Churches must return election grants

On May 16, 2010 it was reported in The Sunday Post that four Sibu Methodist churches were given special grants totalling RM1.25 million – in the final hours of the Sibu by-election campaign.

This is a consideration of the ramifications of the acceptance of such monies by churches and an appeal to the churches involved in this episode and all Malaysian churches to reject such last-minute “grants.”



The Malaysian Insider –
Sibu churches given federal cash ahead of vote

SIBU, May 16 – Four Sibu Methodist churches were given special grants totalling RM1.75 million from the federal government yesterday in the final hours of the by-election campaign.

The award was presented by a representative from the deputy prime minister’s office, according to a report in today’s The Sunday Post.


The Sunday Post report added that the money would be used for upgrading and extension works of church buildings in the city with a pre-dominantly Methodist population.

The four churches are the En Tao Methodist Church, Tien Tao Methodist Church, which received RM500,000, Sing Ang Tong Methodist Church (RM400,000) and Hwai Ang Tong Methodist Church (RM350,000). …


money bills

Regardless of the results of the Sibu parliamentary by-elections, the reported “special grants” of RM1.75 million to four Methodist churches on the eve of polling day is very troubling to me as a Christian who attends a Methodist church and I am sure to many other Christians.

It is always troubling when a sitting government, regardless of which party, has to resort to dishing out “special grants” to various sections of the constituency involved in an election for the sole purpose of increasing their “votability.” Such last-minute attempts to be seen as being sympathetic to the concerns and needs of specific sectors of voters is dishonest, insincere, and hypocritical.

A sitting government which is genuinely sincere would have had a system in place to gauge issues and needs of the respective voters and to have an orderly, transparent, fair, and effective way of allocating adequate budget and plans to resolve problems on the ground. It is difficult to see how large sums of public money could suddenly become available or that the people’s needs could suddenly catch the eyes of the powers that be only when election campaigns are on.

The issues, needs and concerns faced by religious communities – Muslim as well as non-Muslim – are there for all to see. If sincerely, fairly, and properly dealt with, they would not become election issues. Likewise for issues facing particular ethnic communities, perennial problems, and threats such as floods, road conditions, etc. Therefore, last minute “election goodies” and “special grants” are tacit admissions of lack of proper and honest planning and implementation on the part of a sitting government.

Apart from all this, the matter of offering “special grants” to the four Methodist churches in Sibu on the eve of polling day is especially troubling to me on account of the fact that I am a Christian and a member of the Methodist Church – a denomination which among other things have served the people of this country well before its independence in various social fields including education and especially the education of women one of whom was my own mother.

I was saddened and very concerned about comments that were made regarding these “special grants” by concerned citizens who not only care about Sibu and Malaysia but also about the possibility of how this blatantly desperate episode could also affect the churches’ good name. Here are a few samples of such comments:

Jin Chuah: The worrying part is that the RM1.75 million of Federal allocation channeled into the 4 Methodist churches in Sibu may result in those Christians who have yet to cast their votes, to not turn up.[sic]

Tan: God is watching SIBU, but he is helpless with BN’s goodies.

Abang Adek: Like I said last night, God is nothing compared to money. And the Methodist Churches who took the bribes from the BN only prove again to all, that God is nothing compared to money. You PR guys only hope in miracles. Well, the miracle happening today is the miracle of $$$$$$. Money talks, money walks…

Fairplay Lee: All Christian brothers and sisters do not be cheated and wake up and vote for justice and be guided by the Holy Spirit.

Disappointed: The RM1.75 million Federal Fund channeled to 4 churches is not BN pocket money but rightfully the rakyat’s money. Don’t u think the money comes a bit too late? Think Sibuans, before casting your votes.

Aca: Santa… gives millions to churches and only RM600 per head to poor Ibans. Next round maybe Ibans get RM6,000 per head and RM600 per church. Wonder whether the pastors can be corrupted by the millions?

Kumar. Pg: Dengan rasuah sebanyak RM1.75m, adakah orang Kristian akan meyerahkan maruah ugama mereka kepada UMNO?

Anil: If you ask me, I don’t think the churches in Sibu should have accepted those grants during the election campaign period –
even if their followers can still vote as they please. After all, this is vote-buying and both the buyer and the recipient need to be responsible (though one can understand the circumstances of those who desperately need the money). But I don’t think the churches are in such desperation. They are called to uphold a higher standard and should set an example to others by rejecting corruption in all its forms. It would also be a telling lesson to those who offer them the money – that there are some things that money just cannot buy.

