Friday, May 20, 2005

No to Church relocation

I am somewhat perturbed by the Kajang Municipal Council’s rejection of the Anglican Church’s relocation plan. While I appreciate that the sensitivity of neighbours must be taken into account, that this move was allegedly precipitated by a petition against it by 1000 Muslim residents sets an unfortunate precedent. Why should a church be built in a neighbourhood that’s predominantly Muslim, asked the petitioners? The following was reported in Malaysiakini.

“We rejected that application because the status of the land is residential and the area a residential one,” said an MPKj spokesperson. “The church was not included in the area’s layout regulations.”

The reply is disingenuous, as most plans (if not all) do not make provisions for other non-Muslim houses of worship anyway (eg Shah Alam, and the new administrative capital Putrajaya).

But what of the spokesperson’s next comment?

The official admitted, however, that the rejection of the application was also “due to the protests by local residents” who were represented by ‘eight parties’. These include a representative of a surau (place of prayer for Muslims) amongst other bodies, he said further.

This raises questions, and we need clarity here.

As it stands, Christians are in the minority and I do not see our numbers swell dramatically in the near future. If churches are only to be built in areas where there are more Christians than other religious adherents, no such places will be available. If Muslims object to the presence of a church in a neighbourhood, what would happen if other religious adherents (ie Buddhists, Hindus, etc) do the same on the same grounds?

While there is freedom of worship in Malaysia in general, it is not absolute as in many other countries around the world. The Government controls the building of non-Muslim houses of worship and to its credit, has eased some restrictions in recent years. But increasingly it is the local councils that often stand in the way. It’s a long-standing issue (also involves burial land for non-Muslims) which religious minorities in Malaysia have had to deal with and will continue to deal with in coming days.

Small-group house churches, anyone?

Related stories:
US State Dept report
Anglican Network of Interfaith Concerns
National Evangelical Christian Fellowship Malaysia report


MaoBi said...

Hi David

Was wondering if you live in Kajang. time to rattle your state assembly woman. Majority only 10% even though fight against a east malaysian import from keadilan. Last seat holder PAS. Tell her she needs to do something or else its time to find a real job.

Wish you the best

David BC Tan said...

Nope. I'm not living in Kajang.