This week in Malaysia with the good people of Malaysian Care has been another one of those blessed 'God encounters' for me.
Malaysia holds a very special place in my heart. I have visited this country more than any other. Each time that I come here I discover a new level of blessing, and of course some added layers of complexity in the Malaysian social, political and religious context. This week was no different.
Because of some scrutiny by the security police on a previous visit I have been somewhat cautious about sharing the names of people and places that I visited this week. I can say, however, that I met with old friends, made a myriad of news friends, and heard some absolutely amazing stories of hope and courage.
I was privileged to share this trip with my colleague, Amanda Jackson, from Micah Challenge International. Amanda is an experienced campaigner, activist, and a wise and trusted friend. Her gifts of discernment and gentle grace were a God send in the meetings we had with senior Church leaders, sometimes jaded activists and campaigners for justice and freedom, and particularly as we met with some very senior political figures. I have learned a lot from her!
One of our speaking events took place at DUMC (Dream Centre, a Methodist Church). This was the Church that was raided by the security police last year, and a number of the staff and workers were arrested on charges of sedition [Update 18 July 2012 - I was contacted by DUMC to indicate that in fact none of their staff had been arrested during the DUMC event, and it was not the sedition act that was enforced. To find out more information about this event please see the official statements on the DUMC website at http://www.dumc.com.my ]. I'm pleased to say that the sedition act, which was the act under which we and our hosts faced police 'interest' in 2011, has been repealed. These are some concerns that the act which has replaced it is not much better. Still, I am comforted by the courage of these sisters and brothers who are willing to be imprisoned simply for feeding the hungry, educating and clothing the poor, and advocating for the rights of the disenfranchised.
I was asked, by a friend last night (who was arrested last year for advocating for the rights of fellow citizens) what my impression is of Malaysia. I have considered that question a great deal. I am encouraged that the Church is so active, understanding that our relationship with Jesus supersedes national laws. I am encouraged by the fact that members of Churches and their leaders understand that serving Jesus requires taking responsibility for the freedom and rights of all of the nations citizens. I am encouraged that the Church is not so narrow-minded that it ignores sisters and brothers from different denominations and faith traditions. Churches and religious groupings are standing together to see God's justice established.
I am particularly encouraged that the Christians that I met with this week love Jesus passionately, and from that love flows a myriad of responses to the question what does the Gospel look like in society? and what should the good news of Jesus' love feel like for the poor, the stranger, the weak, the oppressed?
We made significant headway for the 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption campaign'! There will be a good witness, a strong light, showing just how much God loves Malaysia.
So, I will be praying for all of my unnamed friends. I am encouraged to act, with passion and commitment, once again for the land in which I live - South Africa. We have some significant challenges when it comes to corruption. A lack of transparency, the abuse of political power, racism, and moral decay. It is time for me to once again become an advocate and an activist in my own land!
Thank you for reminding me of that calling my Malaysian friends!