Johor (AsiaNews) - Members of a small tribe of Orang Asli in the southern state of Johor, can rebuild their church that was demolished in 2005 by local authorities. The Supreme Court of Malaysia has ruled that the government compensate the villagers.
The church was razed ten days before Christmas 2005. Local authorities claimed that it was built on land owned by the state. The court found instead that the land belongs to the villagers, also known as "People of the Straits."
Steven Thiru, the tribe's lawyer, told the Strait Times: "The people are happy, because they felt cheated. The Court's decision represents a victory for their freedom of religion, and for their land rights. " The compensation to be paid has not yet been established.
The People of the Straits is one of 18 tribes collectively known as Orang Asli, the "natural population" of that land. The Orang Asli are about 149,512 inhabitants, most of them converts to Christianity.