‘Christian Threat’ Seminar in Johor Sparks Religious Row

CHRISTIAN FEDERATION OF MALAYSIA
CFM MEDIA STATEMENT

CFM STRONGLY PROTESTS PROVOCATIVE SEMINAR ON UNFOUNDED CHRISTIAN THREAT TO MUSLIMS

The Christian Federation of Malaysia strongly and unreservedly protests against the seminar to be held this Saturday 31 March 2012 organised by the Johor State Education Department with the co-operation of the Johor State Mufti’s Office.

The Johor State Education Department and the Minister of Education who is responsible for the Department as well as the Johor State Mufti’s Office should be held accountable for the content as well as the theme of the seminar which had been posted on the Johor Bahru District Education Office website as : “Pemantapan Aqidah, Bahaya Liberalisme dan Pluralisme serta Ancaman Kristianisasi terhadap Umat Islam. Apa peranan guru?” (“Strengthening the Faith, the Dangers of Liberalism and Pluralism and the Threat of Christianisation towards Muslims. What is the role of teachers?”).

Once again, Christianity has been identified as a threat to Islam, this time by a State Education Department of the Ministry of Education. This is unfounded and unjustified.

Such a move is contrary to our Government’s attempt to showcase Malaysia as a moderate nation in the international conference on “Global Movement of Moderates” held in Kuala Lumpur at the beginning of the year.

Our Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib bin Tun Razak has called on all Malaysians to work together on the basis of our common religious principles and values of moderation in nation-building.

Our Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin also launched in February this year an annual programme to promote inter-faith understanding in the schools.

Yet just over a month later, in the Minister of Education’s home state, tax-payers money is being used to pay for, and civil servants are being asked to attend, a seminar that seeks to sow disunity and discord amongst school-teachers and, through their influence, amongst our school-going children.
Indeed, the chairman of the Cabinet’s inter-faith committee, Dato’ Azman Amin Hassan, has since said that the “provocatively-titled” seminar flies in the face of the government’s school-level inter-faith harmony week which is to be an annual celebration in the month of February.

We condemn the Johor State Education Department’s action in this matter. We take umbrage at the clumsy attempt in wording the theme of the seminar as such. Even though there has now been an attempt to re-name the title of the seminar, the intent of the seminar has been clearly exposed for all to see.

No government-organised seminar should ever be conducted to implant fear and foment tensions among our peaceful and harmonious peoples. It is insufficient to re-name the seminar without changing the content and structure of the seminar.

Religion must never be used to divide our country, destabilise its harmony and destroy its unity.
The Government in carrying out its responsibility must take immediate and concrete steps to put an end once and for all to concerted efforts to paint Christians in Malaysia as enemies of Muslims.

As loyal citizens of Malaysia, our churches have always stressed and emphasised nation-building, religious freedom, peace, harmony and unity amongst all people living in our beloved country.
Government departments must not be seen to be working and should not be allowed to work at cross-purposes to the Government’s aims by instilling hatred and ill-will between religious communities. Such contradictory objectives will only serve to divide the nation rather than unite it.

The Christian Federation of Malaysia remains committed to building a just and equitable nation that recognises freedom of religion for all. This is the only way to a genuine and lasting peace.
We call on all Malaysians to join us in prayer and action to embrace moderation and reject the extremism exhibited by the organisers of the seminar and all those who defend it.

Yours sincerely,
Bishop Datuk Ng Moon Hing

Chairman and the Executive Committee,

The Christian Federation of Malaysia

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Given below are the background events leading to the press statement:

Government Duty-Bound to Act on ‘Christian Threats’, Says Ulama Council 

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
MALAYSIA INSIDER March 28, 2012 LINK

KUALA LUMPUR, March 28 — The Johor government should not be apologetic for organising a seminar on the “threat of Christianisation” as it is an “Islamic” administration and has a duty to do so, says the Malaysian Ulama Association (PUM).

Religious teachers from national schools in Johor will attend an officially sanctioned seminar this Saturday focusing on the “threat of Christianisation”. The seminar has sparked outrage among Christians.

The seminar, organised by the Johor Education Department and the Johor Mufti Department, is themed “Pemantapan Aqidah, Bahaya Liberalisme dan Pluralism Serta Ancaman Kristianisasi Terhadap Umat Islam. Apa Peranan Guru?” (Strengthening the Faith, the Dangers of Liberalism and Pluralism and the Threat of Christianity towards Muslims. What is the Role of Teachers?).

Two religious teachers from 55 national schools across Johor are required to attend.

“We need to have these kind of seminars,” PUM president Datuk Sheikh Abdul Halim Abdul Kadir told The Malaysian Insider.

“I do not accept the excuse that Christians will be upset or hurt because of this seminar… the problem of Christianisation has been around for a long while, it is real.

“Therefore, any authority or government which is Islamic has a right to do this. You need to educate teachers, especially the young ones who are unaware of this problem.”

