Friday 24 August 2012

Five years on, Coalfields Catholic chapel still no site

After five years, the 50 odd Catholic families of Coalfields, made up of former estate workers are still longing and anxiously waiting for a suitable piece of land for their new chapel.

This has come about since the site where their 80 odd year old one stands and the estate where they grew up is making way for a new satellite township.

Coalfields is located near the Sungai Buloh prison, in the district of Kuala Selangor.

Ever since the development was first made known at the beginning of 2007 the residents, both Hindus and Christians have sought out the developer in seeking compensation for moving out of the former estate quarters and have opposed to any moves to relocate their respective places of worship.

Whilst the temple had its wish granted the chapel however was asked to relocate as it is located in a low lying area which would be the waterway of the proposed project.

The church leaders had the responsibility to convince the Christian community of this change. The task was not a simple one - as this is a place of worship, where the community came as one to pray. To have an 80 odd year old chapel demolished for the sake of development would definitely cause a shift in the reactions, emotions, sentiments and displacement of the Christian community there.

The people of this place eventually accepted the proposal to relocate and were willing to open their hearts and minds to the future. It's been five years since!

The church leadership is appreciative that the developer has not neglected the religious needs of both Hindus and Christians.

The former estate workers and their families have since been relocated to the low-cost enclave within Desa Coalfields as the development of the estate at the Coalfields division takes place.

While assuring that the church and the Christian community will not stand in the way of development, the church nonetheless from the very inception had voiced out that the offered one acre triangular shaped site beside the proposed new police station at the new township was not suitable owing to religious prudence and the sensitivity of the surrounding environment.

The church was however asked to make the formal application for ownership of the proposed land. Church authorities have been in discussion with the developer and the Selangor state government Exco member Xavier Jayakumar, to find a solution by giving the church an alternative suitable piece of land for its use.

Appeals have gone as far as to the Prime Minister, Najib Abdul Razak. One of the proposals involved a land swap with the Polis Di Raja Malaysia.

To date no definitive solutions have been found and it has been an ongoing unresolved situation for five years. In the hierarchy of indecisiveness the poor and lower income Indian Christians of that area live in anxiety of what is to become of their place of worship.

The church authority has recently proposed yet another piece of land which is owned by their parent company of the developer.

The church authority foresees that the proposed one acre triangular shaped site will not allow sufficient utilization of the space to serve the already increasing and future needs of an enlarged Catholic community in the area.

The Catholic population have been gradually increasing in the neighbourhood as new families arrive and as the greater Kuala Lumpur keeps ever increasing in size.
A larger land size is seen as necessary since the Catholic church not only serves as a place of worship but also as an activity centre for religious education of children and youth.

Furthermore a Catholic church serves to address the social needs of those within the Christian community and also those of other faiths, including the migrant community. For these a multipurpose hall and community centre is required.

This is especially pertinent for Coalfields since the former estate workers, their children and the nearby squatters have to cope with the rapidly changing environment. These so called original residents of Coalfields are facing challenging times due to rapid urbanisation.

It is hoped that an urgent response from the higher authorities will alleviate and resolve the question of the relocation of land and enable us to focus on the other pertinent needs of poorer people there.

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