Below is a letter I wrote to the Editor of Herald, the Catholic weekly which was published on 23-8-09 issue.
Do away with the Ketuanan English mentality in churches
(header by Herald)
I am a Mandarin speaking Chinese Malaysian. I am proud of my Catholic faith. I totally disagreed with the comments by Chris Anthony on “ Racism in the church – Malaysian context” (Herald August 9, 2009, in italic).
“they prefer to regard themselves as Malays, Chinese, Indians than Malaysians, interacting with those of their own race…when we do not understand the cultures and traditions of our “friends” from other races …”
When I say I am a Chinese, it doesn’t make me a racist. Christianity does not prohibit me to be a Chinese, neither does it requires me to discard my ancestry and cultural practices.
This is a sweeping statement best he speaks for himself. Reading his mail, I would like to call the writer an outdated, colonial, pre-Vatican II, “Ketuanan English” creation.
“…it has further aggravated the problem by creating the various language groups. In the fifties and sixties when English was the main means of communication there was greater unity among the various races in the church……”
“Ketuanan English” is another form of racism and discrimination. The writer is against God’s creation of diversity and multiplicity. Today, we not only have English, Indian, Chinese and Eurasian groups, but there are now Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia, Vietnamese, Burmese, Nepalese, Korean, Filipino-speaking groups that are present in Christ's Church and community; our church is a dynamic Communion of diversity.
How nice it would have been if the Church had not progressed into what it is today. The writer would most definitely be happy that English would have still reigned sole supremacy!
“whenever a new parish priest takes over there is so much lobbying by the Tamil and Mandarin speaking parishioners to have a priest from their own race……”
I am a Catholic of 35 years and having worked with the English, Tamil, Chinese and BM groups, no group, to my best knowledge, has ever demanded a priest of their own race to serve their community. What they do, in fact, is to REQUEST for a priest who speaks their language. It is a basic right to practice religion in one’s own language. It is not racist and is perfectly acceptable.
I am so happy to see that the church is training many Chinese and Tamil speaking priests to cater to the needs of the lay faithful.
“From the past we know that a common language will go a long way to integrate the various communities and it has to be either Bahasa Malaysia or English, the latter is preferable for obvious reasons.”
It summed up the real thought of the writer.
Ending this mail I would like to quote: “ The church , in fact, lives in the world, even if she is not of the world ….certainly all the members of the church are sharers in this secular dimension but in different ways. In particular the sharing of the lay faithful has its own manner or realization and function, which, according to the Council, is “properly and particularly” theirs. Such a manner is designated with the expression “secular character”. (Christifideles Laici No. 15)
Simon Phun , Kajang.