08/09/2011, 00.00
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Politics lead to confessional divisions in Malaysia, Mgr Paul Tan says

The bishop of Melaka-Johor slams politicians who are behind many recent controversies involving the Christian faith. He rejects accusations of a government official about Christian proselytising. “I think that the interests of Muslims are better protected by truth telling among its officials, not by alarmist projections."
Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Catholic bishop of Melaka-Johor, Mgr Paul Tan Chee, SJ, slammed Malaysian politicians for stirring interfaith hatred. Ordinary Malaysians neither think nor feel split along any religious frontier. They “know the wisdom of seeing others as fellow humans caught in the beauty and travail of ordinary human striving. Sadly, devious and conniving politicians see things differently.”

In answering some questions posed by Free Malaysia Today, the prelate said that politicians are to blamed for the many controversies that involve Christianity in recent times. “This is all due to the manipulation and duplicity by politicians who are out to win votes at the expense of the gullible and the ignorant,” he said.

The dispute over the term Allah for God in the Bible, the seizure of Malay-language Bibles and the alleged Christian plot to undermine the status of Islam, are among the issues that have strained relations between Christians and the government (see “Malaysia: Christians cannot use "Allah" to define God,” in AsiaNews 22 July 2011), even if Malaysia and the Holy See have been working towards establishing diplomatic relations after the Malaysian prime minister recently paid a visit to Benedict XVI (see “Diplomatic relations established between the Holy See and Malaysia,” in AsiaNews, 27 July 2011).

The latest incident involves a church that was raided last week by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) after it received a complaint from Muslims present at a local dinner event.

Despite criticism of the raid, State Executive Councillor for Religious Affairs Hasan Ali claimed that Christians were involved in proselytising among Muslims.

“If the claim is substantiated, I will exert myself to initiate corrective and contrite action by Christians,” Mgr Paul Tan Chee said. “Otherwise I want recantation and an apology. It’s as simple and clear cut as that,” he added.

Commenting on JAIS director Marzuki Hassan’s statement that the raid was carried out to protect the interests of Muslims, Tan said, “I would think that the interests of Muslims are better protected by truth telling among its officials, not by alarmist projections.”

“But if someone wants us to share our faith with him or her, we will not hesitate to do so because of our belief that religion can be proposed but not imposed,” he added.
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