The spotlight, rightly or wrongly, is very much on the Christian Church in Malaysia regardless of denomination or communion. Malaysians are watching us and wondering, aloud and silently, waiting to see what we will do under these circumstances, waiting for a clear word from us. This happened in Sibu but its ramifications will be much wider in scope and depth. It is not even just to do with the Christian community as such but how elections are conducted in the country and how we conduct ourselves during elections and at other times.

I respectfully appeal to the churches directly involved in this episode:

If it isn’t true and it didn’t happen, then please say so.

If it is true, offered and received, give it all back.

WE DON’T WANT SUCH MONEY.

Let the church be poor (as a church mouse) but as the Book of Proverbs say, poor but happy keeping a clear conscience.

I also respectfully appeal to all Malaysian churches through the Christian Federation of Malaysia:

Please let us send a clear, unmistakable, and irrevocable message to the country and the world. As citizens and tax-payers we deserve to practise and observe our religious faith in peaceful and orderly fashion and we should get reasonable amounts of resources to enable us to do so. Any sitting government is welcome to sit down with us, discuss, and understand in a timely and civil way our religion and our community’s needs and concerns regarding places of worship, burial grounds and our bibles in Bahasa Malaysia as well as how we will continue to serve all Malaysians in need through our social services. Provide the facilities and resources justly due to us but please don’t give us “special grants” only at the eve of by-elections. WE DON’T TAKE SUCH MONEY. No, thank you. Never under such circumstances.

Otherwise, we will be sending the message to the government, present or future, BN or PR, that the church which bears the name of Christ is ever willing to take money under such circumstances: “Make us an offer, we are open to such funding. We encourage electioneering where money is utilised as a means to win votes. Is there a higher bid?”

The Christian Church preaches moral values and standards in all things to all people. It wants to take the moral high ground. It must therefore be subjected to the same high moral standards which it espouses.

We serve a risen saviour whose birth in human form was in a humble manger because there was no room in the inn for his parents. Let us stay true to our calling.

LB: This post originally appears in the writer’s blog, onGOHing.


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22 Responses to Churches must return election grants

  1. TERENCE

    I don't think the churches need to return the grants. After all isn't it the duty of the government to look after the interests of its people including providing and upgrading facilities for worship. There is freedom of worship in Malaysia isn't it? Moreover the acceptance of the grants need not necessarily mean that the churchgoers would automatically vote for BN. The Priests/Pastors always urge their flock to vote with their conscience.

  2. BN (PM) used Hoover Square (Methodist Church in front of IRD) during the by election. Can DAP use Hoover Square for future election? If the answer is no, then Methodist Church chould the money. The fact that BN used Hoover Square it means religion does mix with politic. Shame on Methodist Church.

  3. LM Chong

    Should not we also have a system to elect the church leader, or atleast the power to remove?

    Despise on these hypocrites who have been using the name of the God in administrading JUSTICE, but are actually not more than apple polishers

  4. jasbir

    Only the Methodist churches in Sibu know why this amount was offered to them…to use it for other "good" purposes would mean that they have to answer the authorities…leading them to unforeseen and unnecessary problems and trouble

  5. alrawa

    Just return a 'spring' cheque for the amount given if that could soothe the churches' guilt! Get what I mean?

  6. StevenO

    It would be a greater sin if the money is handed back and UMNo use it to buy another election.

    Likewise, to return it instead of using it to feed/help the poors is also a great sin, but to accept it for own use knowing fully that this is a bribe for the solicitation of votes, would land you in……..church…a corrupt church…haha…not hell lah.

  7. TheMadLabs

    Why fuzz about all these. If the money has been given, take it, and use it to send poor children to school. So what if the money is meant to bribe.

    Only idiot will give back the money.

  8. PH Chin

    Let's have a closer look at BN's 1.75 million special grant.

    What is the intention of BN's grant ?

    Is it to buy votes ?

    If affirmative, BN has failed.

    If negative, keep it to give to the poor. There're many Sibuans who need help, especially those in the Rejang Park.

    Could this be God's way to bless the poor in Sibu ?

  9. UpsetChristian

    The 4 Methodist churches should not give back the money. Instead, they should give it away to the poor & needy in Sarawak. Many of the poor & needy were bypassed by BN before the Sibu elections. As Christians, we should have nothing to do with dirty money.

  10. ahoo

    Samuel 15:22 (New King James Version)

    1Samuel 15:22

    So Samuel said:

    “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and

    sacrifices,

    As in obeying the voice of the LORD?

    Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,

    And to heed than the fat of rams.

    We cannot take this money! I suggest that the press be informed, the govt too and gather all the poor people around Sibu and let it be known that the Churches have cannot accept such money. This should be rightfully given to all those poor out there. Let the press make the statement and the poor communities receive their money with the knowledge of the govt.

