Uphold justice, bishops urge Malaysian Catholics in Merdeka Day message
President of the conference Reverend Julian Leow said Christians had the right to make a stand on matters they were concerned about.
"It is their inalienable right as citizens to deliberate, communicate and act on matters of societal concern, be they political, social or economical," said Leow who is also the archbishop of Kuala Lumpur.
In the statement, written on behalf of the archbishops and bishops in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak, Leow wrote that there were many distressing events in the country where people were questioning if there was still the rule of law. People were also concerned as to whether their rights were being safeguarded and if the wealth of the nation was being protected, he said.
"Human rights, freedom of expression and the liberty of social media are increasingly subject to severe restrictions by administrative actions.
"The democratic voice of dissent is being stifled, ironically on the grounds that they are against parliamentary democracy," Leow said.
He said these trends, and the lack of check and balance by relevant institutions, had caused anxiety among the people.
"The current political situation in our country is rather disturbing.
"Today, various groups across the country are calling for an end to the autocratic ways of the government of the day, and demand that it govern the country with fairness, transparency, accountability and integrity, besides insisting for a free and fair election system," he said.
Leow in his letter mentioned debt-laden state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the goods and services tax (GST) and the depreciation of the Malaysian ringgit which have caused alarm across the country.
Added to these concerns were existing worries about the rising cost of living, which impacted the poor the most.
He also spoke of religious extremism and intolerance among certain groups, saying that those making racist and religious slurs behaved as though they were above the law.
Leow, however, commended groups like the G25 comprising retired and prominent Malay ex-civil servants, for taking a stand against extremism.
He reminded Catholics that the church can play its role by championing the cause of truth and justice.
"We call upon the faithful and all people of goodwill to play their rightful role in the process of nation building.
"Lawmakers and those who implement the law are urged to exercise their civil duties, with fear of God and respect for the human person," he wrote.
Leow's message to Catholics comes as Malaysia grapples with political uncertainty as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak faces pressure to account for alleged financial scandals involving 1MDB as well as a donation of RM2.6 billion into his personal accounts.
These challenges also take place amid a weak economic climate, with the ringgit at its lowest value against the US dollar in 17 years amid an oil price slump and reduced foreign exchange reserves in Bank Negara Malaysia. – August 31, 2015.