SACRILEGIOUS ACTS BY UNBELIEVING SPIES IN CHURCH:
IGNORANCE CAN BE FORGIVEN BUT MALICE MUST BE CONDEMNED
I have just been asked what I think of the recent event in which two journalists from Al Islam surreptitiously joined a worship service in a Catholic church, supposedly to verify if there are Malay Christians in the church. LINK1 Malaysiakini; LINK2 (Nutgraph); LINK3 (STAR).
In general I have no problem with Muslims coming to churches to spy on us. Indeed, we Christians welcome all visitors and that includes spies who harbor ill feelings and mischievous intent towards us. After all, it is only when people hear the good news being preached that they then realize the need to receive freely God’s healing grace and salvation. Hopefully, even spies may be positively impressed and return the good will that should be evident in an ambience filled with Christian love and fellowship.
We need however, to note that the act in which the two Muslims took communion and spit off the host (bread) is not acceptable to Catholics. Catholics will be offended by such an act of sacrilege (given their doctrine of transubstantiation). Hmm – I wonder whether they managed to spit out the wine served in the communion.
The question is whether these Muslims acted out of ignorance or out of malice. By malice I mean an act intended to belittle or insult Catholic worship or incite prejudice or hatred from their readers. We can make a conclusion on their motive based on how they report it in Al Islam.
If they acted out of ignorance, it is reasonable that the Catholic Church demands an apology from these Muslims. If the journalists from Al Islam admit that they have acted out of ignorance, the Church will accept their apology.
But if their reportorial piece shows evidence of malice – a deliberate insult, belittling an object deemed holy by the Catholics – that is disseminated in the media with no hint of regret, then I think it is fair that a police report be made with expectations that the authorities bring these people to task. A deed (however awful) done in private and kept in private may be addressed in private. But a deed done in public and publicised as such demands a public response.
I am confident that the Church remains open to any sign of regret from Al Islam and will be magnanimous enough accept any apology that is conveyed with an assurance that such a deed will not be repeated in future.
There is no need to demand a legally entitled pound of flesh even though the Penal Code allows for it. As the STAR (13/07/2009) reports, “It is learnt police have classified the case under Section 298A (1) of the Penal Code for causing disharmony, disunity or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will, or prejudicing harmony or unity on religious grounds. If convicted the duo could be jailed from between two years and five years.”
I would like also to put on record that many of us disagreed with the severe punishment introduced when the Penal Code was amended in the mid-1980s since the provisions can easily be abused by authorities to suppress freedom of religion based on all sort of vague notions about acts “causing disharmony, disunity of feelings or enmity etc”. Indeed, the Penal Code can even be used against reformers within different religions who speak up against abuse of power by incumbent authorities within their own religious tradition.
In short, the Penal Code as it stands denies believers of all religions of their liberty of conscience. However, this is a different matter from what Al Islam seems to be doing when it publicizes the covert activities of its journalists.