News / Asia

Malaysian Churches Face Violence

Religious Groups Attacked Following Recent Court Ruling

Multimedia

Audio
Dave DeForest

Christian churches in Malaysia are trying to cope with recent violence in the officially-Muslim, but religiously tolerant country.

The violence followed a court ruling that overturned a government ban on the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims.  A Roman Catholic publication led the fight to overturn the ban.

Christians had used the word “Allah” for “God” for hundreds of years.  But some Muslims worried that the practice could encourage Muslim conversions to Christianity, something that is illegal in Malaysia. 

Eleven Christian churches, a Sikh temple and a mosque have been attacked in violence that followed the 31 December ruling.

The Christian Federation of Malaysia condemned the attacks and issued a statement calling on Malaysians to stand against such violence.  It also called on police to continue to maintain peace and security.

The U.S. government agency on religious freedom also expressed concern.   Leonard Leo, the chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, was quoted by the AFP news service as saying the church bombings “have shaken Malaysia’s delicate political and ethnic balance.”

About 60 percent of Malaysians are ethnic Malays, practically all of whom are Muslim.  Ethnic Chinese, Indians and tribal peoples embrace other religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism.

The issue of Muslim conversion is a sensitive matter in Malaysia, particularly regarding the officially Muslim Malay ethnic group.

“If an ethnic Chinese person is a Christian, that’s no problem, that’s sort of expected, but if an ethnic Malay person is a Christian, that is a problem and they will likely face persecution,”  said Todd Nettleton, director of Media Development for The Voice of the Martyrs U.S.A.(V.O.M.). The Voice of the Martyrs is an organization that seeks to help “the persecuted church” worldwide.

Nettleton says the recent attacks on non-Muslim religious groups are fairly unusual in Malaysia.  “Churches have existed in Malaysia for a long time. They have existed relatively peacefully as long as they are not openly encouraging Muslims to leave Islam and become Christians,” Nettleton explained.

An individual's right to religious freedom is guaranteed in the Malaysian constitution, but the government actively promotes the spread of Islam and refuses to recognize conversions from Islam.

“If there is no freedom to change your religion—to change from being a Muslim to being a Christian—then there really isn’t freedom of religion is spite of what the government may say,” Nettleton said.

Nettleton says a positive result of the attacks is that moderate Muslims have begun to speak out against the violence. “More moderate Muslims have had a chance to speak out and say, wait a minute, this is not Saudi Arabia, this is Malaysia—Christian churches should be allowed to stand, they should be safe in our country,” he said.

Nettleton says some Malaysian churches have responded to the recent violence by forgiving their attackers.  “They have responded with love, they have responded with forgiveness to those who have burned their church buildings,” he said.

Tabernacle Metro Church senior pastor Ong Sek Lang announced that his church would forgive those who burned its building on 10 January. 

News reports said Prime Minister Najib Razak visited the church and offered aid for rebuilding.

At least 19 people have been arrested in connection with the violence.


 

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs