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When compassion goes missing

Compassion that transcends borders of race, religion and political creed is most heart-warming

We need leaders with compassion and wisdom - REEDING/FLICKR

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Compassion is most essential, especially when humanity is being subjected to calamity, such as the current coronavirus pandemic, which has battered our economy and affected lives and livelihoods.

The empathy and sympathy that many of us have towards the less fortunate is an acknowledgement and appreciation of our common humanity.

Thus, it is rather troubling, for example, that senior minister Ismail Sabri mockingly labelled opposition politicians, namely Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil and Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh, as “representatives for foreigners” when they expressed concerns that residents of condominiums and residential complexes, including foreigners, may be discriminated against for not being able to pay the cost of Covid-19 testing.

This came about after Ismail Sabri reportedly made a ruling recently that allows housing management to compel residents into submitting their Covid report. Those who fail to comply will be barred from entering their premises.

It doesn’t help that Ismail Sabri’s response to the two MPs’ concerns carried xenophobic undertones, which could complicate the primary objective of breaking break the chain of infections, as this could give rise to a situation where those foreigners and Malaysians who can ill-afford the Covid test would end up on the streets as the government has no place to quarantine them.

Anyway, civil society groups representing property and facility managers insisted that existing laws prevent such a rule from being implemented.

The lives of our fellow human beings, locals and foreigners alike, must be saved from the ravages of the deadly virus – which is indeed the concern of the two MPs. This requires us to exercise compassion, especially towards the needy and the less fortunate. This means appropriate assistance should be accorded to them.

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Let’s be clear here. Compassion is not a sign of human weakness. It is a virtue promoted by all religions, particularly Islam, which reminds its adherents in their daily prayers of the Almighty, ie the Merciful and the Compassionate.

Recently, a mother of three was caught shoplifting a cake, sausages and a Kool Fever kit from a hypermarket for her children as she was penniless to buy even essential things.

Compassion and a sense of justice seemed to have guided the police officer in charge to not only view the case in a different light but also take the initiative to help provide assistance to the unfortunate family.

The case of the shoplifting woman starkly contrasts with the one not too long ago where the full force of the law was brought to bear on two individuals who flouted the standard operating procedures as they had to leave their house to look for food elsewhere because there was simply no food on the table.

There was a cry for help among unemployed blind masseurs recently. It is incumbent upon those with the milk of human kindness and the wherewithal, particularly the government, to extend a helping hand.

This goes to show that lockdowns have varying effects on different social classes, and it is crucial that people, especially the powers that be, take cognisance of this harsh social reality.

It is also compassion to a large extent that propels civil society groups, such as soup kitchens, that voluntarily offer free food and other assistance – rain or shine – to the homeless and the needy in the city, especially under such extreme conditions as the pandemic.

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Compassion that transcends borders of race, religion and political creed is most heart-warming. For instance, preacher Ebit Lew, who goes the distance, is the embodiment of such compassion and kindness, driven by his faith and commitment.

The call for ministers and their deputies in the 70-strong federal cabinet in the country to take a pay cut is an appeal to their compassion for the needy. Although the cut may not adequately address the people’s economic hardship, it is an important symbolic gesture.

We are made all the poorer when we are bereft of compassion. – The Malaysian Insight

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