Abdul Halim said it was a “known fact” that Christian missionaries had been “aggressively” trying to convert Muslims out of Islam for years, and that they were just doing their “job”.

“Christian missionaries have been stronger than some Muslims. This is what they do, what is demanded of them.

“We, as Muslims, have to fortify ourselves, and as of late this has happened. Many Muslims are now fighting against Christianisation.”

Asked for proof of the claims of “Christianisation”, Abdul Halim said it was happening “directly and indirectly”.

“Proof has been there all awhile… television shows, models, clothing, all these have indirect effects, purposes. We know this.

“As Muslims, we must do our part. The work cannot be done by one person, so if the government does this, support,” he said.

A copy of a letter about the seminar from the Johor Education Department to national schools appears on its website.

Hasimah Abdul Hamid, supervisor for the Islamic Education Unit of the Johor Bahru Education Office, declined to comment on the programme’s stance towards the apparent threat of Christianity against Muslims.

“The purpose of this programme is of course to strengthen the faith of Muslims,” she told The Malaysian Insider.

“But I can’t say anything about the title, because it was provided by the organisers.”

Christians form 9.2 per cent of Malaysia’s 28.3 million population.

In recent years, the Christian and Muslim religious communities have been engaged in a tug of war over the word “Allah”, with Muslims arguing that its use should be exclusive to them on the grounds that Islam is monotheistic and the word “Allah” denotes the Muslim God.

Christians have argued that “Allah” is an Arabic word that has been used by those of other religious beliefs, including the Jews, in reference to God in many other parts of the world, notably in Arab nations and Indonesia.

A number of conservative Muslim groups have also accused Christians of attempting to convert Malays, resulting in heightened tension between followers of the two religions

——————

Interfaith Group Wants Heads to Roll over ‘Inflammatory’ Seminar

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
 MALAYSIA INSIDER March 29, 2012 LINK

KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 — The government must explain why it is allowing a “highly inflammatory” seminar on the “threat of Christianisation” to be held this weekend, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) has said.

Religious teachers from national schools in Johor will attend an officially-sanctioned seminar this Saturday focusing on the “threat of Christianisation”. The seminar has sparked outrage among Christians.

The seminar, organised by the Johor Education Department and the Johor Mufti Department, is themed “Pemantapan Aqidah, Bahaya Liberalisme dan Pluralism Serta Ancaman Kristianisasi Terhadap Umat Islam. Apa Peranan Guru?” (Strengthening the Faith, the Dangers of Liberalism and Pluralism and the Threat of Christianity towards Muslims. What is the Role of Teachers?).

Two religious teachers from each of the 55 national schools across Johor are required to attend.

“How can the government agree to something which will affect different sensitivities?

“Is this the policy of the Education Ministry? Who has sanctioned this? Highly inflammatory, uncalled for, someone must be held responsible,” MCCBCHST honorary deputy treasurer-general Reverend Dr Hermen Shastri told The Malaysian Insider.

He said the council will hold a meeting tomorrow to discuss the matter, and will come up with a more thorough response then.

“On behalf of the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) as well, we are extremely disappointed with the government for allowing this to happen,” said Shastri, who is also CCM secretary-general.

“What if we said Islam was a threat towards Malaysians, we can also ask… what happens then?” said the reverend.

A copy of a letter about the seminar from the Johor Education Department to national schools appears on its website.

Hasimah Abdul Hamid, supervisor for the Islamic Education Unit of the Johor Baru Education Office, declined to comment on the programme’s stance towards the apparent threat of Christianity against Muslims.

“The purpose of this programme is of course to strengthen the faith of Muslims,” she told The Malaysian Insider.

“But I can’t say anything about the title, because it was provided by the organisers.”

But the Malaysian Ulama Association (PUM) said yesterday the Johor government should not be apologetic for organising a seminar on the “threat of Christianisation” as it is an “Islamic” administration and has a duty to do so.

“We need to have these kind of seminars,” PUM president Datuk Sheikh Abdul Halim Abdul Kadir told The Malaysian Insider.

“I do not accept the excuse that Christians will be upset or hurt because of this seminar… the problem of Christianisation has been around for a long while, it is real.

“Therefore, any authority or government which is Islamic has a right to do this. You need to educate teachers, especially the young ones who are unaware of this problem.”

Christians form 9.2 per cent of Malaysia’s 28.3 million population.

In recent years, the Christian and Muslim religious communities have been engaged in a tug of war over the word “Allah”, with Muslims arguing that its use should be exclusive to them on the grounds that Islam is monotheistic and the word “Allah” denotes the Muslim God.

Christians have argued that “Allah” is an Arabic word that has been used by those of other religious beliefs, including the Jews, in reference to God in many other parts of the world, notably in Arab nations and Indonesia.

A number of conservative Muslim groups have also accused Christians of attempting to convert Malays, resulting in heightened tension between followers of the two religions.

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