Sunday, June 26, 2005

Not forsaken, nor forgotten


With his face partially hidden behind a wooden stilt, a little boy carefully peered his face towards mine. He was silent, but his eyes already asked a question, "Who are you?"

The Orang Asli community living in the jungles of Malaysia are the most singled out, sidelined- call it by any other term; downright abandoned by the Government in every effort it makes to improve the standard of living of the nation. Cut off by road inaccessibilty (otherwise only made accessible by loggers who are in for the profit), this community has virtually no access to electricity, education or medical attention of any manner. A clean water source is their only prized amenity.

Even as their plight is being highlighted now, loggers and profit-hungry Chinese planters are robbing them of their land- for logging and land for durian plantations. Lack of education leave them defenseless in knowing which property is rightfully theirs. And being illiterate means total vulnerability towards fraudulent contracts, if any were to be made to them in the first place.

Illiteracy not only makes them raw, easy targets of oppression by the loggers, planters and irresponsible government officers, but also suppresses them greatly from any much-needed social development.

Here, they are to remain as odd job workers- never mind if they had to fight to death with the foreign labourers entering the country in abundance. Here, they are to remain silent, for being deprived the key to knowledge equates to them being dumb and mute. Here, they are to remain as outcasts- pushed further into the undesirable conditions of jungle-living. No sooner would their obscurity become so apparent, that their existence becomes otherwise.

Such is the fragility of these people, and it is with this glass-like nature of the existence of the marginalised community of Malaysia that an appeal must be made to those who are educated, those who own the privilege of knowing how to read and write and perhaps do even more- The Orang Asli community is not a community destined for negligience, to think of them in such a manner would render any one of us deserving of a similar fate. For they are too, the Rakyat, citizens of Malaysia. Therefore, in no manner that they should be treated as a leprous society- left alone to fend for their existence without even the most basic, yet a right that is of crucial importance- the right to education, the privilege to read and write. It is, therefore a responsibility that each and every one of us must bear.

Even so, a Christian's call to duty weighs so much more. If the Government refused to have their part in this, then let us, the Church; with the grace of our Almighty God; bear this burden with deep-rooted love and conviction that the God Whose Supremacy is in all things shall see to it being done.

Not that our actions come in second only to the government's, but that our worldview must be consciously geared towards the act of proclaiming His Kingdom- dispensing teaching aids and knowledge to them, so that they may not only learn to read and write, they would be able to know God's Word and see it as treasure.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Academia Dilemma

Call it an 'annual sandiwara', someone said.

The announcement of UPU results, which is to come anytime soon is expected to usher in the usual headaches, the predictable complaints and the stale aftermath sympathy as well.

Public outcry and highly publicised government intervention seem to be the only 2 effective ways to stop a student's woes of gaining university entry nowadays. Any special mention of providing a proper review on the selection of students' entrance to universities; is painstakingly, yet poorly clouded by the Higher Education Ministry's public stint on 'meritocracy'.

The Ministry had better be more creative than this. And setting up a Commission to conduct an independent study on the Ministry's ineffienciency and murky criterion selection (lack of transparency is simply an understatement here) is just going to trigger another fascinating conversation topic in mamak stalls, at most.

Nevertheless, the Ministry has my semi-sincere sympathies. After all, the course of their careless actions in grading the examination papers have triggered a wave of over-expectations on the part of the students. Blinded by the 'A's, the students lack the wisdom to discern between enrolling for a degree program which they are interested in and the degree program which looks good on their future resume. Most end up doing the latter, resorting to newspaper headlines in order to get what they felt they deserved; as though funding for their 'glamorous-sounding ambitions' was the taxpayers' only and primary obligation. So, who's the bigger movie star here?

I am not mocking or demeaning the woes of students. I believe that all students who have done well deserve to be enrolled into the courses of their choices, especially when good grades seem to be the obvious benchmark to gaining such entry. However, I do not condone to acts of using the media by both sides to push for a public outcry for actions to be taken. Which is why, the proverb "prevention is better than cure" speaks volumes in addressing this issue.

Government, play your part- give us a clear criterion selection rulebook and perhaps, allow universities to conduct interviews with students to stream-line the faculty's choice of students as a critical selection process for the university itself, if judging the students' academic capabilities alone is not enough to grant university entrance to the deserving ones. In the future, the universities would be able to produce graduates of quality, rather than mass-producing half-baked, half-dead graduates that need to live miserably off the Goverment's plan B in sustaining these graduates because they don't make the cut in the working world.

