At morning Mass, non-Christians turn up with flowers

Malaysians rally in solidarity with Catholics attending Sunday Mass at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Klang on January 5, 2014. Parish priest, Rev Father Michael Chua, is seen next to social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Malaysians rally in solidarity with Catholics attending Sunday Mass at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Klang on January 5, 2014. Parish priest, Rev Father Michael Chua, is seen next to social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KLANG, Jan 5 — Expecting agitators, the parish priest and members of the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes here were pleasantly surprised when some 20 non-Christians turned up at their doorstep with flowers in hand during Sunday morning Mass today.

For the past few days, Selangor Umno had threatened massive protests outside Selangor churches for what they claimed was an attempt by Christians to usurp the exclusive right to calling their God “Allah”, a demonstration their chief called off yesterday after being warned they stood to violate a law that bars assemblies within 50 metres of any place of worship.

“This is really overwhelming to see support from Malaysians of all walks of life,” the Catholic parish priest, Rev Father Michael Chua, told reporters.

“We feel truly encouraged and supported.”

Protesters from the Klang Muslims Solidarity Secretariat group, which had promised to rally on against Christian use of the Arabic word for God, were nowhere to be seen outside the church while four policemen stood watch.

The 8am mass, which was conducted in English, saw an attendance of about 900 people, according to church parish administrator E. A. Louis.

Some churchgoers were even seated outside the 86-year-old church under the bright morning sun as pews inside were fully occupied.

Louis said the number of churchgoers showed that Christians were not disturbed by the Klang Muslims Solidarity Secretariat’s threat to protest outside the church against Christians using the Arabic word “Allah” to refer to God.

“They are not frightened,” he told reporters.

Several church members whom The Malay Mail Online interviewed said they felt overwhelmed by the support shown by some 20 people of various religious faiths who showed up in solidarity, including social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, holding a bouquet of yellow carnations, white and red roses.

“That’s real 1 Malaysia spirit,” church member Datin Mary Ng told The Malay Mail Online.

“Muslims are right there, just outside the church. It’s real ‘muhibbah’,” she added, using the Malay word that means the spirit of togetherness.

The 60-year-old said that she did not feel anxious when she came to church, pointing out that the churchgoers were well-protected by the police.

Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir stands outside the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Klang, Selangor, January 5, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir stands outside the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Klang, Selangor, January 5, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

Another church member, Priya Marion Bernatt, expressed her happiness at seeing many people turning up at the church, pointing out that she could not even get a seat.

“It’s good that we have some moderates,” she said.

“We can’t assume that everyone is a fanatic. The moderates have to step up. As long as they keep quiet, others will have a bigger voice. So, we’re calling on our Muslim brothers to help us,” added the 44-year-old senior manager.

Priya stressed that Christians were not out to convert others to their faith.

“We just want to worship our own way,” she said.

Ronald Reuben, another church member, said he did not expect anything untoward to happen, despite the protest threat by the Muslim non-governmental organisation (NGO).

“I have faith in Malaysians,” he told The Malay Mail Online.

“The non-Christian group coming here — it’s a great show. Malaysia should be like that, standing up for other faiths, especially the Muslims,” said the 41-year-old manager.

Student Shivonne Eugene, who also attends the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, admitted that she felt anxious at first, but noted that mass went on smoothly.

“We feel overwhelmed with the support from people of other races,” the 25-year-old told The Malay Mail Online.

Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir stands with other concerned Malaysians outside the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Klang, Selangor, January 5, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir stands with other concerned Malaysians outside the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Klang, Selangor, January 5, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

Siti Kassim, the organiser of the solidarity rally, said that she had organised the event to show that there are Malays who disagreed with the attacks against Christians.

“We’re very appalled with what’s going on,” Siti told The Malay Mail Online.

“We want to show that there are a lot of Malays like us who disagree and don’t like how Islam has been hijacked by extremists. The raid was absolutely appalling,” she said.

The lawyer was referring to the shocking raid last Thursday by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) on the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) office, where Islamic religious officials who were accompanied by the police, seized over 300 copies of Malay and Iban-language bibles.

Marina told reporters that she stood in solidarity with the church to show that “Islam is a religion of peace”.

“A protest is a right of everyone, but they shouldn’t enter the premises,” said Marina.

“The raid is despicable. It should never have happened. It’s completely beyond the pale. Nobody enters the house of worship of another religion without permission,” she added.

Marina also said that the word “Allah” “belongs to all”.

“If we believe that God is one, then the word is for all,” she said.

Marina, who is also a member of the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), said that the council would be discussing the “Allah” issue tomorrow.

Rev Father Michael Chua greets Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir outside the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Klang, Selangor, January 5, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Rev Father Michael Chua greets Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir outside the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Klang, Selangor, January 5, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

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