Sunday, January 10, 2010

Anwar meets Christians to defuse tension

[Anwar exchanging views with Father Thomas Phillip (centre) from Assumption Church and Brother Augustine Arokiasamy at a dialogue with the Christian community at the Luther Centre in PJ today]

PETALING JAYA, Jan 10 – Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today had a dialogue here with the Christian community in an attempt to defuse tension caused by the series of firebomb attacks at churches.

The dialogue, attended by about 100 members of the Christian community from various denominations, was hosted by Bishop Phillip Lok from the Lutheran Church.

Speaking to reporters before the start of the closed-door dialogue, Anwar urged the Muslims to honour the pledge made the second Islamic Caliph to defend the rights of the Christians.

He also slammed the police for not seriously protecting the places of worship.

“The Caliph Umar, who visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 638 AD, was careful to ensure that the Muslims respect the sanctity of Christian places of worship,” said Anwar, reading from a prepared statement.

“What, then, of our own police’s hesitation to offer an assurance of safety and security for Malaysian churches,” he added.

Anwar reiterated his stand that the Umno-controlled Utusan Malaysia should be made responsible for the attacks.

“Much of the blame for the recent attacks can be placed at the doorstep of the Umno-led BN ruling party,” he said.

PKR leaders, including Datuk Zaid Ibrahim (centre), and members of the Christian community before the dialogue with the Christian community at the Luther Centre in Petaling Jaya. – Picture by Jack Ooi

“Its incessant racist propaganda over the Allah issue and the inflammatory rhetoric issued by the government-controlled mainstream media, including in particular Utusan Malaysia, are reprehensible,” said Anwar.

He called for an inter-faith dialogue to resolve the issue of the use of the word Allah.

“With respect to the use of the word Allah, for example, it cannot be disputed that Arabic speaking Muslims, Christians and Jews have collectively prayed to God as Allah throughout the last 14 centuries,” said Anwar.

“While sensitivities over its usage have arisen in Malaysia, the way to resolve these conflicts is not by burning churches and staging incendiary protests but by reasoned engagement and interreligious dialogue,” he added.

Since the court ruling on Dec 31 allowing the Christians to use the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God in Malay, seven churches have been attacked.


Miri church attack brings tally to seven

A church in Miri has reported an arson attempt today, making it the seventh attack in three days that is linked to the “Allah” ruling which has provoked Muslim anger.

This is the first reported attack in East Malaysia where a large part of the population are Christians who worship in Bahasa Malaysia and also the ruling Barisan Nasional’s “fixed deposit” of votes and parliamentary seats in Election 2008.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein confirmed the attempt but insisted the situation in the country is under control.

“The situation is under control and the people should not be worried. They should not be influenced by internet reports or text messages,” he told reporters at an Umno event here.

Four churches in the Klang Valley were hit by petrol bombs on Friday while one was hit last night in Taiping. A Malacca church reported it was splashed with black paint while a priest in Penang had his car splashed with red paint.

A convent school in Taiping was also the target of an attempt with petrol bombs found near its guardhouse overnight. Church authorities believe it was meant for the St Louis Church next door.

Hishammuddin reminded the people not to be influenced by foreign and internet media reports as these could be inaccurate and project the country as unstable.

He said the ministry would brief foreign envoys on the actual situation

“We have to brief the international community as we have our citizens out there who want to know the actual situation which has been played up by certain quarters, including what is taken from the Internet,” he said.

Hishammuddin said the government will give an accurate picture of what has happened in the spate of church attacks.

[Source: The Malaysian Insider]

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