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Monday, December 8, 2008

Christian worldview - an interview with Ravi Zacharias

There is no law in the land where I live, compelling me to [be a Christian]. But in your land, if I chose to disbelieve [Islam], I have to stand before a tribunal of justices and explain it.

By Julia Duin
The Washington Times

Indian-born Ravi Zacharias, who grew up steeped in Hinduism, is one of the first Christian apologists to come out of the Third World. Headquartered in Atlanta, his expertise on comparative religions has earned him audiences from Capitol Hill to Harvard. The following are excerpts from an interview by Julia Duin with Mr. Zacharias, who was in town recently for a lecture at the C.S. Lewis Institute.

Q: How do you present the uniqueness of Christianity?

A: I am totally convinced the Christian faith is the most coherent worldview around. Everyone: pantheist, atheist, skeptic, polytheist has to answer these questions: Where did I come from? What is life's meaning? How do I define right from wrong and what happens to me when I die? Those are the fulcrum points of our existence. I deal with cultural issues whether they be in the Middle East, Far East, the Orient or the West. You broach questions in the context of their culture and then present Christian answers.

Q: Why do you call "Jesus Among Other Gods" your most significant book?

A: There was no life so impeccably lived as His. There are those who've claimed prophetic status who have led pretty heavily duplicitous lives. But in Christ, you never see that. You never find Him in any compromising situation that shows itself where He was driven by the sensuality of the moment. After 2000 years, no name has been scrutinized more, none abused or challenged more in the public media. I find a lot of Western journalists intellectually cowardly here. They would never do with Mohammed what they do with Jesus. They don't have the courage to do that. If the major magazines - Time, Newsweek or U.S. News and World Report - did with Mohammed on one of their major festivals what they do to Jesus on Christmas or Easter, they probably wouldn't be in existence any more.

Q: Why are people so fascinated with Eastern religions?

A: Because they give you the privilege of morality without having God. Even aspects of the entire New Age movement are a moralizing philosophy without the positing of a central deity. Buddhism also gives you that. Bahaism gives you a pluralistic view, and a lot of aspects of Hinduism give you a moral framework with no accountability other than the karmic system. There's no linear movement or point of accountability toward God. I was in a hearing with [former presidential speechwriter] Peggy Noonan years ago and she asked this question: Do terrorists fear anything? I said, 'I suspect they would fear a morally strong America.' They would know that a morally strong America would not be dislodged. You can always appeal to a point of vulnerability which would break a people up. [Terrorists] don't fear so much the weaponry as the moral courage, and I think a morally strong America would be intimidating to them.

Q: What has been your experience on American campuses?

A: If I speak on Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam or whatever, I am quite free to do it without any repercussions. But if you speak on the Christian faith, somebody is going to question why you are there. You talk to any Christian campus group on any major campus and they'll tell you about the intimidation there. It's sad. I lived in India, then in Canada and then I've come here. America seems to take a hit for everything it does. But worse can be done in other parts of the world and it will be done with impunity. For instance, racism: I could take you to parts of the world today where racism is horrible, blatant. The same people who will tell you that, are the ones who will take us to task. I will tell you what is hidden under all of this. I believe because we live under the outworking of a Christian worldview, we are willing to face the self-criticism and scrutiny. Other worldviews are not willing to lend themselves to that.

Q: How much freedom do you have in Muslim countries?

A: [Muslims] will tell you there is no compulsion in religion. I was with the minister of religion of a major country that I will leave unnamed. He was a very courteous man and he was talking about the work they were doing. They had just met in Malaysia about improving the image of Islam. I asked, 'Why do you feel it needs to be improved?' He said, 'Well, September 11. We are often represented as using compulsion in religion.' I said, 'I don't want to be discourteous, but if I were in your country and I were a Muslim, would I be free to disagree with it?' He said, 'Why would you want to do that?' I said, 'No, I am just asking theologically: Would I be free to disbelieve it?' He said, 'Well, these things get more complicated when you deal with a country's laws and all.' I said, 'When you say there is no compulsion in religion, you are looking at one side of the coin, meaning you will never force someone to become what you are. But to have no compulsion means you should not compel somebody to believe something when they want to disbelieve it. That is a very critical test for compulsion.

