Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Organs for Sale

Organ donation has always been regarded as an altruistic act. Thus all government, professional societies and ethics committees regard it as unethical to allow for sales of kidney. Altruism is implied that a person donates an organ (usually a kidney) without coercion and receiving any compensation including financial ones. Their only reward is satisfaction in their self-sacrificial action. Unfortunately there are not many altruistic persons around. Most organs for transplants come from brain dead or dead donors (cadaveric organ transplants). Very few living persons come forward as donors. The result is a scarcity of organs for transplants which results in thousands of deaths for want of organs.

By not allowing sales of organs, these organisations have unwittingly created a black market for organs sales. Unscrupulous middlemen have arisen to take advantage of the needs of organs. In countries where the laws were not so stringent, a commercial transplantation trade of transplant tourism has arisen where one may buy a kidney if one is willing to pay and not ask too many questions. There is no protection for donors. Horror stories abound of people being kidnapped and their kidneys removed, the poor exploited or prisoners forced to donate their kidneys. The middlemen reaped large amount while the donors were given pittance. In a recent court case in Singapore, the donor received $23,700 for his kidney out of the $300,000, magnate Tang Wee Sung paid the middleman. This is the unregulated free market!

In an effect to address the scarcity of organs for transplantation, the Singapore government has taken the bold step of legalising the monetary ‘compensation’ for kidney donors (The Straits Times, Nov 1, 2008). The amount which may be in five or six figures will compensate the donors for their kidneys. It is also suggested that all transplants be regulated through an independent organisation to ensure that the donors will not be taken advantage of. Singapore sidestepped the ethical issue by allowing monetary compensation rather than sales. This is the semi-regulated approach to organ donations.

A third alternative is the Iranian model which the fully regulated model. In Iran, all organs transplants are done through a state-sponsored body which regulate organ transplant in a transparent, non-commercial, and middle-man free process. Donors are paid by this government sponsored agency. It has worked well so far and in Iran there is no waiting list; all patients (rich, poor, educated, uneducated) have receive their transplants. Iran has a government sponsored healthcare system so the model may not work in other countries.

Is there a difference between a sale and compensation? A sale is a business transaction while a compensation is something given for something lost or given. However when it comes to human organ, it is a thin line between the two. It is interesting to note that while it is unethical to sell one’s kidney, however it is acceptable to sell one’s sperms or eggs or in some countries, blood. The moral ethical basis that lies behind the forbidding of sale of human organs come from the group of moral theories called virtue-based theories. The virtue-based theories are based on the premise that human beings are basically good and altruistic. Reality has however shown how far that is from the truth.

It may be time for us to review the ethics of human organ sales. What do you think?

picture credit

Monday, November 24, 2008

You Can't Take It With You

The first thing that come to mind when someone says, “You can’t take it with you” are our jewelleries, companies, fame and fortune. Very few of us think of our bodies, those vessels which have embodied our souls for so many years. Our bodies are being discarded as our souls move into the hereafter. Like discarding a dirty shirt for a clean one, we exchange our mortal bodies for immortal ones.

How many of us ever think of the mortal bodies we leave behind except to think of its disposal-cremation or burial? Yet our mortal left-behind bodies may still be of use to others. Yes, I am talking about organ donation.

Every year thousands of people are in need of organs for transplantation. They are quite happy to receive the organs from dead bodies (cadaveric organ donors). These organs can save their lives. People with kidney failure and on dialysis can tell you about their ordeals. A person with kidney failure will need to be dialysed on the average 2-3 times a week. Each session last 4-6 hours and incur financial cost. In between dialysis, they are tired and lethargic. They may be alive but there is no quality to their lives. They need kidneys.

There is such an acute shortage of organs for transplant that a black market exists to supply this need. People are going to countries like China, India, Turkey and other poorer countries to buy kidneys.

