American poet Robert Frost wrote a famous poem of chancing upon two divergent paths in his walk in the woods. He wrote that he took the path less travelled and it has made all the difference. I have lost count of the number of people I’ve met who defined their life’s achievement by Frost’s “road less travelled.” I imagine that if I were ever to discover that road, it would be choked by a massive human traffic jam. Recently, Nelson Mandela died. Throughout the world, people like Najib and Dr Mahathir not only shared about the time they met him but tried to hint that they too are like him: little Mandelas. I think God broke the mould when he made Mandela.
The truth of the matter is that non-conformity is not as commonplace as we think. That is why it’s called non-conformity. It’s rarity lies in the price that has to be paid for breaking ranks with the majority.
At the height of the Al-Kitab issue in March 2011, the Bible Society of Malaysia refused to allow its Malay Bible to be turned into a political issue. When the Ten Points Solution was offered, BSM ended its stand-off with the Government, collected its detained bibles and forgave the Government over the incident.
Many in the Christian community were extremely unhappy that BSM by its actions took the wind out of the sails of a scandal that could have a damaging effect on the performance of the Government in a coming state election. A leading evangelical organisation decided to put BSM out of the Malay bible business by making plans to order Malay bibles directly from BSM’s supplier to compete with BSM. A leaked e-mail showed that they had a problem with the expense of such a project. Their solution: to ask BSM to give them the money so that they can put us out of business. In any event, we had no money to commit this kind of suicide.
The Ten Points Solution left us with the happy situation of the Government undertaking not to interfere with our future imports of Malay bibles. However, we had no money to buy more Malay bibles. The batch of 5,000 bibles cost us RM70,000 and we had waived compensation from the Government as a demonstration of the sincerity of our forgiving them. That was a pretty big hole in our bank account.
What were we to do? There had been no supply of Malay bibles in the country since 2008. The shipment that came in 2009 was to meet that need. It was detained for 2 years and in 2011, it was spoiled and not fit for sale. With serial numbers, these bibles were potential snares for the buyers. It looked like the famine would go on. Had the opponents of the Al-Kitab finally won their victory?
It is when we are totally helpless that God acts. Within days, BSM received an offer to fund the purchase of Malay bibles provided that they be distributed free of charge. BM-speaking Christians are among the poorest in the Christian community. What an apt reward for the 1.2 million BM-speaking Malaysian Christians who had faithfully prayed for years that God will end their bible drought!
An order for 100,000 Malay bibles was immediately placed. The cost: RM1 million. Within months, the first shipment arrived at Port Klang. We waited with bated breath to see whether it would make its way past KDN officers at the port. Will the Government honour the Ten Points Solution?
The bibles were immediately inspected by KDN as expected. Within two days, they were out of the port and on its way to BSM’s office. A few more shipments arrived some months later. They too cleared the port without problems.
The following year, 2012, BSM believing that God will provide more than He did in 2011 ordered 300,000 copies of Malay bibles at a cost of RM3 million. Then we informed the Christian community and within months every last cent that BSM needed was provided. This massive order was delivered on a staggered basis, arriving every few months. Like the year before, every shipment was cleared immediately by KDN without delay and without incident.
Thus, in a space of 3 years (2011-2013), God had provided 400,000 copies of Malay bibles to BM-speaking Christians in Malaysia. We call this the 1M Al-Kitab Project (1M stands for 1 million). By God’s grace, the Federal Government had kept its promise contained in the Ten Points Solution.
Also, in 2011, a young seminary professor, Dr Lim Kar Yong, made the discovery that the Malay bible was first translated in 1612. This made the Malay bible the first bible to be translated in a non-European language. What a feather in the cap for the Malay bible! Thus, in 2012, BSM celebrated the 400th Anniversary of the Malay Bible with joint functions with bible seminaries in Seremban, Petaling Jaya and Kota Kinabalu culminating in a anniversary dinner in November graced by 800 people including church luminaries.
What little that God took away in order to test us, He has replaced in numbers beyond our imagination. Also, the unhappiness against BSM over the 2011 incident evaporated the following year with the success of the 1M Al-Kitab Project and the closing of ranks as seen in the celebrations over the 400th Anniversary of the Malay Bible.
At the end of 2013, we decided to call time-out on the project. It was time for a well-earned rest or so we thought. God had other plans. The raid by JAIS took place on 2 January 2014. This is a reminder from God that the struggle is far from over and the task is not completed.
This incident is from God. He is in control and He has a purpose. He pulls the strings, not JAIS nor the Selangor state government nor the Federal Government. A reporter asked me this morning “Do you think the bibles will ever be returned?”
From the story I just told, what do you think?