Friday 12 October 2012

Church leaders dismiss ‘Christian state’ as ‘old tale’

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 12 — Church leaders have brushed aside allegations of a plot to turn Malaysia into a “Christian state” as an “old tale”, saying that voters will not fall for such an election ploy.

Two MPs — Zulkifli Noordin and Nasharuddin Mat Isa — had recently revived the allegation, which has been attacked by Pakatan Rakyat (PR) politicians as a claim to scare away Muslim voters from supporting DAP and the opposition.

Rev Thomas Philips, a Mar Thoma Church priest, described it as an “old tale” and an “old accusation” used to “create” disharmony among the different races and religions in Malaysia.

“It has been rebutted many times,” he told The Malaysian Insider when contacted.

“Everybody has made it clear. I think we just ignore the whole thing,” the former Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) president said.

Yesterday Zulkifli, an independent federal lawmaker, sought to revive last year’s “Christian Malaysia”
 allegations against the DAP, revealing in Parliament what he claimed was photographic evidence of an alleged plot by party leaders and foreign clergymen to turn the country into a Christian state.

Zulkifli Noordin (IND-Kulim Bandar Baharu) urged Putrajaya to investigate the matter, saying the Malay community, as the country’s dominant ethnic group, have compromised too much over the years.

His allegation yesterday first came to light in May last year in a front-page article on Umno-owned daily Utusan Malaysia headlined “Malaysia negara Kristian? (Malaysia a Christian country?)”

Recently Nasharudin, a renegade PAS leader, claimed that DAP leaders had prayed to turn Malaysia into a Christian state during a thanksgiving ceremony held after the Sarawak state elections last year.

DAP leaders have denied the allegation and asked Nasharudin for a public apology which has gone unheeded.

When asked today to comment on how the Christian issue will affect voters, Philips said that people are “mature enough” and will “not be affected by all these things.”

He said that people want “good leadership” and “good examples.”

“What’s important is to maintain racial and religious harmony,” Philips, who is also the vice-president of a Cabinet interfaith panel, said.

Anglican bishop Datuk Ng Moon Hing said there is “no such thing at all” when commenting on the claims by the two MPs.

“We don’t take them seriously. In fact, all the churches don’t take them seriously,” he said, later adding that “nobody takes them seriously.”

“I think it’s just two guys, just want to be known...” said the chairman of the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), the umbrella church body that represents 90 per cent of Christians in Malaysia.

Ng, who is also the head of the Anglican Church’s West Malaysian diocese, said “they just want to create something so their names can be known. We know what they are in for, after elections they will not speak anymore.”
He said there should be more focus on “real issues” such as justice, fairness, dealing with corruption and helping the poor.

Rev Hermen Shastri, the general secretary of CCM, said, “These politicians should stop playing up religious issues.”

The Methodist church pastor said talk of a plot to turn Malaysia into a Christian state “is baseless, unsubstantiated and at worst, it creates fear, it promotes fear.”

“Christians will not be taken in by the ploy of some politicians to play up religious issues in order to garner support at electoral polls,” he said, when asked to comment on how Christian voters will respond.

“Election campaigning will become more nasty if people continue to harp on religious issues,” he said.

“Those right-minded Malaysians will reject this way of playing up issues.”

Several Muslim organisations, including right-wing Malay rights group Perkasa, lodged police reports last year after reading the Utusan Christian Malaysia report, which was based entirely on allegations by several anonymous bloggers known to be pro-Umno.

The bloggers had accused the DAP of sedition in an alleged conspiracy with Christians to change the country’s highest law to put a Christian in place of a Muslim as prime minister.

To back up their allegation, the bloggers pointed to a grainy photograph showing what they described as a secret pact between the DAP’s Jelutong MP and pastors at a closed-door dinner party in a Penang hotel.

The DAP had vehemently denied the allegations and its secretary-general, Lim Guan Eng, directed its members to file police reports to counter them.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein later claimed there was some element of truth in the story after DAP member Mohamed Razali Abdul Rahman lodged a report with the police and claimed that he had been present at the event.

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