KUALA LUMPUR, May 30 ― Several prominent Christians, including a former Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) leader, have formed a new Barisan Nasional-friendly faith group called Christians for Peace and Harmony in Malaysia (CPHM).
Malay Mail Online understands that CPHM aims to provide counterpoint to existing and established Christian groups in the country such as the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) and the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) Malaysia, which are often viewed as critical of the government.
CPHM will officially be launched this June 2 by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak himself at the Majestic Hotel here.
Among its prominent board of trustees members are former BSM chair and lawyer Lee Min Choon, former NECF secretary-general Rev. Wong Kim Kong, and Edwin Agong, deputy president of the newly launched anti-discrimination movement Gerakan Anti Perkauman Malaysia (GAP).
In the invitation to its launch, CPHM labelled itself as a “grassroots movement initiated by a group of concerned Christians to promote mutual respect, tolerance and acceptance among citizens of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds through fostering peace and harmony in the country.”
“The vision of CPHM is beyond any one religion. We will endeavour to encourage the whole citizenry to embrace the call for the promotion of peace and harmony amongst all the peoples in Malaysia.
“This will help towards national unity, which is very important for the nation’s transformation agenda,” said Wong in a statement that accompanied the invitation.
Pointing out that the country is currently undergoing a socio-religious-political tense, Wong urged Christians themselves to address such situation by not resorting to confrontational approaches.
“The Christian’s response must go beyond societal norms of confrontational aggression. Christians should bring peace, between man and God and between those at odds with each other,” he said.
Religious ties have been strained in Malaysia during recent years, particularly over a high-profile legal tussle between Muslims and Christians over “Allah”, the Arabic word for God.
In 2008, the Home Ministry prohibited the Catholic Church from printing “Allah” in the Malay language section of its Herald newsletter, prompting the Church to sue for what it claimed was Christians’ constitutional right to use the word.
The six-year long legal battle ended in defeat this year when the Federal Court chose not to hear an appeal against a 2013 decision denying the Catholic newsletter from using the Arabic word for God.
Although technically limited to the case of the Catholic Church and the Herald, the decision has been taken to mean Muslim exclusivity over the term “Allah”.
The continued friction between the two faiths can also be traced to allegations of Christian efforts to proselytise to Muslims — illegal in Malaysia — that manifested in a controversial protest that forced a church in Selangor to remove its cross two months ago.
In April, about 50 Taman Medan Muslim residents staged a protest against the Community of Praise Petaling Jaya Church for putting up a cross on its façade, claiming the act was a challenge to Islam and could influence young Muslims.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak later said the police will investigate the incident and take action under the Sedition Act and other laws if the protesters are found to have acted unlawfully.
Around 40 individuals were investigated over the protest last month, but no charges have been filed against anyone.
Amendments to the Sedition Act 1948 were also passed in April that will make it an offence to cause ill-will on the basis of religion.