Personally I think all Christians should be organ donors. After all we are going to get a new body! At least let the discarded one be of use; our final legacy to this world. Even better will be if we are to donate one of our kidney when we are alive. After all God gave us two kidneys and the body function equally well with only one. That will be truly self-sacrificing love.

photo credit

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Quest For Covenant Community & Pluralist Democracy in Islamic Context

The main body of this volume comprises three essays by Ng Kam Weng , which were presented originally as the 2006 Annual Lectures of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in Asia (CSCA), the mission research arm of Trinity Theological College , Singapore . They explore the possibility of democratic pluralism from within the predominantly Islamic context of Malaysia , and propose the concept of Covenant as a promising basis for collaboration between Christianity and Islam. Interacting with a broad spectrum of socio-political thinkers, these lectures probe the dynamics of democratic deliberation and point to resources from within the two faith traditions that can contribute to building the common life based on covenant community and social solidarity.

Responses from Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi‘, Robert A. Hunt and Peter G. Riddell, three international scholars who have contributed significantly to fostering greater understanding between Christianity and Islam, are included.

1. Pluralist Democracy and Spheres of J ustice: The Quest for ‘Complex Equality’ in an Islamic Context
2. Religious Dialogue and Democratic Deliberation
3. Religion and Moral Citizenry: Whose Morality? What Law? Which Moral Community?
4. A Response by Ibrahim Abu-Rabi‘
5. A Response by Robert A. Hunt
6. A Response by Peter G. Riddell


Ng Kam Weng is Research Director and Resident Scholar of Kairos Research Centre in Malaysia .

Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi‘ is the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities Chair in Islamic Studies, Department of History and Classics, the University of Alberta in Edmonton , Canada .

Robert A. Hunt is Director of Global Theological Education at the Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, USA.

Peter G. Riddell is Professorial Dean, Centre for the Study of Islam and Other Faiths at the Bible College of Victoria in Melbourne , Australia .


Mark L. Y. Chan is Lecturer in Theology and Coordinator of the Faith and Society research cluster of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in Asia at Trinity Theological College .

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ketuanan Melayu - a non-Muslim view

From Malaysiakini

Before I begin, I want to caveat this by stating that I am not, and do not pretend, to be an expert on Islam. I am writing this purely from my perspective as a non-Muslim Malaysian.

The issue of Ketuanan Melayu has yet again raised its head after the recent speech by former minister Zaid Ibrahim at the LawAsia conference. In the aftermath of that speech, Zaid has been called a traitor to his own race and has been asked by Umno leaders to apologise.
Instead of deconstructing Zaid's speech and the predictable Umno response, I want to examine the possible negative effects that Umno's unyielding stand on emphasising Ketuanan Melayu has had on the public image of Islam in the eyes of non-Muslims in Malaysia.

As far as I know, Islam is one of the two major faith traditions in the world (the other being Christianity) which practices active proselytisation. In Christianity, these activities are sometimes known as evangelism. In Islam, it is known as 'dakwah' which literally means 'an invitation' or to 'to invite' in Arabic.

Again, as far as my limited understanding is concerned, dakwah or reaching out to non-Muslims, which may be prioritised differently depending on the rules of government in that state, is nonetheless an important responsibility on the part of Muslims.

If this is indeed the case, then the question of why there are relatively few non-Malay converts to Islam is certainly worth asking. There are currently an estimated 50,000 Chinese Muslims in Malaysia out of a total Chinese population of more than six million. In other words, less than 1% of the Chinese population in Malaysia is Muslim.

The percentage of Indian Muslims is presumably higher but this has to do more with migration of Indian Muslims to Malaysia rather than new converts among the Indian community who are not Muslim.

In Malaysia, all Malays are Muslims

To answer the question with any level of certainty would require numerous years of serious study and research. For now, I would like to propose a hypothesis for why this could be the case.

We in Malaysia have been conditioned assumed that all Malays are Muslims. Indeed, it is stated in the constitution under Article 160 that ‘Malay’ means a person who professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, and conforms to Malay custom.

But what is not stated in the constitution is that all Muslims must necessarily be Malays. Indeed, many non-Muslims often forget that there is a significant number of non-Malay bumiputera Muslims in Sabah and Sarawak and that pockets of Indian and Siamese Muslims can be found in Penang and Kedah.

The perception among non-Muslims in Malaysia that all Malays are Muslims and that most of the Muslims they know are Malays. This is surely a challenge and obstacle which groups such as the Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (Yadim) who want to proselytise to this group of people must face. If Islam is the preserve of Malays only, why should I, as a Chinese or Indian, want to step into this preserve?

