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Leaders denounce curbs on worship

Christians claim government is squeezing their 'public space' to express their faith reporter, Penang

March 31, 2011

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Christian leaders of all denominations have called on the government to commit itself to removing all impediments to the importation, publication, distribution and use of the Malay-language Bible, called the Alkitab. The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) issued a statement yesterday following a joint meeting in which they described “the current controversy surrounding the Alkitab” as being just one issue in “a systematic and progressive pushing back of the public space to practise, to profess and to express our faith.” The statement signed by the CFM chairman, Anglican Bishop Ng Moon Hing, calls on the government to “commit itself once and for all to remove every impediment, whether legal or administrative, to the importation, publication, distribution and use of the Alkitab and indeed to protect and defend our right to use the Alkitab.” Last week the Malaysian government called off a plan to put serial numbers on bibles printed in the Malay language following a threatened protest by Christians throughout the country. In return for releasing some 35,100 impounded bibles, the home ministry wanted to stamp each one with a serial number to control its circulation and a message saying it is for Christian use only. The CFM also calls for “revoking all orders made under the Internal Security Act 1960, which have declared the Alkitab as a threat to national security.” “We categorically reject the characterization of our Holy Scriptures in this manner.” At the same time, CFM will “remain committed to work with the government for a viable and long-term solution.” On the issue of the impounded bibles, the CFM said: “We have left it to the two importers to decide whether or not to collect the Alkitab.” But Pembela, a coalition of Muslim NGOs, has warned Christian groups to end their “confrontational approach” and use discussion and dialogue to solve problems. It also disagrees with the government's decision to release the Alkitab and supports a government ban on non-Muslims using the word “Allah.” MS13805.1647

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