There is no law in the land where I live, compelling me to [be a Christian]. But in your land, if I chose to disbelieve [Islam], I have to stand before a tribunal of justices and explain it. How can I withstand such intimidation and be honest and not pay for it at the same time? Frankly, he wouldn't give me an answer. I think if Islam is going to rise to the level many moderates want to see it, they will have to take off the heavy foot of compulsion in their own lands. Then it can be a legitimate representation of how many believe.

Q: How can Christianity meet the needs of a place like India?

A: I was born and raised in Bombay and I go back there twice a year. India is agony writ large. The voices of the millions are not heard. Walk through the streets of Calcutta and it hits you. At the same time, it's the center of India's learning. Some of her greatest philosophers come from Calcutta. The first thing Christianity does is raise the level of every individual. There's an essential dignity. Every human being is of essential worth. The second thing it does is give the impetus to love and reach out in a way that rescues the person, not just the function. Look at where the missionary organizations - the hospitals, orphanages and health care - came from. I spoke three weeks ago at Bahrain at the 100th anniversary of the American missionary hospital, which was founded in Saudi Arabia and now is in Bahrain. Many of the sheiks were born there and several were represented in the audience to which I spoke. From where came the impetus? It came from the love of Christ.

Q: What does American culture need rescuing from?

A: What America needs more than anything else right now is to know she cannot exist without the worldview that helped bring her into being. And that was the Judeo-Christian worldview. What America also needs is the willingness to allow the Christian faith freedom of access in the institutions that it allows every other faith to have. Isn't it interesting that when these mainline divinity schools were conservative, room was given for the liberals. But they have become liberal and the conservatives are squeezed out, if not humiliated out, which is a fascinating reality.

Correction: The hospital was founded in Bahrain (not Saudi Arabia as originally stated) and the missionaries traveled by road to Saudi Arabia to treat people and Royalty there.

Correction: Ravi Zacharias was born in Chennai (Madras) and raised in Delhi, not Bombay as this article states.

Why you should not vote Barisan Nasional


Please send in your photos as to "why you should not vote Barisan Nasional" and we shall publish them here. Also, we shall update this page as and when new photos come in, so please come back from time to time.





Forum Perdana Makkal Sakthi - Anti ISA

Hi all,

13th December 2008 ( Saturday) marks exactly a year where the Hindraf lawyers were held under the draconian law ISA. A National Forum of Abolish ISA will be held by Makkal Sakthi co-organised by Pakatan Rakyat as below ;-

Date : 13 th December 2008 ( Saturday - 6.30 pm to 11 pm)

Venue : Markas PAS Jalan Kebun, Bukit Naga, Shah Alam ( opposite Mardi beside KESAS highway towards Klang)

This day marks as BLACK day to the Malaysian justice where the lawyers whom champion the real marginalization and highlighted the injustice done by the UMNO lead government for last 50 years towards the Malaysian Indians were arrested and unproven allegation made against them.

A year almost gone and these lawyers were denied many of their basic rights while detention under the ISA. Many felt sick and no immediate treatment were given. All of them have been warded for many days in the hospital due to late treatments and new illness. Outside, their family suffers many loses and harrasment from SBs.

Most recently even their right to visit sick family were denied when P.Uthayakumar's mother were hospitalized for more a week but P.Uthayakumar were not given proper information nor access to pay visit his bedridden mother !!

Makkal Sakthi condemns ISA and its misuse by the UMNO lead government to silence the voice of injustice. Together with Pakatan Rakyat partners, a National Forum of Anti ISA will be held on this 13th Dec. 2008.

Pls come and show the solidarity of Makkal Sakthi against draconian ISA and seek immediate release of all ISA detainees. Many leaders from Makkal Sakthi , Pakatan Rakyat including Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, GMI and family members of the detainees will be delivering their speech followed by message from Mr Waythamoorthy from London.

Vaalge Makkal Sakthi

Ministerial reaction to Bukit Antarabangsa disaster - too much resignation, too little outrage

Starting with the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, there is too much resignation and too little outrage in the government reaction to the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide disaster and criminal negligence in failing to learn the lessons of the Highland Towers Collapse tragedy which had claimed 48 lives 15 years ago, resulting in the loss of another four lives on Saturday.

