Suffering. A strong word which every human being understands and has experienced at some point in his or her life. This Easter, allow me to look at a side of human existence that is prevalent in the world today. Our brothers and sisters in many parts of the world are suffering; either in forms of physical pain, modern day forms of slavery or even mental and especially spiritual suffering. As Christians, we cannot ignore these sufferings even though we know that God’s will is sovereign. We must reach out to help in whatever way we can. Even more so, allow me to draw you to the suffering of our fellow Sarawakians. There is not a single Sarawakian who has not faced suffering or is still facing suffering. What are we doing about it? What are you doing about it? This is my challenge to all of us – the time is now to reach out to those nearest us whom we know are suffering.
However, let us ask ourselves why is there suffering in this world? Man’s fallen nature has resulted in sin, and sin gives birth to suffering. Nevertheless, take heart. For as the letter from the Apostle Paul to the Romans in Chapter 5, verse 8, he said, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In simple terms, this means that although we suffer because of sin, and we are all sinners, we have a way out. That way out is Jesus Christ. Instead of paying for the price of sin ourselves, Jesus decided to take our place and paid the price on our behalf. The cost? His death. He died on our behalf so that we can enter God’s presence and enjoy eternal salvation, justified by the horrific death on the Cross by Jesus. But…there is a catch. A simple one. A sinner must repent of his or her sin and ask Jesus to take over his or her life. This is not a difficult thing. Conversely, it is the easiest thing to do – to surrender our sins, our fears, our hopes, our failings, our failures, our anger, our frustrations, our cares, our worries and all our burdens to Him. Why? Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11.30) That is why we call it Good Friday.
In Sarawak, the state officially recognises Good Friday and has declared it a public holiday. Allow me to take this opportunity to remind all of us that Good Friday is not just another public holiday. It is a day when we remember and reflect on the great and ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for all mankind by dying for all of us and paying our sins. But that is not the end of the story. Having died, Jesus, because he is God, rose again three days later on Easter. His rising was and continues to be His victory over death and sin and especially Satan, the father of lies.
Talking about the state, Sarawak is a secular state where we have freedom of religion. In fact, Malaysia is a secular country as guaranteed in the Federal Constitution. Not only is our country a secular state, we have absolute freedom to worship and express our religious beliefs within moderation. I am not saying this as a personal opinion. I am merely quoting the Federal Constitution which is quite clear about the position of Islam as a religion for ceremonial purposes but that the state itself is not an Islamic state.
However, certain quarters have resorted to extremism. And I am not merely pointing the finger at the very few and isolated Islamists who have a siege mentality and believe that they are under attack but I am also reminding Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and all other religious citizens of Malaysia to adopt a moderate approach. Extremism in any form is unacceptable. No religion preaches extremism. Religious freedom should prevail in Malaysia. And this is my hope and message this Easter for Malaysia – that God will have mercy on us and our nation, and that we, sinners all, return to Him with repentant hearts and renew our relationship with Him.
My family and I wish all Christians a blessed Easter. Christ is Risen!
ADUN N70 Ba’ Kelalan
20 April 2014