But such proselytising efforts, already difficult to begin with because of social and cultural obstacles, are surely made much more difficult by Umno's insistence of repeating the mantra of Ketuanan Melayu.

By doing so, they are inadvertently changing the public perception of non-Muslims towards Islam - that it is no longer a religion which emphasises equality of all races. Again, as far as I know, there is no one 'superior' race or nationality in Islam. Malay Muslims, Indonesian Muslims, Pakistani Muslims, Arab Muslims and all other Muslims are of equal standing in Islam.

But with the assertion of Ketuanan Melayu, the status of equality is threatened, at least in the context of Malaysia. Malay Muslims are suddenly elevated to a position of racial superiority over that of Indian and Chinese Muslims.

One of the underlying driving forces of the civil rights movement in the United States was the fact that black soldiers who were fighting and dying side and side with their white brethren in Vietnam found themselves segregated when they returned home.

While not equivalent, one can imagine a situation which a fictitious Chinese Malaysian may face if he undertook a similar journey such as the one Malcolm X took to the Middle East and discovered the reality that was the Muslim 'ummah' converging from all over the world and coming from different nationalities to worship in Mecca but then went back home to Malaysia only to find that his Chinese Muslim children do not have the same rights as those of his Malay friends.

Putting immense psychological barriers

With each increasingly strident cry of Ketuanan Melayu, Umno leaders are putting up immense psychological barriers in the path of non-Muslims who may otherwise have been attracted to the tenets and practices of the Muslim faith, especially when approached by trusted friends whom they see as excellent examples of the religion in practice.

Almost as important is the fact that such cries also put barriers in the minds of Malays who may otherwise not find it problematic to proselytise to their non-Malay friends. If they have been influenced to think that Islam is only the preserve of the Malays, then why should they reach out to their Chinese and Indian friends and tell them about Islam?

Of course, one can easily show examples of other countries where Islam is not equated with a particular race but has not gained many converts. Our neighbours in the north and in the south are good case in points.

But I would counter with the argument that Malaysia occupies a unique position in the world in that it is one of the few countries with a majority of Muslims and a significant proportion of non-Muslims in its population. Not many other countries in the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) can boast of this unique configuration.

As such, Malaysia has the opportunity to demonstrate not only to its minority non-Muslim population but also to the rest of the world that Islam can be and is a religion which is attractive and relevant for all peoples rather than with a certain group which has traditionally been associated with that religion.

Imagine the kind of statement which Malaysia would be making on behalf of Islam if by good governance and the implementation of a more open, just and equal society, it would attract a significant number of Chinese, Indians and other non-Muslim bumiputera groups in Sabah and Sarawak to embrace Islam on their own accord and on their own terms? Would that not yield more returns for Islam than the constant shouting from the rooftops about Ketuanan Melayu?

In putting forth this hypothesis and trying to stretch it as far as I think it will go, I've had to leave aside other explanatory factors as to why many non-Muslims in Malaysia do not consider Islam as a viable alternative in their 'menu' of religious alternatives.

I've left out the fact that many of them probably do not see Umno leaders as exemplary models of what a Muslim lifestyle should be. I've left out the fact that institutional structures have increasingly equated converting to Islam as 'masuk Melayu' where one has to abandon one's culture even if some aspects of it do not contravene with Islamic practices. I've left out the many social and cultural pressures which a Chinese or Indian convert to Islam faces among his own family and friends.

But I do this for a specific purpose. If this article reaches the hands of any Umno leader or member, I hope that they will reflect on some of the consequences of their hardline stance on Ketuanan Melayu.

With every shout of Ketuanan Melayu, you push away another non-Muslim from Islam. If you think that the responsibility of dakwah to non-Muslims is important, perhaps even more important that the NEP or calls for racial supremacy, then you should reconsider your current position.

No matter how one tries to spin it, most non-Muslims will equate Ketuanan Melayu with racial superiority of the Malays and this puts an indelible psychological mark on their minds that Islam, at least the version that is espoused by Umno, is not consistent with the equality of races within the religion. You need to consider that your actions may be partly responsible for preventing most non-Muslims from even considering a religion which, in my opinion, all Malaysians need to learn more about, even if they do not consider embracing it.

