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It's mass as usual at church


PEACEFUL SUNDAY: Tolerance prevails amid church raid and use of 'Allah' issue

KLANG: SUNDAY mass at the Our Lady Of Lourdes Church here went on as usual, free of disruptions, amid debates over the use of the word "Allah" by non-Muslims.

Less than a kilometre away, a peaceful protest held by a coalition of Muslim non-governmental organisations at the Sultan Sulaiman Stadium was contained.

The church congregation sat through the services, conducted in English, Tamil and Bahasa Malaysia, from start to end as police stood guard to ensure the safety and security of churchgoers.

They were taken by surprise when activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir arrived at 9am, bearing flowers as a show of support for the church and Christians.

Marina, a member of the newly established National Unity Consultative Council, came with about 50 people, mostly part of a Facebook initiative called "In The Name of Allah".

They waited for the service to end before meeting with the priest, Father Michael Chua.

Marina passed him a white and a red rose as a sign of peace.

Chua said he felt "truly supported, encouraged and respected" by the gesture.

The estimated 150 protesters at the stadium, who were under police scrutiny, were protesting against Catholic priest Father Lawrence Andrew's remarks that Catholic churches would continue to use the world "Allah" in referring to God during mass.

They repeated their demand for Lawrence to apologise for the statement that he allegedly made to an online portal.

The protesters also expressed their support for the raid by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) against the Bible Society of Malaysia on Thursday, saying it was in accordance with the law.

The coalition had earlier planned to protest in front of the church. Heeding the advice of police, Selangor Umno, as well as Perkasa, they decided on Saturday to relocate their protest to the stadium, a move they said was done in respect of Christians' right to practise their religion.

Perkasa vice-president Zulkifli Noordin, in forbidding them from protesting in front of churches, had said the onus was on the Selangor government to make a clear stand on whether the use of the word "Allah" should be allowed by non-Muslims.

The mass at St Anne's Church, Port Klang, where Lawrence was the priest, went on as usual yesterday.

Lawrence said he was happy with the turnout and thanked police for monitoring the situation.

He said he would be meeting state police chief Datuk Mohd Shukri Dahlan today and state Islamic Affairs, Agricultural Modernisation and Rural Development Committee chairman Sallehen Mukhyi tomorrow.

"I am not sure what the meetings are about, but I am sure it has something to do with the 'Allah' issue."

Also at the mass were Klang member of parliament Charles Santiago and Seri Andalas assemblyman Dr Xavier Jayakumar.

In Kuching, Dayak National Congress deputy president Datuk John Tenewi Nuek said racial and religious harmony, as well as peace and stability, were crucial in ensuring that Malaysia remained progressive.

State opposition leader (PKR) Baru Bian said Sarawak was a peaceful multiracial society, despite differences in culture, religion and beliefs.

"We are fortunate as the Barisan Nasional leaders in the state are aware of the people's rights in freedom of religion," he said to a statement by Assistant Minister (Islamic Affairs) Datuk Daud Abdul Rahman, who reiterated the state government's assurance that no Bibles from Christian organisations or churches in Sarawak would be seized. Additional reporting by Goh Pei Pei

Some of the protesters at the Sultan Sulaiman Stadium in Klang yesterday. Pic by Asyraf Bokhar

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