Wednesday, May 11, 2011

PM Najib Meeting Church Leaders

KUALA LUMPUR, May 11 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will meet a select group of church leaders for lunch in Putrajaya tomorrow, after the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government took flak over reports of a presumed plot by Christians to usurp Islam as Malaysia’s main creed.

Bishop Ng Moon Hing, who heads the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), confirmed he received the invitation from the Prime Minister’s Office last week and will be attending the closed-door lunch meeting with representatives from the Roman Catholic Church, the Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) and the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF).

“Utusan will be just one of the many one-off things that will be raised,” Ng told The Malaysian Insider today.

The Malay daily carried a front-page article on Saturday, headlined “Kristian agama rasmi?” (Christianity the official religion?), claiming the DAP was conspiring with Christian leaders to take over Putrajaya and abolish Islam as the religion of the federation.

The report, based entirely on unsubstantiated blog postings by several pro-Umno bloggers, charged the DAP with sedition for allegedly trying to change the country’s laws to allow a Christian prime minister.

Christian groups and the DAP have repeatedly denied the allegation, and have slammed the Umno daily for printing “dangerous lies”.

The CFM chairman, who also heads the Anglican Church in West Malaysia, said he has not been informed of the agenda for the meeting but guessed it was likely related to the 10-point resolution suggested by the Cabinet.

“I’m not sure what’s going on,” he said, adding tomorrow’s noon luncheon at the Prime Minister’s Office was called at the previous meeting and is replacing another meeting with the Cabinet’s Special Committee to Promote Interreligious Harmony and Understanding scheduled for the same time.

Ng said the PM had indicated to church leaders in the run-up to the April 16 Sarawak election that he would like another meeting with church leaders to resolve Christian issues but had not given a date then.

The cleric said there was a laundry list of outstanding matters such as the location of Christian land for the construction of churches and earmarked for burial, the establishment of Christian societies in schools and the right of Christians to use the Arabic word “Allah” in their worship. “Of course the word ‘Allah’ will be discussed as well,” Ng said.

But he said he was doubtful that any of the issues could be discussed meaningfully during the short lunch.

He added that the meeting was a closed-door affair. The CFM represents over 90 per cent of Malaysia’s churches and had rejected the Cabinet’s 10-point resolution as drawn up by minister Datuk Seri Idris Jala on April 2.

The Christian body has steadfastly said a long-term solution is needed. The Cabinet’s special faith panel, which comprises Muslims as well as representatives from Malaysia’s five other main religions — Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism — has been unable to make any headway in resolving the Allah-Alkitab row as it has yet to name a new head to replace Datuk Ilani Ishak who died from cancer on February 24.

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