ONG KIAN MING is a PhD candidate in political science at Duke University.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Neither Christ Nor Antichrist

By Soo-Inn Tan

Scully (to Skinner): "With all due respect, sir, I think you overestimate your
position in the chain of command."
("The Blessing Way", X-Files Season 3)

I have friends who think that the Democratic Party is a tool of the devil. They
are terribly disturbed that Barrack Obama has been elected and see him as a strong candidate for the Antichrist. Many others see him in Messianic terms. They are overjoyed that he has prevailed and see him as ushering in a bright new era for the United States. My word to both groups --- get real. Obama is neither Christ nor Antichrist.

This is a historic moment in American politics and because in so many ways what happens in America affects the rest of us, it is also a historic moment for the world. The hunger for change was so overwhelming that it carried a black first term senator with a name like Barrack Hussein Obama into the White House. Not quite walking on water but close. With minimal hyperbole, Thomas Friedman calls the election of Barrack Obama as the moment the American Civil war finally concluded. Those of us in Malaysia can only look on with envy and wonder when we will ever move beyond the politics of race.

And Obama has made all the right promises. His rhetoric of hope has galvanised a nation. If he can deliver on only a fraction of the things he promised, America and the world will be a better place. I am hopeful but not holding my breath. I have learned long ago, from life, and from the Scriptures, that all human leaders have clay feet and are destined to disappoint us.

1 and 2 Kings contain a record of the various kings that ruled Judah and Israel. Some were better than others. None of them could come close to the reign of King David. He was the benchmark of human leadership and he was marked by spectacular failures. God can use human leaders to bring about substantial change for good. I think of the Lincolns and the Churchills and the Sun Yat-Suns and the enormous good they did in their life times. It is very possible that Obama will be used by God to bring his nation to another level in her development. But I will not be dismayed if he doesn't. I am not cynical, just realistic. All human leaders are flawed.

Malaysians will remember the hopes that came with the election results of March 8th 2008. There was so much hope that Anwar would quickly usher in a new era in Malaysian politics. But he has not delivered on a number of key promises. And there are signs that some components of the opposition coalition are reverting to old ways of thinking. We need to be realistic as to what we can expect from human leaders.

I am glad March 8th happened. In many ways Malaysia has changed for the better. March 8 slowed down the march of racism and corruption that had crippled the nation for so long. But I am not surprised that Anwar and the coalition he leads could not deliver on all they had promised. Sooner or later we all learn that we must not overestimate our capacity to influence history. (Remember the promises that Abdullah Badawi made when he was running for election?)

So those who think that Barrack Obama is the Antichrist shouldn't be too worried. There is just so much he can do. And those who think that Obama is the Messiah should lower their expectations a notch or two or ten. He was not born in a manger. (And neither was he born on Krypton and sent to save planet earth.)

All leaders running for public office must give some indication to how they can deliver. Obama has come across as honest and realistic while giving his vision of change. The level of euphoria greeting his election however, tells me that deep in the human heart, there is hunger for a Messiah. In our darkest moments we know we cannot save ourselves. But Christians should never forget that our ultimate salvation will not come form politics.

That doesn't mean that Christians should withdraw from the political process. As Jordan Hylden reminds us in a recent article:

[... Christians are called to act like Christians in the many places in the world
that are not the church --- in our jobs, schools, communities, and governments. Involvement in secular institutions is no substitute for the gospel, of course. But it would be a small gospel indeed that could have no effect on the way they are run. As William Wilberforce showed, such involvement can make a real difference in the word and can itself be a witness to the gospel. ( "Aliens and Citizens," Christianity Today, November, 2008, 37).

I am delighted that many of my friends are actively involved in the political process and see their involvement as an expression of their discipleship. I am just concerned that we do not get so carried away with the euphoria of the hour that we begin to equate our battles in the political sphere as the only or the main way to bring about permanent change in society --- and get unduly elated or unduly worried by the political fortunes of our chosen candidates/parties.

Our ultimate hope is still in a God who is on His throne, a God who decides which ruler rises and which ruler falls. While we work for kingdom values in all spheres of life our ultimate hope is in the King Himself, a Messiah who came and is coming again.

