Friday 26 August 2011

Churches want freedom to do charity work

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 — The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) called today for the freedom to help the poor regardless of race, amid accusations that Christians were trying to convert Muslims through welfare work.

The umbrella body representing various Christian denominations also told Malaysians to reject extremism ahead of Merdeka Day next Wednesday.

“Churches and Christians should continue freely to do works of charity to contribute towards nation-building in diverse ways, so that the benefits can be reaped by the poor and the needy, irrespective of race, religion or creed,” said CFM in a statement today.

“As Malaysians, we need to build on the positives that we have in our land, rather than the negatives that divide us on the basis of race, religion or creed... in particular, we reject extremist speeches and statements and irresponsible reporting in the media,” it added.
Pro-Umno newspapers have been highlighting alleged attempts by Christians to convert Muslims since the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) raided an evangelical church in Petaling Jaya on August 3. Proselytising Muslims is an offence in Malaysia.

Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia also reported recently an allegation that underprivileged Muslims living in a squatter area near Old Klang Road were being proselytised by Christians under the guise of free English classes.

The tuition centre was subsequently shut down for purportedly not owning a valid permit.

Influential cleric Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, however, said yesterday that Muslims should take care of their own poor instead of accusing Christians of proselytism when churches helped poor Muslims.

Tensions between Christians and Muslims have heightened after Jais swooped on the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC), on claims that it was investigating a complaint that Muslims were being converted at a dinner the church was hosting for a local NGO.

The Selangor state government met with Jais and representatives of the Harapan Komuniti NGO yesterday to resolve the debacle that has sparked attacks from both Muslims and Christians against the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) administration.

CFM pointed out today that religious freedom was enshrined in the Federal Constitution that ensured peace and harmony in multi-racial Malaysia.

“The diversity of faiths expressed in the many places of worship throughout Malaysia is a testimony to the spiritual vitality of all our peoples and their desire to be connected to the almighty God,” said CFM.

“Therefore, we must hold to the sanctity of all our places of worship, and also our freedom to believe and not allow such to be violated in any way,” it added.

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