Thursday, January 23, 2014

Kuala Lumpur Archbishop stands by Fr. Lawrence in religious freedom battle over “Allah” controversy

"I am terribly saddened and sorry for the recent demonstrations that have seen use of offensive words and the burning of some images that portray Fr. Lawrence Andrew". 

These gestures are "tantamount to an attack against the entire Christian community", says the Archbishop Emeritus of Kuala Lumpur, Murphy Pakiam , in a pastoral letter sent to all the parishes of the diocese yesterday and read in every church , at the end of the Sunday service. 

The prelate recounts the attacks in recent weeks against the editor of the Herald Malaysia, who is also subject to death threats in the context of the controversy over the use of the word "Allah" to identify the Christian God that has dragged on for years in courtrooms and in the country. 

Recently, confrontations and divisions have worsened with the seizure ( illegal) of hundreds of copies of the Bible in Selangor and the priest's strong response have increased the stand-off, in a battle for religious freedom increasingly at risk in the Muslim majority Asian nation.

The Malaysian Catholic Church has always been "at the forefront" in the fight "for peace and justice", emphasizes the archbishop emeritus and current diocesan administrator pending the appointment of his successor. 

"We have always moved within the limits of the law - he adds - as stipulated in the terms of the Federal Constitution , which guarantees freedom of worship without interference or intimidation". 

The prelate is " sorry and saddened" by the recent events and the personal attack against Fr. Lawrence, in street demonstrations and public protests. These gestures , he stresses, are a source of " discomfort , anxiety and anger" among the Christian population .

Archbishop Pakiam also criticizes the support of a certain political class in the attacks against the editor of the Herald Malaysia and the guilty silence of many others, which only contributes to "heaping fuel on the fire" and augmenting tension in an uncontrolled manner. 

"We can not accept or tolerate - clarifies the prelate - groups that foster division, discord and disharmony in society." He appealed to the faithful, inviting them to "be strong" and " profess our faith with courage and determination." "We stand by Fr . Lawrence - said the archbishop - and those who are involved in this noble cause."

On 7 January, the editor of the Herald Malaysia was questioned for two hours by police in Selangor, the interrogation regarded statements made by the priest that Islamic organizations and institutions do not have rights or jurisdiction over Christian institutions and associations. His comments were in reaction to the raid on the headquarters of the Bible Society of Malaysia ( BMS ) in Selangor and the seizure of Bibles, an action he told AsiaNews, that is "profoundly wrong" and "unlawful" .

Fr. Lawrence added that the churches of the region will continue to use the name "Allah" to describe the Christian God in the Sunday services since the ban applies only to its use by the Catholic weekly. The priest came under investigation on charges of "sedition" and the attorney general's office is considering whether to proceed with the charges against him and return to trial.

The Islamists blitz on the bible society is the latest episode in a long standing battle over the use of the word "Allah" for non-Muslims, which began following the confrontation - that ended up in a court case - between the editor of the Catholic weekly, the Herald, and the government. 

Last October, a judgment of the Court of Appeal effectively denied the Catholic weekly directed by Fr . Lawrence the right to print the word "Allah" when describing the Christian God.  The priest then requested to appeal the sentence.  

In Malaysia, out of a population of more than 28 million people, the majority (60 per cent) are Muslim, followed by Buddhists. 

Christians constitute the third largest group numbering around 2.6 million. 

A few years ago, a 400-year-old Latin-Malay dictionary was re-issued. 

It shows that Allah was used in the Bible as the word for God in the local language.

No comments: