Holding a simplistic view that faith should be kept out of politics is equivalent to saying there is no need for ethics in nation building, says Ronald Benjamin.
The comment by Wong Chun Wai in The Star (11 November 2012) that faith should be kept out of politics in his criticism of certain churches seems to be noble but lacks intellectual and spiritual insights on what faith is all about. The question is, can faith be kept out of politics?
Faith in God is not merely a private affair of individuals but it encompasses spiritual living besides being a contributor to ethical living in society. Faith finds its expression sometimes through political movements when fundamental issues that effect the social foundations of society such as support for gay marriages, extreme feminism, social injustice, and religious exclusivity touch the moral conscience of citizens. When society seems divided, people of faith can build bridges by seeing the good in others besides standing up for the poor and oppressed.
The real concern in Malaysia is not that faith in God should be kept out from politics but the misuse of religion to score political points and divide people along ethnic and religious grounds. The churches are basically responding to these issues, and Nurul Izzah Anwar’s statement on freedom of religion basically reflects these realities.
If Wong Chun Wai is really concerned about churches being used for political purposes, he should write more articles on the root causes of ethno-religiosity and its effects on people of different faiths and how this ideology continues to retard intellectual and spiritual freedom.
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Holding the simplistic view that faith should be kept out of politics is equivalent to saying there is no need for ethics in nation building.
Ronald Benjamin, an Aliran member, is a human resources practitioner based in Ipoh.