Since its inception in 2007 as a center for world religions and later in 2016 being restructured into the center for religion and society, the center has been entrusted with the task of organizing forums, talks and promoting research and writing. The key objectives are to guide and equip the Malaysian Christian community in understanding its role in relation to inter-faith and cross cultural communication. It gives me great pleasure for this recent appointment and responsibility to head the CRS, following Dr Sivin Kit’s departure to Geneva to take up a position with the Lutheran World Federation.
The CRS will continue to organize seminars, forums and lectures which will benefit theological students, Church Workers and members in developing skills and engaging with the multiracial and multicultural community in a holistic and fruitful manner.
As an independent nation since 1957, Malaysia has progressed reasonably well, despite emerging issues related to ethnicity, race and religion. As it is usually the case with growing economies in the third world countries, Malaysia is also not exempt of its share of issues related to poverty, violation of human rights, ecological degradation, corruption and abuse of power by those in frantic pursuit of material wealth and absolute power. As the Malaysian Church, looks for a religious model with transformative elements and with a scope for peaceful co-existence with the other faiths, Isaiah 53 stands as the most relevant model. The theology of the Cross and the suffering servanthood are the most apt images to reflect on. We could call this the Christological Roadmap. The Roadmap or directions set to achieve specific spiritual and relational goals in practicing Christianity un a multu-religious and diverse cultural context. The objective of the Christological Roadmap of the Cross is simple and expresses: ‘peace with God and goodwill among all people’.
With this thought hinged to our minds, we need to probe into the images of Christ in Isaiah 53 which embed in it spiritual and social directions for communal and relational integration and interaction of the Church. Though these images may seem paradoxical they certainly help us develop a holistic grasp concerning the call, ministry and mission of Christ through the Church. The paradoxical presentation of Christ in Isaiah 53 provides the necessary impetus to the Malaysian Church in redefining and reassessing its presence and position where it is called to coexist and relate with other faiths as ambassadors of Christ and a loving and responsible neighbor.
Further, Pauline assertion in 2 Corinthians 5:17-20, that we are ambassadors of Christ is indicative that the Church as a new creation has as its foremost task in practicing reconciliation and peace; namely, in word, being and doing. Reconciliation and peace involves providing Christ like service to the world by people who have experienced the bountiful blessings.
Rev Dr Wilfred John Samuel ( Director of Centre for Religions & Society )