One thing that many people do not realise is that East Malaysian indigenous and Orang Asli Christians constitute 60 per cent of the church in Malaysia and many of them use Bahasa Malaysia.
This is a CFM statement reacting to the Court of Appeal’s decision to bar the use of the word ‘Allah’ in the Malay-language pullout of the Catholic Herald weekly in Malaysia:
The Christian community in Malaysia is gravely dismayed and very disappointed by the decision of the Court of Appeal to uphold the power of the Minister to ban the use of the word Allah in the Herald publication. In a wide-ranging decision, all Christian publications in Bahasa Malaysia would appear to be affected by this ruling.
By stating that “the name ‘Allah’ is not an integral part of the faith and practice of Christianity” the court has totally ignored the position of our East Malaysian Bumiputra and Orang Asli Christians, who constitute 60% of the church in Malaysia and who are Bahasa Malaysia-speaking.
In particular, by holding that “the welfare of an individual or group must yield to that of the community” and applying this principle to freedom of religion, this decision is yet another erosion and infringement of the constitutional protection to the freedom of religious communities to profess and practise their faith and to manage their own affairs.
In what would appear to be a re-reading and re-interpretation of Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution, it would now appear that a minority religion can only be practised and professed in Malaysia to the extent that it does not upset the “peace and harmony” of adherents of the majority religion.
The Bahasa Malaysia-speaking churches have been using the word Allah both before and after the independence of Malaya and the formation of Malaysia. The use of the word Allah by the Malaysian churches had not been an issue all these decades.
However, the various authorities in this country, by making an issue of it and by what would appear to be selective action or inaction, have only encouraged and fuelled further misunderstandings, mistrusts and brokenness between the Muslim and Christian communities. This will only further undermine the unity of Malaysians.
Despite this very negative development, the Christian Federation of Malaysia reminds all churches in Malaysia to always look to God and to pray for wisdom and guidance for all involved as to the next steps that they should take.
We welcome the fact that the decision of the Court of Appeal does not appear to cover the use of the word Allah in the Bahasa Malaysia Bible, the Al-Kitab.
We expect our Honourable Prime Minister and the Cabinet to continue to honour the 10-point solution with respect to the Bahasa Malaysia Bible, the Al-Kitab. We shall, therefore, continue to use the word Allah in our worship, liturgy, prayers and educational materials of the church.
As Malaysian Christians we are committed to our beloved nation and our love for Malaysia remains steadfast and we continue to respond with love and not in hatred as we face this on-going trial and tribulation.
Rev Dr Eu Hong Seng
Chairman and the Executive Committee
The Christian Federation of Malaysia