Hari Merdeka and Hari Malaysia 2016 – Message from Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia
Brothers and Sisters,
We celebrate our Independence Day this year with the theme Sehati Sejiwa (One Heart, One Soul) to enhance a spirit of patriotism and love for our country.
The multi-cultural and multi-religious fabric of our Malaysian society is what makes us unique in the eyes of the world. The harmony and understanding among the various races binds us together as one people. As we commemorate our National Day, let us recommit ourselves to further develop and strengthen the unity and understanding between the races with trust and respect for one another.
However, our nation is facing racially and religiously motivated forms of polarisation. This must not be allowed to gain ground. Let us reject whatever form of hindrances that is detrimental to the country’s solidarity.
In this connection, it is incumbent upon lawmakers, civil leaders and implementers of the law to uphold the principles of the Rukun Negara and the sacrosanctity of the Federal Constitution in ensuring that the people strive towards a common and shared destiny of building a just and free nation.
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.
Strategies for growth and progress can only be significant if they are steered towards national unity with a spirit of love and patriotism. We need bridges and networks to connect with people of all levels so as to deliver a change of mind-set in favour of 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 (cf. Mk 3:24).
The Church exhorts its members to “cultivate a generous and loyal spirit of patriotism but without being narrow-minded, to always direct their attention to the good of the whole human family, united by the different ties which bind together races, people and nations.” (Gaudium et Spes., 75)
Interfaith dialogue plays an important role in our nation-building process. It provides a platform for reconciliation and for promoting unity and acceptance among the country’s pluralistic society. Recognising the imperative need for dialogue, its aim is to increase understanding and resolve conflict in order to develop a more harmonious interaction between the religious communities. It is noteworthy that Church leaders and lay people in the parishes are doing their part in achieving this aspiration.
Nevertheless, while acknowledging the country’s advancement in many sectors, we cannot be oblivious to several critical issues affecting our nation. These include the controversial National Security Council (NSC) Act 2016 which is perceived as being contrary to democratic norms, the volatile financial situation with a high cost of living aggravated by excessive levies, retrenchment of workers, corruption and wastages and, particularly, the 1MDB affair. These problems need to be resolved urgently in the interest of the country. The Government must carry out its obligation with a greater sense of accountability, transparency and integrity.
We are also extremely concerned and disturbed by all form of threats and the acts of terrorism throughout the world. Many innocent people, including children, have been slain and many more injured as a result of horrendous and indiscriminate attacks. 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. Let us all be vigilant and cooperate in combating these inhuman acts for the safety of our nation.
The strength of a nation is determined by how it regards the weakest in society, which may well include the little children, the elderly, the disabled, the poor and the needy, the sick, the lonely and even the unemployed. “Any society, any nation is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members — the last, the least, the littlest,” according to Cardinal Roger Mahony in a letter titled, Creating a Culture of Life (1998). Our potency as a nation will be measured by the compassion we have for the underprivileged, the destitute, the infirm and those struggling with disabilities.
Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation, Joy of the Gospel, highlights that, “We have to remember, the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day with dire consequences. A number of diseases are spreading. The hearts of many people are gripped with fear and desperation. The joy of living frequently fades, lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise and inequality is increasingly evident.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 52)
The Pope emphasizes a financial reform that requires “a change of approach on the part of political leaders” and he reminds the rich that they much help, respect and promote the poor. “Money must serve, not rule,” says the Pontiff. (Evangelii Gaudium, 58)
The Holy Father underscores that love for one another must motivate Christians to share the gospel message, help the poor and work for social justice.
The process of nation building is on-going and requires a great deal of hard work and sacrifice in order to achieve the target of becoming a peaceful and developed nation. Therefore, we exhort all our faithful to be engaged in the nation’s holistic development, guided by the social and moral teachings of the Church.
May the spirit of Sehati Sejiwa inspire the leaders of our nation, and all its people of diverse races and cultures, to make Malaysia a truly united, harmonious and progressive nation.
Indeed we are encouraged by the just concluded Olympics, we have shown that we Malaysians can cheer and hope and dream as ONE.
United, we pray for the well-being of our King, all political and civil leaders at the Federal and State levels and for all the peoples of Malaysia on these auspicious occasions of Hari Merdeka and Hari Malaysia. May God bless our country with peace and prosperity.
Malaysia Boleh Bersatu — Malaysians Can Unite!
SELAMAT MENYAMBUT HARI
MERDEKA DAN HARI MALAYSIA!
Most Reverend Julian Leow Beng Kim, D.D.
Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia on behalf of:
Most Reverend Dato John Ha (Archbishop of Kuching)
Rt Reverend Datuk Sebastian Francis (Bishop of Penang)
Most Reverend John Wong (Archbishop of Kota Kinabalu)
Rt Reverend Bernard Paul (Bishop of Melaka-Johor)
Rt Reverend Datuk Cornelius Piong (Bishop of Keningau)
Rt Reverend Datuk Julius Dusin Gitom (Bishop of Sandakan)
Rt Reverend Richard Ng (Bishop of Miri)
Rt Reverend Joseph Hii (Bishop of Sibu)