Golden Voice

December 11, 2007 at 1:56 pm Leave a comment

Saturday, December 8th, 2007
Don’t bring up ‘crucifix’ issue in mission schools again
THOSE who had their early education in mission schools in the country will probably share my sentiments expressed in this column. But I believe there are also others who did not go through a Christian school education who will also agree with me if I were to declare here that the schools started by Christian missionaries on our shores more than a century ago had only brought good tidings to education in this country. It is also true that they had helped to lay the foundation for a solid, wholesome education system in our country in later years.Because the Christian missionaries were trained educators and educating the young was their vocation, their only desire and mission was to bring up ‘wholesome’ students. They succeeded and many Malaysians today are better off because they had benefited from the knowledge imparted by the missionary educators.

Today, in the absence of these foreign missionaries, the local Christian clergy assisted by lay teachers are running these mission schools and most are government aided. Credit is due to the government for continuing to fund these schools. But the stature, status and wholesomeness of these mission schools have remained as they rightly should be.

As a product of the Christian mission school, it is only natural for me to come to the defence of my alma mater if any attempt, subtle or otherwise, is made to upset the equilibrium or change the status of these schools.

But the education I received from the Christian missionaries of yesteryears had also taught me not to blindly criticise others for their wrongdoing but to understand and reason with them in a sober manner as to why they acted as they had.

Let’s take this week’s incident in Parliament for example. The Barisan Nasional MP who suggested that crucifixes be removed from mission schools has explained that he was merely raising public concern.

Syed Hood Syed Edros, the MP for Parit Sulong, said he raised the issue in Parliament in order to get clarification from the Education Ministry. The MP had on Oct 29 suggested that crucifixes in mission schools be removed and church influence over these schools be stopped. He said he was “ashamed and disappointed” that schools in an Islamic country like Malaysia are still under the control of churches and that they display icons like crosses and statues.

However, he told reporters later that he did not raise the issue in bad faith but had merely raised the “grouses of the public”.

Let us dissect the MP’s remarks. I won’t wish to jump to conclusion and blast him for his uncalled-for remarks immediately, even though I feel very unhappy about it. Let us look at the matter rationally.

Firstly, Syed Hood’s role as an elected representative of the people has to be recognised. His duty is to bring up the people’s problems and issues to the legislature. First point to him. Bravo!

However, on a matter as religiously sensitive as touching on the removal of a holy symbol — the crucifix — Syed Hood, as a people’s leader, should have immediately explained to those who queried on the matter (if indeed that was true) that due respect must be accorded to each other’s religion. He could have settled it there and then instead of bringing it up in Parliament. I’m sure this is not the first time that such a matter was brought up. Surely, as an MP, Syed Hood should be aware of issues that have been deemed sensitive in the past and avoid harping on them.

This is where I doubt the MP’s sincerity in bringing up an issue that is smacked with religious sensitivities. The general election is dawning and the guy may want to score some political points in order to get noticed. This could be true for I have not heard of Syed Hood Syed Edros if he had not brought up the ‘crucifix’ issue.

And by the way, who is he (an ordinary MP) to say that he is “ashamed and disappointed” that schools in an Islamic country like Malaysia are still under the control of churches and that they display icons like crosses and statues. Sorry lah, Syed Hood, you are too ‘small’ to talk about such matters. Wait until you become the prime minister (which I doubt you ever will) and have an audience with the Pope — then you can tell the Holy Father that directly.

If not, then you should keep such remarks to yourself for they are ‘harmful and dangerous’ in this multi-religious society of ours, which we have worked so hard to proudly protect and nurture.

Indeed, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Nazri Abdul Aziz’s warning that action would be taken against Syed Hood if a police report is lodged regarding his remarks is most timely. However, as a Christian and forever proud to be a product of a mission school, I am ready to forgive Syed Hood for his attempt at political heroics.

He had since explained that his intention was misunderstood and he always respects other races and religions.

“I personally don’t have any issue with crosses being displayed in mission schools. We have to respect the religion of others to gain their respect for our religion,” the MP explained. Syed Hood said his eldest child had attended SMK Convent Batu Pahat when his family lived in the town.

He also said that, in life, one has to make mistakes and learn from these, and if he has made one, then it can still be rectified.

Okay lah, Mr MP. You are forgiven but please don’t ever bring up the matter again. This is also my plea to others. Let us continue to be proud of the religious tolerance and racial harmony in our country.

Thankfully, the issue ended on a happy note too. Reacting to the matter, Deputy Education Minister Noh Omar said that Christian missionary schools would be allowed to display crosses and there was no reason to take down the religious symbols.

“We will continue with the current practice, which is a tradition started a long time ago,” he added.

With that, I hope I do not have to touch on this subject again. Believe me, it’s not a very happy subject to write about. (Comments can reach the writer at paulsir99@hotmail.com)

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Entry filed under: My Memory Lane.

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