[For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands
(Luke 1:49-53 NLT)]

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Book Review: The Living Church

The Living Church: Convictions of a lifelong pastor – John Stott, IVP 2007: A Review By Davin Wong

I’ve come to observe that in every generation, God has placed the desire among his people to be alive! It is then timely that John Stott’s book entitled The Living Church was on sale at the recent Klang Valley Bible Conference. After all, as an Anglican myself, who better to learn about “doing Church” than from an esteemed Anglican Minister himself.

Having read the book, one of the chapters that particularly stand out was Evangelism. Specifically, the section entitled The Church Must Organize Itself: Its Structures. Here John Stott warns amongst other things on the danger of having too many activities during the week so much so that it becomes detrimental to the Christian family life. He then moves on to suggest a practical guide for the Church to organize itself especially to discover how far its structures reflect its identity. The questions are divided into 2 groups – a local community survey and a survey on the local church. He recommends that the church council studies the survey and then out of this reflection grow a strategy for mission.

Next was the chapter on Fellowship. I am in agreement with Stott that the word fellowship is an overworked and undervalued term. In this chapter, Stott wastes no time to recover the fuller meaning of the word fellowship with biblical, historical and practical arguments. He ends with some words of wisdom for us to consider “We want fellowship groups to be true to their name, expressing the fullness of koinonia. So we keep asking ourselves: are we growing in Christian maturity together? Are we serving the Lord, the church or the world together? Are we increasing in love and care for one another? Then, we may say with confidence and joy that we had good fellowship together”

Devoting a chapter to the topic of Giving, Stott affirms that Christian giving is an extremely important topic on the contemporary church’s agenda. This is why we need to think biblically about Christian giving. In expounding the ten principles of giving – mainly from 2 Corinthians 8 & 9, Stott reminds afresh that we are to give ‘what he has decided in his heart to give’, neither reluctantly, nor under compulsion, but rather ungrudgingly, because ‘God loves a cheerful giver’. Stott goes on to say that ‘There is a sense here of a settled conviction about how much to give; of a decision reached after careful consideration, and always with joy and cheerfulness.’ and ‘It is rarely necessary to give on the spur of the moment. How much better to take time and seek that settled conviction.’ giving what he has decided on his heart. Also noteworthy is the point on page 134 that Christian giving can express our theology.

Of particular interests to us Anglicans would be one of the 3 historical appendices entitled, ‘Why I am still a member of the Church of England’. Here Stott sketches 4 distinctive features of the Church of England which also constitute four reasons why he belongs to it. The features are: a historical church, a confessional church, a national church, and a liturgical church. But Stott is quick to admit that many evangelicals feel uncomfortable in the Church of England. And that his description of the Anglican Church is more of an ideal than a reality for many parishes. On this, he weighs 2 options - separation in order to maintain doctrinal purity or conformity to maintain unity. Showing the flaws of both options, he then offers a 3rd option – comprehension, the pursuit of unity and truth simultaneously. Even with the 3rd option, Stott doesn’t shy from acknowledging and listing examples of circumstances where believers might feel obliged to leave. He nevertheless concludes this section with these words ‘until that day comes, I for one intend to stay in and fight on. So I do believe in the Church of England, in the rightness of belonging to it and of maintaining a faithful evangelical witness within it and to it. For I believe in the power of God’s Word and Spirit to reform and renew the Church. I also believe in the patience of God. Max Warren wrote that ‘the history of the Church is the story of the patience of God’


Monday, November 03, 2008

Public Forum on Biomedical Ethical Issues in the Contemporary Malaysian Church

in conjunction with the above November Institute
Malaysia Bible Seminary (MBS) and City Discipleship Presbyterian Church (CDPC)

invites you to a

Public Forum on Biomedical Ethical Issues in the Contemporary Malaysian Church

Time: 8.00pm-10.30pm

Date: Thursday 20th November, 2008

Place: City Discipleship Presbyterian Church (CDPC)
W-10-2, Subang Square Business Centre,
Jalan SS15/4G
Subang Jaya 47500

Speakers and Panelists:
Dr Alex Tang (doctor)
Rev Wong Fong Yang (pastor)
Rev Dr Eddy Ho (theologian)
Mr Lee Swee Seng (lawyer)

(03) 5621 2844 (CDPC)
(03) 3342 7482 (MBS)

If you are in the Klang valley, do come and join us for this public forum. I look forward to meeting you