Tuesday 13 November 2012

Hospital plays safe over ‘Virgin Mary’ sighting

Sime Darby Medical Centre has remained mum over the appearance of an image of 'Virgin Mary' in religiously sensitive Malaysia.

SUBANG: A “Virgin Mary” sighting at a private hospital here has drawn hundreds of Catholics to gather and pray.

But Sime Darby Medical Centre (SDMC) itself has chosen to tread carefully over the incident, due to Malaysia’s religious sensitivities, by officially remaining mum.

“Our official position is no comment, [because] when we deal with religion, it is very delicate,” said a senior Sime Darby official, who declined to be named.

The official said that the hospital’s administration was trying to manage the situation “as best as we can”.

“We are operating a hospital and our main concern is our patients. We also expect people to behave like in any other hospitals,” he said.

It is learnt that both Rela (People’s Volunteer Corps) and traffic police have been roped in to manage the crowd, which is expected to swell in coming days if the image continues to be present at the hospital’s seventh-floor glass windows.

Religious matters are considered sensitive in Malaysia. In January 2010, a court decision over the use of the word “Allah” in Malay-language bibles sparked a series of arson attacks on churches, and other places of worship, all over the country.

More recently, a statement by PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar over freedom of religion has also drawn controversy, with the police opening up investigations under the Sedition Act.

Meanwhile, Rev Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of The Herald, said that he does not foresee any issues arising from the image; instead he said that it should be regarded as a call to peace.

“When there is an apparition, it is always a call to prayer and repentance, a call to look at our lives and make them better and more virtuous. It is a call to go away from sin, and to peace,” said Lawrence.

“People are going there to pray and it is the faith of the people being expressed. It is something they have not seen before. And you can see that it is not painted or pasted on. It is something that has come out on its own. It is a remarkable thing, an extraordinary phenomenon,” he said.

However, when asked if he believed it was a true miracle, Lawrence said that he and the Catholic Church would only be issuing a press statement after further studies.

(Normally, a local bishop must conduct a “serious investigation” to ascertain whether the Marian apparition really took place.)

“At the moment, we have to wait and see how this develops. I wouldn’t commit to anything on this, and I will not jump the gun. It is not subject to feelings, and there is a process of verification,” he said.

Since Friday afternoon, the “holy image” has drawn many to the hospital. It was reported that a cleaner discovered it, claiming it could not be wiped away.

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