KUALA LUMPUR, April 24 ― The Taman Medan church in Petaling Jaya will again see a gathering outside its doors this Sunday, but this time, participants will be distributing flowers to the congregation and other residents in the Malay-majority neighbourhood.
The purpose of the gathering, organised by “Malaysians for Malaysia”, is to promote peace and religious understanding, and to offer support to those still shaken from the religious storm sparked by last weekend’s cross protest.
Azrul Mohd Khalib, a coordinator for the group, said the event is a non-political initiative that will be attended by both Muslims and non-Muslims alike as well as Malaysians of all races.
He said the event will be similar to another solidarity gathering last January outside of a Klang church that was held amid tensions over the use of the word “Allah” by Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christians.
“We will be giving flowers to the Christian community and those who are there, including people who don’t agree to the church,” the social activist told Malay Mail Online when contacted earlier this week.
Azrul said the “Malaysians for Malaysia” group wants to “show solidarity and support” by changing the current narrative propagated by the protesters last week ― that the Christian symbol of the cross amounts to proselytisation and can corrupt the minds of Muslim youths.
“Right now, the narrative is that the cross can’t be on churches and if you look at it, it also insinuates that the church should not be there because it’s a Muslim area.
“We say a place of worship is a place of worship. It should be respected by all. It's a constitutional right for people to practise their religion, freedom of religion,” he said.
Noting that one member of the Taman Medan congregation had commented on how he liked the church’s proximity to his house, Azrul said the same convenience should be enjoyed by all followers of all faiths.
“Isn’t that what we want? That a person of a particular faith is able to worship in a particular place.
“Why should they go one hour to some factory location somewhere in order to practise their faith?” he asked.
When asked if he expects more harassment and protests against the church, Azrul said news reports and conversations on the incident have placed too much emphasis on the conflict between Muslims and Christians.
“I think we are looking at this incident all wrong. Right now we are just focusing on the conflict,” he said, adding that this was instead an opportunity for Muslims to learn that Christians are not a threat.
“I think it's a good opportunity to show there's a gentle side of Islam, one that is tolerant, accepting of other faiths and according to the teachings of the Prophet,” he added.
He reiterated that the group’s intentions are peaceful and that the solidarity gathering is “not to incite confrontation”.
“It's to provide an opportunity to learn for everybody, that a cross is not a threat to anyone, that a church is not a threat to anyone.
“That it's possible for Christians and Muslims to live in harmony, to be able to worship in peace and safety together. And not to look at it in such a way that it's a confrontation or conflict,” he added.
The Malaysians for Malaysia group ― which is multiracial and cuts across religious lines ― has carried out various peaceful gatherings in the past, including the “A Walk in the Park” events to reject racial and religious extremism.