Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Interfaith group visits burnt SIB church in Seremban 2

Seremban, Malaysia (January 13) – Fifteen religious leaders made up primarily of members of the Negeri Sembilan State branch of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBHST) paid a social visit to the Sidang Injil Borneo (Borneo Evangelical Assembly) Church in Seremban, which was recently fire bombed.

The church's front wooden door was charred in the pre-dawn attack. According to Pastor Eddy Marson Yasir, the senior pastor of the Church, the arson incident was discovered on the following morning by a church member and he was contacted immediately. “We have been occupying this building for the last 4 years and we’ve never had any incident. We have lived peacefully with our neighbours and do not know of anyone having any issues against us.”

The Seremban church incident brought the number of churches attacked in Malaysia within the week to nine. A Sikh temple was attacked with stones yesterday evening.

These incidences of violence to places of worship is unprecedented and follows after the controversial protests over the High Court ruling in favour of the Malaysian Catholic weekly newspaper, The Herald, allowing the latter to use the word “Allah” in its publications. Both Christians and Sikhs use the word “Allah” in their scriptures and publications.

Mr. Goh Kim Seng, the Buddhist representative in the interfaith council, said that all parties should respect the High Court decision to allow the use of the word for their own religious purposes.

“These incidences of violence could have been avoided if all parties were committed to regular dialogue. We live in a multi-religious society and country where we should learn to dialogue with one another for the purposes of living together in harmony,” added Rev. Christopher Mun, senior pastor of Tabernacle of Worship Church.

The interfaith group decided to pay to visit to the church as a sign of solidarity with the pastors and members of the congregation. “It all started as an informal conversation between the local Anglican priest, Rev. Albert Walters and I over steps that could be taken collectively in response to this incident,” said Fr. Michael Chua, the parish priest of the Roman Catholic Church of Visitation, who had initiated the visit.

During the visit, various suggestions were put forward and discussed as to how the interfaith council and the various religious communities should handle the current security situation in Malaysia. There was a consensus that the different communities should be reminded to remain calm and not to blame any party for these attacks. They also agreed to allow the police to handle the security situation.

The chairman of the interfaith council, Mr. Alfred Selvam said that his committee will be organizing a dialogue session with the state police head over the security situation of places of worship.

The visit concluded with a moment of silent prayer for peace and harmony.

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