Malaysian Christians face lack of burial land

Malaysian Christians face lack of burial land

2010-10-15 13:50:52
Christians in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya are facing a grave problem—a shortage of burial land. “Cremation is an unavoidable option,” said John de Souza, a Catholic consultant of NV Care, a bereavement company. Government-owned cemeteries shared by non-Muslims in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya have almost reached their maximum capacity. There are about 800,000 Catholics in Malaysia, with Christians making up about nine percent of the total population of 27 million. “But if they insist on burial, then I will take them to Malacca, for example,” de Souza adds. Malacca is a two-and-a-half hour drive south of Kuala Lumpur. Catholics are outraged and wonder why the Catholic Church cannot acquire enough land. “We are citizens of this country. It is the government’s duty to make sure there are enough burial land for us," said a Catholic priest. The shortage is also blamed on families. “They erect large tombstones taking up a lot of space when a simple cross would do like in countries abroad,” the priest added. The problem is also compounded by Catholic Church zoning. Catholics living in Petaling Jaya cannot be buried in the nearest city of Shah Alam, also in Selangor. The Shah Alam Christian Cemetery, an inter-denominational graveyard, is reserved exclusively for the burial of Christian and Catholic residents of Shah Alam. “The cemetery belongs to the Shah Alam Municipal Council and the Shah Alam Christian Fellowship (SACF) helps them to manage the cemetery,” said Teresa Lai of the Divine Mercy Church, the only Catholic church in Shah Alam. Well-off Catholics bury their dead in private cemeteries instead, such as the Subang Lutheran Garden Cemetery in Selangor, owned by the Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore. Open to Catholics and Christians, a burial plot there costs around US$1500 while a columbrium niche costs US$400. Cremation used to be associated with other religions but now more Catholics are left without a choice. “We have to come to terms with this because, what other choice is there unless you want to be buried far from home?” De Souza remarked. Related Reports Malaysia urged to bring religious bigots to book Denial of church burial for suicide victims sparks controversy ML11555.1623
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