Students, be realistic- Not being given a scholarship for overseas education by the Government does not equal to having your dreams dashed. Fight, if you must; if you truly think you deserve a spot in that degree program you have worked so hard for, to get into it. Nevertheless, discern your motivation in getting into that much-valued spot in university. Do you want it because you are passionate about it or because other people want it or because it makes you look good? Whichever motivation other than the first one mentioned; does not make you any more deserving than one who can get into a medical school despite having done poorly in his examinations.

The public is looking forward to yet another sadistic monkey show out of university entry. Does this mean both the government and the students are to give them again and again?

I would be more than happy to eat my own words- and the newspapers headlines for breakfast.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

For She's a Jolly Good Fellow!

Personal as personal can get.

ennie called from the Land of Sheep and Middle-earth, hinting the reason of the sudden, but not unexpected direction of the conversation- it is her birthday.

I jokingly told her of her pathetic state for having to call us instead to get her birthday well-wishes.

Nevertheless, what is a birthday without loads of well-wishes? Please visit her blog and overwhelm her with them on this blessed day that the Lord has granted her.

The Lord is evermore gracious to her and to whomever whose paths have crossed hers, may He be so for many years to come.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Back to the Future.

The mere mention of the word ‘eschatology’ had me running for cover. Perhaps, being confined to the limits of time and space had my mindset reduced to a squared-perimeter one- which is; since eschatology means the studies of the end times, therefore it should be done last.
Not necessarily so, I found out thereafter- thus, only proving right that only God’s laws should stand for eternity. Mine, apparently; was unfounded almost immediately, when I was literally shoved with books on ‘inaugurated eschatology’- which I started off with much clumsiness.

But I thank God for Wikipedia.

Yet, the most difficult thing I had to bring myself to do first, was to actually draw the two extreme parallels of history and eschatology together. The Kingdom of God is not to be seen as visually distant from us, and certainly; God is not to be merely waited upon as “the Actor of the Future”.

G.E Ladd in his classical revised edition of Jesus and the Kingdom (The Presence of the Future) wrote, “The world is not evil per se and therefore a realm from which man must escape to find his true life. When God created the world, he saw that it was good. The goodness of nature has indeed been marred by sin (but) it does not mean that creation has become offensive to its Creator. The world is created for God’s glory (and) it is not a temporary stage upon which man acts out the drama of his mortal existence; neither is it the reality of sin and evil from which man must be rescued. The world was and remains God’s world and therefore destined to play a role in consummation of God’s redemptive purposes. However, the curse which lies upon nature because of man’s sin means that it cannot be the scene of the final realization of God’s Kingdom apart from a radical transformation; and the new age of the Kingdom will therefore be so different as to constitute a new order of things”. Therefore, it is important to make this establishment- that “not only God’s reign is seen as the consummation of his working in history, but that eschatological hope is directly related to the immediate historical future”.

Here, is where our inclination towards separating immediate historical future and the ultimate eschatological hope due to timeline differences; occur. This mistake, should I say; is rather inevitable; actually- simply because our conceptual grasping of time is in such a manner; that we conveniently assume that God must deal with the former first, then the latter; due to its immediate nature. The explanation by Ladd serves as an important reminder for us: “The prophets have a single hope which encompasses both the immediate historical and the ultimate eschatological future. The reason for this strange lack of chronological concern is the theocentric character in Israel’s hope. Their hope was not in the future but in God; and the God who would act in the near future to further His redemptive purpose would also ultimately act to bring His purpose to its consummation. Therefore, the prophets usually have a single, though a complex, hope”.

Rather than seeing a detachment between the present and the future, rather than seeing eschatology as the end; perhaps we should see it from a different perspective, even more so; a more accurate perspective. Whether in history or eschatology, both concerns are in the will of God for His people. “God who will ultimately bring His people into the Kingdom is also the God who is now concerned with them and their present sinfulness”.

I am certainly not apologetic about not making this any less difficult. I have neither the will nor the capacity. But, I am already in awe by this small piece of information, nonetheless; a crucial one. It caught me by surprise how I myself too, have been looking forward to the future for God’s intervention, without realizing that God’s redemptive purposes is of such a comprehensive nature that the past, the present and the future are all well-covered.

Indeed,

How Great Thou Art! How Great Thou Art!