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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hisham asks Christians to be ‘fair and reasonable’ over Alkitab


UPDATED @ 05:57:52 PM 31-03-2011
March 31, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 — Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein called today for Christian groups to be “fair and reasonable” in the ongoing Alkitab row after the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) rejected the government’s latest overture which it said failed to address the erosion of religious rights.

“I hope they can come to a solution that is fair and reasonable,” the home minister said when asked about CFM’s rejection of Putrajaya’s offer last week to mask the ministry’s stamp and serial numbering of 35,100 copies of the Malay bibles.

The continued impasse over the seizure of 35,100 Malay-language bibles now looks set to spill over into the Sarawak state election campaign which begins on April 6, where over half of the 1,000,000 voters in the state are Christians.

Hishammuddin (picture) also denied that Christians were unanimously against the government’s stand on the issue as he has been getting “mixed responses, and some say they will collect the bibles.”

CFM, which represents 90 per cent of churches in Malaysia, had rejected the government’s offer laid down last week by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala, who is in charge of the government’s economic transformation.

Jala, in his statement on March 22, also 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.

The CFM did not seem mollified by Jala’s attempts to placate the community, maintaining that the act — which had been carried out quietly and without the Bible importers’ consent — amounted to a desecration of the Christian holy book and an outright show of disrespect, breaching the guarantees of this country’s highest law.

“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 yesterday.

It also 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.

The Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) had yesterday picked up its shipment of 5,000 bibles from Port Klang but insisted that it will be preserved to remind future generations of Malaysian Christians of what it maintains was a deliberate and unjustified government move to deface their holy book.

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

Hishammuddin said that Jala, who is also a Sarawak Christian, and “his Christian friends” were still working to resolve the issue.

Sarawak goes to the polls on April 16, where the opposition hopes to make significant gains on the back of issues such as the Alkitab row. - Malaysian Insider

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