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Malaysian bishops call on all to build bridges in Merdeka/Malaysia Day Message


Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As Christians, we are called to be good people, for we have a shared humanity, with one another and with God himself in the person of Jesus Christ. It is this shared humanity that underpins our responsibility for the good of our neighbour, of society, and of the world. This is our Christian hope – that in being good people we will show that God is good because “God has no hands except ours” (St Teresa). So, it is that we must build bridges of peace, unity, and harmony between people of all races and religions.

And nowhere is the call to goodness more urgent than in societies like our own, made up of diverse races and religious affiliations. Our Malaysia will only ever be ours if we love it into being. Today we celebrate 60 years of independence. For many of us, the first exuberant cries of merdeka are something we have only seen in history books and documentaries. The joyful hope of the people of a new nation risks becoming nothing but a relic of the past, as our collective memory fades from generation to generation, and our freedom becomes detached from that first hope. On this auspicious day, it is timely that we reignite the aspirations of our nation’s founding fathers and examine our use of the freedom we have been given. It is ultimately a freedom to love, and together to build a nation through which the love of God flows, to unite all in regard for each person’s God-given dignity, to care for the least among us, and to work in service of each other for the common good. How far have we come these last six decades as a nation and a people?

It is a love that sacrifices self for the good of the other, which prompts us to set aside our personal agendas and the temptation to prioritise selfish desires, in order to build a just society, a nation that favours all over the interests of a few. It is a love that acts first, emboldening us to seek out dialogue and common ground upon which we may build the foundations of national peace, stability, and growth. It is a love that teaches by example, so that future generations, seeing the way we work for good, will never lose sight of our aspirations, and will be equipped with the skills and conviction to continue our work. It is a love that is benevolent, which replaces utilitarian sentiments with those of genuine care, especially for our migrant workers who have joined their hopes to ours and work in often unappreciated ways to help achieve our aspirations. It is a love generous in its giving to those most in need, ensuring that the rewards of growth and development are felt all the way to the margins of society. It is a love that is blind to anything that would tempt us to love less, and recognises the inherent dignity of each individual regardless of race, religion, political affiliation, status, or any of the weak human distinctions by which we divide rather than unite.

As we celebrate the commemoration of these great events in our shared history, Hari Merdeka and Hari Malaysia, let us take the opportunity for a personal examination of conscience: how far do my values and attitudes towards my country and all the people in society reflect the good news of God’s love for me and all mankind? In the words of His Holiness, Pope Francis, to the US Congress in 2015, “Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility.” Independence means little if we remain enslaved by pride, jealousy, anger, greed, and apathy, which feed the polarisations that are so injurious to unity. Let us look first at the communities that make up our own churches. Do we divide ourselves along lines of race, language, and social and economic background, which are ultimately invisible in God’s eyes? In remedying our own divisions, in love and humility, so that Christ’s prayer may be fulfilled, “that they may all be one” (John 17:21), let us also never forget our mission to our nation, to adopt a multi-pronged approach to building-up society beginning with a change in our own mind-set and attitudes that will effect a change in our behaviour. We must then educate others from the youngest to the eldest in our society and promote efforts that seek unity in the diversity of races and religions that make us uniquely Malaysians.

And may God’s blessings be poured out upon us, that our celebrations may extend well beyond the parades, parties, and public holidays, and become a lived reality that sees us berganding bahu (standing united) in love to build an even greater and more prosperous Malaysia.


Most Reverend Julian Leow Beng Kim DD
Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, on behalf of:

Most Reverend Simon Poh
Archbishop of Kuching

Most Reverend John Wong
Archbishop of Kota Kinabalu

Rt Reverend Cornelius Piong
Bishop of Keningau

Rt Reverend Julius Dusin Gitom
Bishop of Sandakan

Rt Reverend Richard Ng
Bishop of Miri

Rt Reverend Joseph Hii
Bishop of Sibu

Rt Reverend Datuk Sebastian Francis
Bishop of Penang

Rt Reverend Bernard Paul
Bishop of Melaka – Johor

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