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

Multimedia Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track 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.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid