It seemed befitting that this year’s Merdeka Day Mass held at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Johor Bahru would include the launch of the PROTEC Year 2 campaign of ‘Cut Down Meat, Dairy & Food Waste’ as both events signify an opportunity to start anew, recalibrate where we are heading and look at better ways to get there. A time to reflect on our hopes for country and neighbour, ‘rakyat hidup bersatu dan maju’ and to take to heart our responsibility in ‘living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork’ (Laudato Si’).
Celebrant Rt. Rev. Bernard Paul, DD Bishop of Malacca & Johore, in his stirring homily shared on the necessary changes that must take place on our continuing journey of nation building. Bishop Paul reminded us of how we are God’s people – He sees us as sons and daughters, not rouges. (Isaiah 63:7-9). To be clothed in God’s love by living in sincere compassion, kindness and humility with one another, treating each other with gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12-17). That our loving God does not want us to worry as He provides and we should avoid causing worry upon others (Luke 12:22-31). The slogan of ‘Malaysia Cares’ or ‘Malaysia Prihatin’ will remain a mere slogan unless we make it come alive by practising borderless caring – care that does not discriminate by how we look, the way we speak or what we believe.
Bishop Paul continued by challenging us in the way we care for the environment by going beyond physical and material needs. Bishop in fact calls us to go to WAR! Go against wastage. Against abuses. Against ravaging resources. The care and preservation of Mother Earth is a mission for all, every Malaysian, every family, every kampung… right up to the highest institutions – a united mission. Bishop Paul instructs us to use the WEAPON we have at hand to combat consumerism and materialism. That ‘weapon’ is our personal commitment to reduce, cut down and use less. Bishop Paul reiterated that to be a truly caring nation is to uphold Justice, Truth and Peace. For without truth there can be no justice, and without justice there can be no peace. When man is at peace, the world is at peace. Then healing can take place – for humanity and the environment.
Presiding over the Mass and launch of the PROTEC Year 2 campaign with Bishop Paul, were Parish Priest Father Eddie Rayappan and the Assistant Parish Priest Father Claurence Motoyou of Church of the Immaculate Conception, JB, Monsignor Michael Mannayagam, Spiritual Director of Creation Justice Commission of Malacca Johore (CJCMJD) and Parish Priest of Church of the Holy Family, Ulu Tiram and Assistant Parish Priest Father Paul Sia of Church of St Theresa, Masai. The PROTEC or Protect Our Earth, Protect Our Children campaign is a 5-year campaign (1 September 2020 – 31 August 2025) by the Episcopal Commission for Creation Justice for all Malaysian dioceses. The first campaign theme launched in 2020 was, ‘Use Less Electricity.’
The dire need for a change in attitude towards the environment was further reflected in the Prayer of the Faithful. That the Church may truly model Jesus through the teachings found in Laudato Si’ and bring about ecological conversion, changing hearts and minds to lovingly care for creation. For all animals raised in terrible conditions and the cruelty they are exposed to because of our hunger for meat and dairy products. For all the food wasted every day which is enough to feed to the 2 billion hungry in the world. For all those who deny the climate crisis and resist actions to refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle, and regenerate; not realizing that such denial and resistance ensures the death and suffering of millions of innocent people and creatures of God.
A video was played to mark the launch of the PROTEC Year 2 campaign ‘Cut Down Meat, Dairy & Food Waste.’ The video highlighted several pressing issues like animal agriculture being responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the depletion of ocean life caused by over-fishing, the sad irony of world hunger when one-third of the food produced globally is wasted. A second video featured pledges by our Archbishops and Bishops of Malaysia to encourage us with the changes we need to make in our lives. Rt. Rev Bernard Paul, DD Bishop of Malacca & Johore, Most Rev. Julian Leow, DD Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Rt. Rev. Dato’ Seri Sebastian Francis, DD Bishop of Penang, Most Rev. Datuk John Wong, DD Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, Rt. Rev. Richard Ng, DD Bishop of Miri, Rt. Rev. Joseph Hii, DD Bishop of Sibu, Most Rev. Simon Poh, DD Archbishop of Kuching pledged to cut down on meat and Rt. Rev. Datuk Cornelius Piong, DD Bishop of Keningau reminded us that we must live in harmony with nature and animals.
As we journey on as Malaysians and as stewards of God’s Creation, perhaps we should look to the symbols of creation that were displayed before the altar during the Mass; candles, the pumpkin, plants, the globe, flags of the Malaysian states. These symbols act as a reminder that we are all children of God on Earth, each one of us bears the light of Christ, which brings hope, healing, caring and protecting our children and environment, safeguarding a better tomorrow for all.