News / Asia

Malaysian Churches Face Violence

Religious Groups Attacked Following Recent Court Ruling

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest 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.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid