a member of the majority Muslim Malay community. A third tier leader of the ruling National Front, he insulted the Chinese by calling them 'squatters', not deserving and cannot ever even hope to possess equal rights. This is despite the fact that many Chinese have been in this land for hundreds of years and many Malays are recent immigrants from other countries.
This caused an uproar with members of even the ruling coalition calling on this recalcitrant arrogant fella to recant and apologize. This he refused to do and he continued his racist tirade. Finally, under tremendous popular pressure, the ruling Malay party gave him a slap on the wrist, suspending him for 3 years while not requiring a recantation or apology.
Then, the ruling party arrested the reporter who first broke the news of this creature's racist remarks. She was arrested under the draconian Internal Security Act, a remnant of British colonial rule. This law allows for indefinite detention without trial, at the pleasure of the minister of Internal Security. Most sane Malaysians were thinking WTF?! (pardon my French).
Then came another insult to our collective intelligence. A Malay former State Chief Minister (who's father is an immigrant from Indonesia) who was dumped by the electorate when his party lost power during the last election on March 8th made several seditious accusations against an Opposition MP and current Senior State Executive Councillor of the state he lost. He claimed on his blog that Teresa Kok (left), the MP, went into a mosque in the wee hours of the morning to ask the committee to turn down the volume of the Muslim call to prayer, the azan. Now, not that that is necessarily a bad idea, but she denied it, and the mosque committee corroborated her story. What actually happened was that the nearby non-Muslims residents petitioned the mosque to tone down the volume of the sermons because the power amps used for the call to prayer are often then used to blare the sermons as well. Anyway, this was played up by the racist newspaper of the ruling party and the MP who denied it was arrested under the ISA while Khir Toyo, the racist instigator and the Malay paper Utusan Malaysia gets off scott free. This is utter bollocks. Another popular blogger, Raja Petra (right), a member of the Malay Royalty, was arrested as well.
The Diocese of Penang responded to this travesty of justice by organising a special Mass to pray for the release of the detainees and for peace and justice in Malaysia. The Mass was at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. The Bishop of Penang was overseas attending a conference. The Mass was presided by Fr. Fabian Dicom. Other priests in attendance include Fr. Francis Anthony, the Cathedral Administrator, Fr. Marshall Fernandez, my parish priest, Fr. Mark Michael, his assistant, Fr. Edwin Paul, Rector of the Major Seminary, Fr. Simon Labrooy, professor at said seminary and Frs. Paul Chong and Joe Stephens, OFM Cap both.
At the beginning of the Mass, Fr. Fabian explained the use of the violet vestments, which was a sign of mourning.
The readings selected included the preceding reading from the Prophet Isaiah and the Gospel reading of the Beatitudes:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
"Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
In his spirited sermon, Fr. Fabian denounced the injustice of the detentions and the very act itself. Reminding the congregation that Peacemakers are blessed and not those who only pray for peace, we were called to do our part in opposing such injustice in our nation.
After the Mass, Fr. Francis Anthony also delivered a scathing attack on the ISA and the detentions. He mentioned something along these lines which I found very interesting. "For too long it has been 'We say and you do. No more!" More on this some other time.
Candles were then lighted from the altar candle and we sang some spirited anti-ISA songs and waved our candles about. Overall, it was an interesting evening. I even got a shirt and some buttons =)
I really feel that more self proclaimed traddies and 'orthodox' Catholics need to turn up, show support for and participate in events like this. It makes us seem less idiotic and only concerned about the externals.
Events like this, where Catholics of all stripes stand as one and ask for justice and righteousness, can bind us all together despite our disagreements on liturgy and doctrine. Though the non-traddies are wrong on those points (among many others), the demand for justice is one that should be shared by all disciples of Christ. It must not be the domain of lefties only.
The political turmoil is by no means ended and attempts by the opposition to topple this corrupt and racist government has yet to bear fruit. Only God know what lies ahead, but that the road will be bumpy is a certainty. Anyway, dear readers, out of your charity, please say a prayer for my country, Malaysia, and for all those who are unjustly deprived of their freedom and for all who hunger and thirst for justice and righteousness.