Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) - Nine Christians were arrested on charges of wanting to convert some Muslim students at the University Putra Malaysia (UPM) in Serdang, near the capital Kuala Lumpur. Annou Xavier, defence lawyer of those arrested, says five Muslims students made the report accusing the nine, two of whom are students in UPM, of distributing leaflets and booklets on Christianity. In Malaysia proselytizing is prohibited by law and in most districts is punishable by prison.
The University Putra Malaysia episode comes at a tense time between the Muslims and Christian community, which in its various denominations counts for less than 2 of 28 million inhabitants of Malaysia, two-thirds Muslim. On July 8, two Catholics denounced the monthly Al-Islam for a report on alleged forced conversions to Christianity. Two Muslim journalists faked being Catholics and participated in two masses, receiving communion, thus desecrating the Host of which they also published a picture. The two failed to collect evidence in support of their argument, but they accuse Catholics of using the word Allah to define God during celebrations in the local language.
Reached by AsiaNews, Fr Andrew Lawrence, director the Herald, the magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Kuala Lumpur, says that the story of Al-Islam "has humiliated Catholics in Malaysia and is a violation of the rights of Christians as well as a direct challenge to the Federal Constitution which affirms the freedom of religion. "Fr. Lawrence links the article of the Muslim monthly magazine to an episode in which the Herald was the main protagonist. For more than a year, the weekly magazine has been struggling with a legal matter in which they have brought the government to court because it prohibits the use of the word "Allah" in Catholic publications in Malay language. The priest and director noted that Friday 17 there will be a new sitting of the trial and reaffirms the position of the local church: "In 1641 the then Congregation for Propaganda Fide published a Latin Malay vocabulary which made this translation. The Malaysia of today was born in 1957. Celebrations in Malay have always used Allah for God, because the word is translated into the different languages in which mass is recited”.