Apart from wringing their hands in despair and spouting the usual platitudes about a halt on hillslope development which no one believes in, there is even no political will to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry not only into the latest landslide disaster which killed four persons, injured 14, buried 14 bungalows and stranded 5,000 people, but also into the criminal negligence of the various parties involved – particular the federal, state and local government agencies – in failing to learn the lessons of the Highland Towers tragedy 15 years ago.

No wonder, Dr. Benjamin George, who survived the Highlands Tower disaster, was not convinced that things would get better when he said: “In three months, the tractors will start work again. I have survived long enough to see all this nonsense repeated.”

After the Highland Towers tragedy, I had proposed in Parliament the establishment of a mechanism like the Geotechnical Engineering Office (GEO) to investigate slopes for potential risks and to take preventive measures, to control the geotechnical aspects of new buildings and civil engineering works, to promote slope maintenance by owners, to undertake landslide warnings and emergency services and to advise on land-use plans to minimise public risks.

Affected Bukit Antarabangsa residents are entitled to ask why several tell-tale signs of impending landslides days and even weeks before Saturday’s landslide disaster had not been acted upon by the authorities to issue landslide warnings, especially as a geological firm had been awarded a RM1.6 million contract to “solely monitor the geological conditions” in Bukit Antarabangsa area, including earth movements.

Residents refer to a landslide which cut off a portion of the Jalan Bukit Antarabangsa main road just six days earlier, while a landslide victim, businessman Hassan Saad, 49, claimed that he had notified the relevant authorities about fallen trees and earth movements close to his home in Taman Bukit Mewah in October but his complaints were not taken seriously by the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ).

There can be no two ways about it – there should be a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide disaster with a three-prong terms of reference:

• firstly, to inquire into the circumstances and causes of Saturday’s Bukit Antarabangsa landslide tragedy;

• secondly a larger mandate to inquire whether and why the Federal, state and local government agencies have not learned the lessons of the Highland Towers tragedy 15 years ago, specifically for Bukit Antarabangsa but even further afield; and

• thirdly, why other countries like Hong Kong could end landslides by ensuring hillslope safety despite development.

When I visited Bukit Antaarabangsa disaster site yesterday, I had asked where was the Minister for Housing and Local Government, Datuk Ong Ka Chua, who had not shown up or expressed any concern more than 24 hours after the landslide disaster.

It was a few hours after my public query that the Deputy Housing and Local Government Minister, Robert Lau, showed up at the site claiming that he was making the visit on behalf of the Minister.

But what was more intriguing was the explanation by Ong’s press secretary that the Minister had left the country on Friday, a day before the landslide disaster, and that the Ministry staff had difficulty communicating with Ong.

As this clarification was made by Ong’s press secretary after the site visit of several DAP MPs yesterday, where did Ong fly to that he could not be contacted after some 48 hours – in a world when one can fly to the end of the world in 24 hours?

Finally, will Ong appear in Parliament on Wednesday to announce the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide disaster?

Eight Jerit cycles torched; Riot police in Bagan Serai


Someone doesn’t like the Jerit cyclists Photo by the Jerit crew (More pictures here)

The Jerit cyclists continue to be hit by one obstacle after another.

In a pre-dawn incident today, unknown arsonist(s) torched eight of the Jerit bikes in Penanti on mainland Penang, where the cycling team were spending the night. Three of the cycles were badly damaged.

The four dozen cyclists were not to be deterred and continued their journey south.

Later today, at around 6.00pm, ten Light Strike Force personnel and 15 police personnel stopped the cycling team at Bagan Serai, reports a Jerit source. “The place was crawling with police, who seemed aggressive. They were after the identities of the cyclists. The organisers refused to allow that and said the police could have the organisers’ IDs instead.”

After negotiations, the cyclists were allowed to proceed with their journey to Parliament. The cyclists are spending tonight in Taiping and Bagan Serai.

Over in Johor, despite obstructions yesterday by the police, 30 cyclists from Jerit’s southern team continued with their journey, moving north from Simpang Renggam this morning.

Why all these obstructions? Why so much fear and anxiety about workers and marginalised communities demanding their rights and a minimum wage that would allow them to live with dignity?

End it now, Anwar tells duo

Two feuding PKR leaders in Penang were at the receiving end of a stern tongue-lashing from a furious Anwar Ibrahim at a private meeting on Saturday.

The party supremo has given the duo – Deputy Chief Minister Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin and executive councillor Abdul Malik Abul Kassim – an ultimatum to bury their hatchet.

Otherwise, the duo has been warned of drastic actions that would see both leaders packed off from the Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s state cabinet.

Both incurred the wrath of the PKR leader as their bitter squabble was tearing apart state PKR and disrupting the smooth operations of Lim's government of late.

The dressing down took place in Anwar's hotel room after he had delivered a keynote address at the two-day international conference entitled 'The New Economic Vision for Penang and Malaysia' in Georgetown yesterday.

"The boss (Anwar) told them to set aside their differences and end their quarrel once and for all. Otherwise, he would not hesitate to replace them," said a Pakatan leader.

PKR has nine assemblypersons in Penang legislative assembly, including three in state executive council.

Penanti assemblyperson Mohammad Fairus (left) is charge of religious affairs, entrepreneurial and cooperative development, information and community relations, while Batu Maung's Abdul Malik is charge of domestic trade and consumer affairs.
Bukit Tambun elected representative Law Choo Kiang is the third PKR executive councillor in charge of agriculture and agro-based industry, rural development and flood mitigation portfolios.

Other PKR state assemblypersons are Jason Ong (Kebun Bunga), VS Raveenthran (Batu Uban), Sim Tze Tzin (Pantai Jerejak), Ong Chin Wen (Bukit Tengah), Maktar Shapee (Sungai Bakap) and Tan Hock Leong (Machang Bubok), who is also the assembly deputy speaker.
Abdul Malik came out worse

It's learnt Abdul Malik came out worse from Anwar's 40-minute dressing down.

Anwar, the Pakatan Rakyat de facto leader, was particularly irked by the tacit character assassination campaign carried out aggressively in certain blog sites against Fairus since he was appointed as Lim's number two.

Sources said the PKR supremo's internal probe unearthed evidence that Abdul Malik (left) was the mastermind behind the internal plot to topple the 33-year-old Fairus.

"It is not difficult to identify the mastermind given that Abdul Malik is the most likely person to benefit directly from an imminent Fairus exit," said a state PKR leader.
Malaysiakini reported on Saturday that a PKR state leader, said to be driven by jealousy, hatched the plan to oust Fairus after he was appointed deputy chief minister.

Sources indicated that the PKR leader has engaged bloggers and even conspired with certain local Umno leaders to topple Fairus from the coveted position.

After Pakatan stormed to power on March 8 general election, Abdul Malik was widely speculated to be picked as Lim's deputy. But Anwar chose Fairus instead.

Since then, Fairus has been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons, with speculations were rife that Anwar was fed up with him and on the verge of removing him from the state’s No 2 post.
Fairus often late to work

Anwar closed-door rebuke on Fairus’ alleged under performance and his frequent coming late to work, and at times absenteeism from functions without valid reasons, were widely reported in certain blogs.

Anwar was piqued that a PKR leader had conspired with certain Umno assemblypersons, such as Seberang Jaya's Arif Shah Omar Shah and Pulau Betong's Muhamad Farid Saad, to attack the embattled Fairus.

During last month's assembly sitting, Muhamad Farid has called on Fairus to step down, chiding him for incompetence, while Arif Shah recently created a furore after he said Anwar had offered the deputy chief minister’s post to lure him to PKR. This was however denied by Anwar.

Fairus too did not escape Anwar's fury. The deputy chief minister was warned to buck up to avert providing ammunition to his detractors.

When contacted, Fairus confirmed that Anwar had a private meeting with the duo, but declined to deliberate.

"The issue is closed. I'm sorry that there is no more news about me for the media to sensationalise," he told Malaysiakini with a broad smile.

Abdul Malik, on the other hand, declined comment on the subject.

"I don't know anything about Fairus issue," he quipped.