Responding to the White Flag
The #benderaputih or white flag movement is fast gaining momentum in Malaysia. What started out as a Twitter post urging anyone in need of food to fly a white flag outside their homes, has now mobilised netizens, businesses and even celebrities to send provisions to those who have put up a distress signal.
Many are suffering as lockdown continues and Covid-19 cases rise again. The most heart-breaking of all are the suicide cases recorded so far. While Malaysia used to average 600 cases per year, this number rose to almost 500 in just the first half of 2021. In fact, the original #benderaputih post did urge readers not to self-harm or “take actions that will break the hearts of loved ones.”
Traditionally, a white flag is a sign of surrender. In war, it is a protective sign of peace and truce, and a signal to the enemy not to open fire. In Exodus 17, God led the Israelites to victory against the Amalekites, and it was Moses who built an altar of thanksgiving called Yahweh-Nissi; “the Lord is my Banner”, flag or sail. In that episode of their journey, their battle was for survival, hope and a future in the Promised Land.
Love in action
In the same way, our fellow citizens waving the white flag are battling for survival, hope and a future. For Christians, this #benderaputih movement is an opportunity at our doorstep, and the perfect time to show God’s love by serving others. I am reminded of this Bible passage:
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:15-17)
Love in action is continuing to reach out to those around us and to care for them – be it with a food package or a listening ear. Sometimes, just asking how they are and how we can help makes a lot of difference. In challenging times like these, it may not just be physical needs, but emotional and spiritual “white flags” too that we can minister to.
Unlike in war, the “enemy” of disease and despair will not stop to negotiate a ceasefire, but continue to open fire. May we answer the distress signals of our neighbours, and may our faith and action go hand-in-hand, bringing glory to God the Father.
About the Author
Wan Phing Lim is a contributor to Our Daily Bread Ministries Malaysia. Born and raised in Penang, she studied Politics before turning to a career in writing. She loves coffee, books and films.
To read other Spotlight Malaysia articles, click below.