Monday, January 6, 2014

Malaysian reality

Amidst threats of protests, the Malay language mass at the Lady of Lourdes Church in Klang continued to use the term 'Allah' today.

The term was used at least four times during the mass in prayers and hymns. However, for the most part, the congregation used the word 'Tuhan' and 'Bapa' to refer to God.

The Malay language mass was held this afternoon after the English and Tamil mass. The English and Tamil mass did not use the word 'Allah'.

The Malay language mass serves a congregation that are mostly from Sabah and Sarawak, as well as some foreigners from neighbouring countries.

At one point, a hymn was sung in Vietnamese.

Before the final blessing, parish priest Michael Chua who led the mass thanked the congregation for showing up.

"I thank everyone for coming and to show support. It shows the strength of our faith despite claims that there would be a riot but has not happened," he said.

He also thanked the police stationed outside for protecting worshippers and the Church.

Chua said he hoped that Christians will some day be allowed to use refer to God in their own language.

"We to pray that the situation will continue to be peaceful in Malaysia and we can respect one another.

"We pray that Christians will have the freedom to choose their language in worshipping God," he said.

After the mass, Chua said although the turnout during the English and Tamil masses were the same, the

Malay-language mass had a lower turnout than usual.
He estimated the congregation for the Malay language mass today to be around 200 instead of the usual 300.

The controversy begn 2010 the High Court ruled that the Home Ministry's earlier ban on Christian publication The Herald from using the word 'Allah' was unconstitutional.

The landmark decision provoked a series of church burnings and the Court of Appeal last year overturned the decision arguing that the word "Allah" was not integral to the Christian faith.

The Catholic Church is appealing the decision and insists that Islamic authorities have no power to dictate the internal affairs of other religions.

The Sekretariat Solidariti Muslim Klang had today protested at a field some 1km away after the The Herald editor Lawrence Andrew insisted that Christian will continue to use the word 'Allah'.

Chua revealed that he had lodged a police report prior to the protest.

"It was solely to ask for protection," he told journalists.

10:10AM Jan 5, 2014

Progressive Muslims defend Klang church


Amid threats of protest by Muslim pressure groups at a church in Klang this morning, progressive Muslims made a stand outside the church to defend their fellow Christian Malaysians.

Among the group was Marina Mahathir (right in photo), daughter of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad who like some 40 others, came bearing flowers and stood outside the Our Lady of Lourdes church as mass was in session.

"We are here to show solidarity with the congregation. A lot of us here are Muslims and we believe Islam is a religion of peace.

"It is not something that we only say (in words), but there must also be action," she told journalists outside the church.

A conservative Muslim group dubbed Sekretariat Solidariti Muslim Klang had planned to protest outside the Church after Lawrence Andrew, the editor of Christian publication The Herald, insisted that Christians will continue to use the word Allah.

However, in the face of mounting tension and criticism, they later decided to relocate their protest to a nearby field. 

Selangor Umno which initially said that it too will protest in front of Churches, yesterday banned its members from attending such demonstrations, citing the need to maintain harmony.
Business as usual

Some 900 people turned up at the Church this morning for 8am mass proceeded as usual with parish priest Michael Chua leading the mass.

Lady of Lourdes Church administrator EA Louis said the congregation today, which spilled outside the Church and had to sit on plastic chairs, were no more than the usual.

"It's like any other Sunday. We all know it is our obligation to come pray and worship. We don't feel threatened. Nothing at all," he said.

He added that it was the right of any group to protest and the Church is leaving the matter to the authorities. 

However, he expressed concern that interfaith relations may be affected until government leaders are willing to speak up.

The mass was like any other, with hymns and prayers until the very end, where Chua specifically addressed the recent controversy.

"A word of appreciation to the parishioners for not being cowered by what is happening and coming to mass to worship God," he said.

Chua also thanked supporters from other Churches as well as the Bar Council and MPs such as Seputeh's Teresa Kok and Klang's Charles Santiago who were present.

"The police have contained the protesters at a stadium on the other side so we pray they will be able to demonstrate and express their grievances peacefully and hopefully not march to the Church.

"Father Lawrence has also taken the brunt of blame for everything, and we pray for him. May good sense prevail," he said.

'Gesture of peace'

Later, Chua, met with Marina and the group she was with outside the Church and personally thanked them for support and they reciprocated by handing him flowers.

"I think it is a wonderful gesture to have so many Muslims come in solidarity. We hope this will grow - the ability to see beyond barriers and boundaries and to open hands in friendship to each other," he said.

At this, Marina replied: "It is a reciprocal gesture of peace. In Myanmar, the Archbishop of Rangoon also spoke up for the Rohingyas (Muslims). That is how it should be."

The "Muslim defenders" today were part of a Facebook initiative dubbed "In the Name of Allah" which invited to Muslims to defend the Church from the planned protest.

At least seven police personnel were spotted guarding the Church perimeter while another two community police members were assisting with traffic.

The congregation dispersed peacefully after mass ended at around 9am.

(From Malaysiakini - The online news portal)

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