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

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid