A time to give — Baru Bian
DEC 25 — ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’
As we take time out from our busy schedules to celebrate the birth of Christ, I would like to reflect on the essence of Christmas and what it means to Christians who give thanks for the gift of Christ from God our Father. The biblical quotation above captures perfectly the message of Christmas — it is about giving. Just as God gave his Son to us, we too, out of love for our neighbours and friends, should think about, and practise giving to our family and friends, and our brothers and sisters in this State, and even in the country.
But what is it that we can give to our fellow citizens? It is well-known that Sarawak is one of the poorest states in Malaysia. Many of her citizens eke out an existence on very little earnings per household. The rate of poverty in the state has increased from 4.2 per cent in 2007 to 5.3 per cent in 2009; there are 28,505 people registered as poor including 2993 classified as hard-core poor. The government acknowledges that this figure is expected to increase over the next few years. These are the official figures from the authorities but due to the remoteness and inaccessibility of the interior, for every person registered, there are many more who are not.
In showing our love and compassion for those people who are less fortunate than us, it is commendable that we share what we have with them this Christmas season by giving material goods, money and food to the poor and needy. God gave us all in life without any conditions, and so should we give in the same spirit of all-encompassing love for our fellow citizens. I truly commend and applaud the kindness of Sarawakians who give generously each year in cash and in kind, and in giving their time to visit the old, the sick and the abandoned in homes during the festive season. Indeed Christmas is a time when we find joy in giving.
Many of us make our yearly donations and tell ourselves that we have paid our dues to society for the year, and we hang up our donor hats until next Christmas rolls along. Is this ‘giving’ in the true sense of the word as God gave to us? It is not. A yearly charitable contribution, while noble and good, is not sufficient to pull our less fortunate brothers and sisters out of the morass of poverty in which they find themselves through no fault of their own.
There is much more that the people of this state and country need. Besides food, clothing and shelter, we need to live in a society that is free and fair, to be governed by people who put our interests first and make decisions that are beneficial to the state, without fear or favour. We need a government that is righteous, that will protect and help those who are unable to help themselves, that will eschew corruption, nepotism and cronyism. We need a government made up of people who will not plunder our heritage and birthright to enrich themselves, while the poor are made to suffer more as a result of the plunder. We need good governance.
We cannot turn a blind eye anymore to the abuses of the current government and the resulting impoverishment to the people affected. Many people in the cities and towns who have stable jobs and earn a good wage have no appreciable comprehension of the very real issues of survival faced by those living in the rural areas. We are blessed in that our country is rich in natural resources and we are free from natural disasters – unlike our neighbouring countries such as Thailand and the Philippines, which have been hit by massive flooding in the recent months. However, we must open our eyes to the misdeeds of the very people to whom we entrust the administration of the state. Our native brothers and sisters are losing their livelihood while those in government and their cronies get richer by the continuing rampant abuse of power. It is especially galling and offensive that our downtrodden brothers and sisters are exhorted by those who steal from them to be grateful for a government that ‘cares for them’.
This Christmas season, I urge everyone to reflect on the meaning of giving to those who need our help the most. Thankfully, we are not called upon to give up our lives as Christ did, but we can show our love and concern for our fellow citizens by giving them the best chance of regaining their livelihood and to improve the lot of those who are trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty. We can give to them and indeed, to ourselves the opportunity of change by exercising our right to vote in the coming General Elections and by exercising our right prudently. This would be a gift of a lifeline, not only for us today but also for the generations to come. And the time for the giving is NOW! It is time for justice and righteousness to prevail and we have the power to bring about the change. It is my prayer that our Fair Land Sarawak will come into her own and for her and her proud people to once again be free and to prosper. I give thanks to God that He has blessed Sarawak with abundant resources and that there are many who have a deep love for and a strong connection with the land. Let us vote for a Government that will be a Government FOR the people so that all Sarawakians may reap and enjoy what rightfully belongs to all her citizens. In such a way, we can say ‘we have given’ in the spirit of Christmas. And in so giving, we will all receive the gift of a new beginning for our beloved Sarawak.
I wish all Sarawakians and all our friends both Christian and non-Christian throughout Malaysia and around the world a Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.
* Baru Bian is the State Liaison Chief for PKR Sarawak
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.