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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bible Society collects stamped Alkitab — as museum piece


March 31, 2011

The ministry’s seal is seen on the front cover of an Alkitab at Kuching Port. — file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 — Despite denouncing the federal government for “desecrating” 5,000 Malay bibles with the Home Ministry’s seal, the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) has finally picked up its two-year-old cargo worth RM70,000 from Port Klang.

The importer said the stamped and serialised bibles, which it collected yesterday, cannot be sold and will instead be preserved as museum pieces and a reminder to future generations of Malaysian Christians of what it maintains was a deliberate and unjustified government move to deface their holy book.

“The 5,000 copies of the Alkitab that has been defaced by KDN (the Home Ministry) cannot be sold to Christian buyers.

“Instead, they will be respectfully preserved as museum pieces and as a heritage for the Christian Church in Malaysia,” the BSM said in a statement last night.

It was silent on the present location of the holy books and the Christian museum.

When contacted, the society’s general secretary, Reverend Simon Wong, told The Malaysian Insider the details would be disclosed later, but gave no date.

BSM said it decided collect the bibles because it feared the ministry may carry out what it considered further acts of desecration or disrespect on the bibles which it had seized from port on March 20, 2009.

The society pointed to the ministry’s officials who hastily moved to stamp and serialise every copy without first consulting its organisation two weeks ago.

BSM also rejected the Cabinet’s offer for certain Christian donors to reimburse BSM for the costs of the marked cargo, valued at RM70,000.

The government’s Christian minister, Datuk Seri Idris Jala, in his statement on March 22, said that certain Christian donors had also offered to fully replace, free of charge, the two marked cargoes at Port Klang and Kuching, which had been seized and detained by home ministry officials.

“Concerning the offer to compensate BSM for the costs of this shipment, BSM wishes to make its stand clear that BSM will only accept a cheque from KDN and will not accept any money from so-called ‘Christian donors’,” it said.

Earlier yesterday, the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) rejected the federal government’s overture in the Alkitab row, saying it did not resolve the core issue which is the erosion of basic human rights protected by the Federal Constitution.

The umbrella body representing over 90 per cent of churches here was referring specifically to Putrajaya’s offer to mask the Home Ministry’s stamp and serial numbering of 35,100 copies of the Malay bibles shipped in from Indonesia last week, as laid down last week by Jala, who is in charge of government and economic transformation.

“Our position is that there should be no restrictions, proscriptions or prohibitions whatsoever on the bible or the use of the language of our choice in the practice of our religion, as it was in the days before and after the formation of Malaysia,” CFM said in a statement here today, adding that the Alkitab issue was not the only restriction.

It noted that there has been a “systematic and progressive pushing back” of Christian rights — dating back to the 1980s — namely the right to practise, profess and express their faith.

It pointed to a series of restrictions imposed on Christians, such as the freedom to wear and openly display religious symbols, like the cross; the building of churches; and even what words can be used in a Christian religious context.

CFM, however, had said it would leave the decision on what to do with the marked cargoes to the two Alkitab importers in Selangor and Sarawak.

The Sarawak importer, a local branch of global Christian group, The Gideons, has yet to announce its decision.

Malaysia’s biggest state with a majority Christian population will head to the ballot box for its state polls on April 16. - FMT

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