Thursday, May 19, 2011
Courtesy of FREE MALAYSIA TODAY
In recent times, issues concerning Christianity often made news – the row over the term Allah, which led to the firebombing of several churches, the consfication of Malay-language bibles and now, a plot to convert the nation.
The situation was causing concern among right-minded Malaysians of all faiths, who fear that if left unchecked, it might lead to undesirable consequences.
Speaking to FMT, Father Lawrence Andrew, the editor of the Catholic weekly Herald, acknowleged the worrying trend.
He said there were certain extremist elements which considered Christianity as a threat to the nation and were growing more brazen in putting their views across.
“The lack of action emboldens them,” he said, adding that if someone of a different creed were to insult or slander Islam, then justice was often swift.
“It’s a different world today, and we are not isolated from the big picture – from what is happening in the Muslim world, the death of Osama bin Laden, the Jasmine revolution (in Tunisia) and others… there seems to be a growing sense of insecurity. In Egypt, there is a conflict between Christians and Muslims.
“So it is easy for people to feel insecure. Christians are seen as agents of the Western world. Generally, Christianity and the Western world are synonymous; many cannot make the distinction and so Christians are often misunderstood,” he added.
Asked if it was becoming difficult to be a Christian in Malaysia, Andrew said that others had become too sensitive to the presence of Christianity in this country.
“The (Malay-language) bible issue, use of the term Allah, putting up of crosses and schoolchildren wearing crosses – all these have become threats to the nation. There is definitely a problem,” he said.
On whether the situation could be considered alarming, Andrew said: “Malaysians have a sense of resilience to a lot of things, but these issues should be handled without dire consequences.”
Utusan’s Christian plot
Commenting on the furore surrounding the Utusan Malaysia report about an alleged Christian plot to undermine Islam, Andrew made it clear that the government’s response was disappointing.
He said the daily, owned by Umno – the backbone of the ruling Barisan Nasional government – made a serious charge against the Church, which could be interpreted as an accusation of treason.
“It was a seditious statement. Why isn’t there any action? If they (the government) are not acting against them, does it mean they are condoning it (what the newspaper) has done?” he asked.
“These things were provocations; we pray for the government, the country and we pray for the nation to be free of corruption.
“Islam doesn’t say corruption or stealing is good. We are working with the government on these issues, but instead of thanking us for praying for the nation, we are attacked and accused of christianising it. It is strange,” he said.
Apart from making Christianity the official religion of Malaysia, the Utusan report also accused DAP and Christian leaders of conspiring towards realising the goal of having a Christian prime minister.
The report, which had some Malay hardline groups up in arms and Christian groups crying fabrication, was based on the unsubstantiated claims of pro-Umno bloggers regarding what transpired during a meeting between DAP and Christian priests in the opposition-run state of Penang.
In a recent interview with Radio Vatican, Andrew had said that the government had stirred up a controversy to shore up Muslim support since its popularity was on the decline.
Commenting on this, the Herald editor clarified that it would be more appropriate to state that certain quarters sympathetic with the government were behind the latest episode.
However, he reiterated his criticism against Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein for not being prudent in stating that the allegation was serious, and the government would take action.
“Instead of supporting the report, he should have verified it before making a statement,” he said