Addressing about 300 church leaders yesterday, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said that Christians must not remain quiet even if they think they are "innocent, pure and not involved in wrongful acts".

Lim, the DAP secretary-general, said although believers are answerable to God, it is important to speak out on "Justice for All" - a slogan which had been Pakatan Rakyat's clarion call.

NONE"The church can play a role in this (speaking out against injustice) in order to create a stronger community," he added, at the dialogue attended by state executive councillors Abdul Malik Abdul Kassim, Wong Hon Wai and the Christian Federation of Malaysia Penang chairperson Bishop Emeritus Antony Selvanayagam (right).

Others who attended the dialogue included Penang Ministers Fellowship chairperson Pastor Samuel and National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) northern representative Pastor Sam Surendran

Challenges in dealing with churches

During the two-hour session, the DAP secretary-general was asked by a participant to share the challenges he had in dealing with Christian churches in the state since taking office in 2008.

The Bagan MP said his administration had not met with problems with any religious body since assuming power in 2008 as all sectors had mutual respect for one another.

He added that the state government had tried to be fair to all religions and called for continued engagement among the different communities.

"By engagement, we can build a bridge to cut across the divide - which is hatred and intolerance," he quipped.

Pakatan dinner Lim Guan Eng"This division is created by BN to garner votes. Umno would frighten the Muslims about a Christian state and MCA would scare the non-Muslims about an Islamic state," Lim (left) said.

"No wonder you never see them on the same platform talking about the same thing," he added.

Lim then said the state will consider forming an interfaith council in the state where various religious bodies can interact with one another, although at the federal level, progress towards this end has been slow.

"Probably the Islamic religious body (in the state) has to decide on this, but I hope the non-Islamic groups are willing to have the consultative process, where (representatives) can engage and interact on various matters," he said.

At one time, an anonymous blog had accused the DAP of plotting to establish a Christian state in Penang, but police probe revealed that several party members who attended a closed-door pastors dinner meeting were Buddhists, quashing the allegations.

Lim was also speaking at the forum in his capacity as the chariman of the Non-Islamic Religious Affair committee dealing with religious matters related to Buddhism, Christianity, Sikhism, Taoism and Hinduism.

Hudud and the Islamic state

Other issues raised during the dialogue included a suitable plot for a Christian cemetery, where Lim called for state authorities to conduct an inventory of the existing land, and asked the churches to collectively to suggest how to go about the matter.

Some churches requested annual state allocations, but Lim said this would depend on Penang's financial capacity, but nevertheless, he quoted he famous Christian phrase "ask and you shall receive".

Tchurch attacks sunday masswo church leaders thanked the Pakatan government for bringing changes to the way they handled the churches, saying the relationship with the former BN government had sometimes been "non-cooperative and slow".

Another  pastor appealed for lower assessment for the land where the church was built on.

The land is owned by a board and the pastor is a trustee. But the landownership is under the pastor's name and considered private.
Lim suggestesd that the ownership be transferred to the church so it can be considered for lower assessment.

On a pastor's question about Pakatan's stand on hudud law, Lim reiterated that the coalition's policy framework Buku Jingga does not mention the matter.

On another question regarding the Islamic state, he reiterated that Pakatan would abide by the constitution, that Islam is the official religion of the federation, and that there is freedom of religion for the other communities.