Wednesday, June 3, 2015

We're non-partisan, says leader of Christian group

8:50AM Jun 2, 2015
By Koh Jun Lin

Despite concerns over the launch of a new Christian group tonight with Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak as its guest of honour, the group's chairperson, Rev Wong Kim Kong, is giving his assurance that the group is strictly non-partisan.
Wong appealed to members of the public to remain calm and to give his group - Christians for Peace and Harmony in Malaysia (CPHM) - some time to prove that it is sincere and honest in its cause.
"Let us, over time, prove our sincerity and confirm whether we are politicall- motivated or not.
"Just give us time and allow us, through our future activities and our pursuits, to show whether we are politically-motivated or manipulated by other people," Wong told Malaysiakini when contacted yesterday.
He explained that it was CPHM that had invited Najib to the launch and “not any other way around”.
The group had extended the invitation the invitation sometime between February and March this year and did not hear from Najib's office until April 28.
Apart from Najib, Wong said CPHM had also invited all Christian cabinet ministers to attend the event, as well as the top two leaders of all political parties, including those from Pakatan Rakyat.
This would not be the first time he has invited a prime minister to an event either, Wong said.
Previously, he said, as part of his work when he led the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF), he had successfully invited then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to two separate international conferences.
"When we did it at that time, we also received a lot of criticism. At the end, they saw the results. I still have all the newspaper cuttings," he said.
'PM will lend credibility to event'
Wong explained that the CPHM had invited Najib to officiate the group's launch because it felt that it needed backing from someone of his stature.
"To reach out to other groups that are suspicious of Christians, or not friendly to us, we need someone of influence to give us the credibility to be able to talk to the other side.
"In the context of Malaysia, different people approach their issues at different levels and in different ways. We are not saying that our way is the best way… our approach is one of the alternatives.
"We are not the best. We are not the only way. We are just saying that every different individual can influence," he said.
As for the group's funding, Wong said every cent came from the Malaysian Christian community and none of it was from the government, including the cost of tonight’s launch banquet.
The banquet is to be held at the ballroom of the Majestic Hotel, a five-star hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
Wong said the group raised the necessary funds even before it decided to hold the banquet.
Its practice of raising funds exclusively from the local Christian community is similar to the practice of the other groups that he had been affiliated with, he said, namely the NECF and Malaysian Care.
Not out to compete

Asked to explain CPHM's role amid many other Christian groups already in existence, Wong said the other groups were more focused in fulfilling the spiritual needs of Christians.
In contrast, he said CPHM's target audience is the entire Malaysian population, as CPHM does not aim to fulfil their spiritual needs, but to foster an environment that is conducive for the peaceful co-existence of members of different faiths.
For example, he said, CPHM would not take up the Allah issue, which is centred on the demand championed by various other Christian groups to allow the use of the word "Allah" as the translation for the word "God" in the Malay language Bible.
This move is objected by most Muslim groups in Malaysia.
Instead, Wong said, CPHM would take up issues that disrupt interfaith harmony, such as the Taman Medan church protest in April, where Muslim residents demanded that a church there takes down its newly erected Cross.
"That (protest) disrupted the community. Those incidents create disorder within the community. Then we will voice our opinion," he said.
Ibrahim Ali invited as well
Wong also justified extending CPHM's invitation to the Malay right-wing group Perkasa, which is seen to be racist despite vehement denials from its president Ibrahim Ali (photo).
He said as a member of clergy, he believes in the teaching of the Bible to love all, including one’s enemies.
"I believe that it is my duty that, whatever attitude or behaviour a person has, it is still my responsibility to forgive and love," he said.
Wong said this applied even to Stephen Ng, against whom he held no grudge despite Ng’s lengthy article questioning CPHM's motivations that had been published in several news outlets, including Malaysiakini.
Overall, Wong said non-Christian groups make up about 30 percent of invited guests to the function tonight, including the G25, which is a group of Malay former senior civil servants promoting moderation.
As for Christian groups, Wong said the guests included Christians from all denominations, including smaller ones such as the Seventh Day Adventists, as well as most of the head of church denominations.
As to whether another Malay right-wing group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) is attending, Wong said he was not sure.
"I don’t think we invited Isma. No prejudice (against them), sometimes we just overlook. I don't know how it was overlooked.
"I'm not sure whether my colleague did (invite them) or not, I can't remember," he said.
Won't defend himself
Previously, Ng's articles had raised questions on CPHM's funding and Najib's involvement, and he also asked whether the group is a ploy to help BN win votes.
Wong said Ng had "sneaked into" one of CPHM's meetings to question him, which he had already answered.
"But this guy, I don't know for what reason, but he twisted (my words) in every way. I have 20 pastors for you to interview to answer whether this guy is telling the truth or not," he chuckled.
Nevertheless, Wong said, he does not feel the need to defend himself because people who already know him were familiar with his community services.
"I just don’t want people to fall into that kind of unkind nature," he added.


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