On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

It’s the time to unite, not to divide

Buying a gift can sometimes become more than just a
hassle, even agonising when love and loyalty is measured in terms of the value
of the gift. Most of us, whether we wish to admit it, remember and appreciate
the more expensive gifts.

Often, we receive more than what we deserve. We get more
cakes than what our stomach can take. Some of us get so many greeting cards,
including from strangers, that we no longer cherish them, let alone remember
the names of the senders.

We in The Star, through our Festive Wish campaign, want
to remind Malaysians that there are many less fortunate people out there who
need the things we take for granted.

The Vision Home in Ipoh,
for example, has asked for musical instruments because the 22 children at the
home worship and sing with their one guitar – held together by sticky tape,
while the Sri Raghavendra Welfare Home for the elderly in Seremban needs money
to provide meals for its residents.

The Good Shepherd Family Home in Ipoh,
with 17 children, is asking for a sewing machine while the Welcome Community
Home in Batu Awang, which helps HIV/AIDS patients in Selangor, sent a plea for
food and drinks.

There are many welfare homes run by non-government
organisations and religious groups nation-wide that have sent out their
messages of help. They are not asking for a two-week vacation in London
or a diamond ring.

All they want is a little portion of your yearly bonus.
Perhaps some food from the lavish open house you will be throwing for your
friends soon.

It's a privilege to give. To be in a position to share simply
means that we have been luckier than many others.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down
from the Father of the Heavenly Lights, as beautifully stated in the Bible
(James 1:17).

In Malaysia,
it's a joy for people of all races and religions to come together in
celebration. The Government has given recognition to Christians by organising a
national-level Christmas open house in Petaling Jaya on Dec 25.

There was some uneasiness earlier that the use of
Christian symbols and singing of hymns, particularly the mention of Jesus,
would not be allowed.

The miscommunication, I am given to understand from a
senior official at Putrajaya, could have come from some misguided and
narrow-minded bureaucrats.

It's nonsensical and I am glad that Arts, Culture and
Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim has clarified that there is no such
directive. His statement should put an end to any confusion.

Previous national-level Christmas celebrations had been
held, with no such suggestion, subtle or otherwise, from anyone.

Christians celebrate Christmas because of the birth of
Jesus Christ and to celebrate the festival without mentioning or depicting his
birth would be highly unusual. Any attempts from anyone to do so would be

I have always maintained that misguided middle or
low-ranking bureaucrats, with twisted religious and racial views, are the ones
who frustrate the liberal policy of the Barisan Nasional government.

The fact that the federal government is holding a
national-level Christmas function is testimony to that policy.

Malaysians must remember that the open house is a social
event. I have yet to come across any Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali or
Christmas open house that has been turned into a religious event.

This is a social occasion where people of all races and
religious come together in our unique Malaysian way.

More often than not, it is to indulge in food. Religious
convictions are kept at home at these open house functions.

The majority of Malaysians are broad-minded, tolerant and
practical. That is what makes Malaysia
special – and it works.

We adopt a cautious approach, and rightly so, too, when
there are religious leaders, regardless of their faith, who abuse their
position and talk about politics.

We hear of fiery Muslim preachers who create disunity and
confusion with their brand of radical Islam.

In the same vein, Christians should ask their preachers
to keep their politics to themselves.

Even in Malaysia,
there are certain church leaders who go to the pulpit to condemn the
government, not realising that many of their listeners do not share their
political beliefs. In fact, we don't turn up on Sunday to listen to a political

Christians in Malaysia
attend church services to listen to the words of the scripture. We want to hear
the words of peace, love, tolerance, forgiveness, sharing, giving, patience,
humility and compassion.

It is time to celebrate, not to divide, incite or
instigate. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!