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Churches attacked in Malaysia
Published on 11 Jan. 2010 12:48 AM IST
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Thousands of Malaysian Christians came out for weekly services on Sunday despite four new attacks in a campaign of fire-bombings that has sent tensions soaring in the Muslim-majority nation. Four more churches in Malaysia were attacked today in the latest of a series of assaults targetting Christian houses of worship amid a raging row over a court ruling over use of the word ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims. A Moltov cocktail was hurled at the All State Church in Taiping in Perak state before it had opened, while a broken kerosene bottle with an unlit wick was found inside the compound of the St Louis Catholic Church, also in Taiping. In southern Malacca state, unidentified persons splashed black paint on the wall of a church while another in Miri town in eastern Sarawak state also reported an arson attempt. With today’s spate of attacks, a total of eight churches were targeted by unidentified assailants in the multi-ethnic nation. In the last two days, four churches were attacked following a high court ruling on December 31 that Catholic newsletter Herald could use the word “Allah” while referring to God in its Bahasa Malaysia edition. The government has appealed against the verdict. Prime Minister Najib Razak visited the Metro Tabernacle church last night and announced a grant of 500,000 ringgit (USD 147,000) for rebuilding it at a new location. “I think that people’s faith is greater than what’s happening around so they continue to go to church and pray for themselves as well as for the nation,” Council of Churches secretary-general Hermen Shastri said. “But of course we are not blind to potential threats so churches have taken measures to increase security around their compounds, and (are) trusting the police and other enforcement agencies to keep a lookout for any suspicious individuals.” About 1,000 worshippers at the Catholic Church of Assumption in Kuala Lumpur, one of four in the Malaysian capital targeted by the arsonists, were briefed by parish priest Phillips Muthu on the incident and told to be patient. “I told them we don’t want to blame any people, any quarter, any religion. We are peaceful and we are here to offer our prayer for the nation,” he told reporters at the church, where a fire-bomb damaged part of the grounds. “Of course we are afraid after the incident, but life has to go on.” Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Joseph Kurup, who was at the church with his family, urged the Catholic community to remain calm and let the authorities investigate. One worshipper who only wanted to be identified as Lee said reactions to the court ruling from sections of the Muslim community had been “quite shocking”. “But I think the majority of Malaysians are still peace-loving and we should have dialogue to resolve this,” she said. About nine per cent of Malaysia’s 27 million people are Christians, mostly ethnic Chinese and some ethnic Indians, while Muslims make 60 per cent of the population. Meanwhile, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism, an interfaith organisation, called for opening of communication lines among various communities to provide a lasting solution to the issue.

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