08/17/2010, 00.00
MALAYSIA
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Catholic Church in Malaysia grows, despite Islamic pressure

by Jeremy Lim
In the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, Catholics are nearly 10% of the population. Many churches increase the number of Masses to cope with the influx of the faithful. Islam is spreading at a faster speed, especially due to social pressure: non-Muslims are considered inferior.

Kota Kinabalu (AsiaNews) - Catholic community in the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, capital of Sabah, is growing where the faithful are now more than 180 thousand, nearly 10% of the population. Sabah is one of 13 states of Malaysia and is situated in the northern part of Borneo.

Many churches have increased the number of Sunday Masses, to cope with the influx of the faithful. The church of Stella Maris, for example, decided to celebrate on Sunday a third function in Bahasa Melayu, the local language, along with two others in English.

Leonard Chin, faithful of the parish, told AsiaNews that "the Catholic population is growing steadily, albeit slowly. We have built new churches and at Easter 80 people were baptized in a parish that has 5 thousand faithful”.

Alongside the Catholic community, Islam is also spreading: "There are two reasons - Chin continues - for which Muslims are growing more rapidly. On one side they have more children, one the other many members the Kazadan ethnic group, who have been Catholic since the arrival of missionaries in the 19th century, converted for political reasons”.

In Malaysia, the state religion is Islam, religious freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution, although there are several violations of this right. In fact, says Chin, "many people are inclined to convert to Islam" because of social pressure that is brought to bear on non-Muslims, who are considered inferior.

Out of a population of 23 million inhabitants, 60.4% in Malaysia are Muslims and only 9.1% are Christians, mostly Catholics. The vast majority of those living on the island of Borneo where the State of Sabah is located.
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