    Afterall, those money belong to the taxpayers, ya. Let the Churches remain in obedience before the Lord and sacrifice these grants to the needy there. Just my 2 cents BUT would that really take place ? God knows and He sees the hearts of those in position amongst the Churches there.

  11. ellese A

    A perfect point. I have written before that I cannot comprehend those people who regard this as bribery and yet somehow accept the money given. A bribery can only happen when there is a giver and taker. If you vehemently object it, you have to return it. Otherwise don't go around claiming moral high ground.

  12. orang sarikei

    dear "orang kampong"

    i was moved to say something, no offfence intended…

    while i agree that we can no 'right' what was 'wrong', if really by using 'wrong' money to do some good, and to 'sin' in the process, i would choose to go ahead.

    the way i see it:

    if someone 'sins' to do good, he sacrifice himself

    if someone does the opposite, he/she is only thinking of himself/herself…

    i would use the money for good cause. if GOD is unhappy, then i think HE has got issues…

  13. orang kampong

    It is not right for a Christian to accept sin money to do good. Christian cannot use the Robin Hood's way of stealing from the wicked rich and donate it to the poor. Christian cannot right what is wrong with good work. God does not want your sacrifices but obedient heart.

  14. Das

    Great article, my friend and I must say an eye opener! To say at this point in time that the Muslims, if they are in the majority, be it in Government or the population, are capable of bribing their way through to have it their way, would be premature/unfair! But the ones who control the coridoors of power do "misbehave" in times of elections and/or "buy elections" does not in anyway reflect the overall teachings of Islam! The point I am trying to drive is this….what more can one expect from politicians who swear on the QURAN and do the exact opposite the next day! YES! don't expect too much! In the same way, if the Church in question have actually taken the monies, then all I will say is this….GOD bless them! My parting shot….if Najib wants to play GOD, let him because he has, not only Altantuya "ghost" to answer but also the submarine deal hanging over his head till he answers to the Almighty one day! Make no mistake about this and God knows what other deals he is involved with! For all I care, he might just be C4ed before the next GE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    REMEMBER! What goes around, comes back! Tell him to cling on to the Quran for salvation, if the Almighty has any sympathy for him and which I seriously doubt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Das

  15. StevenO

    Forgot to add that it's morally wrong to keep the money for the Church though! Give it away to the poor and needy, there are many of them around!

  16. StevenO

    Oh no!! Please do not return the money to the corrupt government. They will pocket it for themselves. Or even worse, they will use to buy another election.

    Put it to good use by channeling the money to feed the poor Penan, the desperate Orang Asli, the Kuchi Indians and not forgeting the down and trodden Malays in the interior part of Malaysia. It's absolutely not a sin to use sin money for a noble cause!

    The cruelest form of crime against another fellow human being is to keep him/her in perpetual poverty.

  17. francis ngu

    Remarkable that Christians are so spiritually moved to take a lead in an area of public morality. The trials and tribulations have clearly strengthened the faith and righteous courage of Christians, as much as the growing pains of Reformasi have strengthened the faith of followers of all religions.

    A morally upright civil society must be the bedrock of a progressive nation. The lines between Good and Evil has never been clearer and the choices never more obvious.

    This courageous exposition of Christian morality will have positive repercussions on Malaysian life well beyond the walls of churches and cathedrals. Goodness in society will multiply a thousand fold as a result of your confident moral position.

    Onwards together, true Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhist and others.

    Kuching.

  18. orang kampong

    I agree that churches should not accept the money. The issue here is the motive of giving which is clearly wrong – bribery. I have no problem accepting the money if it was given to the church sincerely without expecting any favor from the church.

  19. From A Distance, God Is Watching. The Holy Spirit Moving Among The Hearts Of The Righteous. Voted For Justice, Light, Love, Change & A Better Future. Hallelujah!

  20. Lotus

    Can't agree more,using people's own hardearned money to influence voting. If the 4 churches smell, or just get a whiff of RATS!(otherwise have a nosecheck)quickly return to sender, wrong address!

  21. jungleboy

    If the churches accepting the grant did not try to influence their members who to vote for, I believe there is nothing wrong with it. GOD bless people in many ways. Sometimes HE will use the Devil to bless HIS people.

  22. this is troubling, yet it affirms my faith in everyday people doing the right thing. church officials like any other religious officials may think they are merely paper pushers, but they are definitely more than that and should refuse donations, especially when it involves "blood money" or ill-conceived motives.

    congratulations to the constituents of sibu for simply voting the other way, just to teach BN a lesson, i.e. never take your constituents for granted.