Judges “misinformed”, Allah ruling tantamount to persecuting Christians - Archbishop Pakiam

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The head of the Malaysian Catholic Church today said that the decision of the Court of Appeal on the Allah issue was tantamount to persecuting Christians in Malaysia.

Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam (pic) noted that the three judges were grossly misinformed in arriving at the decision to ban Catholic weekly Herald from using the word Allah.

He said Christians in Malaysia have been using the word peacefully for centuries and "we do not accept the statement of these judges".

"As president of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Malaysia, I want to say that the three judges were grossly misinformed in their finding that the word Allah is not essential or an integral part of Christianity,” said the archbishop in a statement today.

He added that the first article of faith in the creed for all Christians is “I believe in One God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth”.

"As such, any Christian who denies or modifies this statement of faith, incurs excommunication and would be considered a heretic," he stressed, adding that Allah was the Bahasa Malaysia translation and the Arabic equivalent of “One God”.

He also pointed out that to conclude that the word was not essential to the Christian faith was a grave denial of a fundamental right of the Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christian community, who use Allah in their worship, prayer books, the Al-Kitab and other publications.

Pakiam said there were thousands of Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christians from Sabah and Sarawak who were in universities, the armed forces, police and in the civil and private sector in Peninsular Malaysia.

Pakiam added that half of the churches and chapels in Peninsular Malaysia currently conduct at least one worship service or catechism lesson in Bahasa Malaysia every week.

“As committed religious leaders, we have to ensure that we respectfully minister to them in the national language.

“For this reason, we do not accept the statement of these judges and stand in solidarity with other church leaders who have also voiced their objection.

"We are heartened that other religious leaders and organisations have echoed similar statements."

He called on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to take steps to “stop the indoctrination of unwitting Malays by individuals and organisations from swinging towards a divisive radicalism”.

Pakiam also urged all Malaysians to invoke the good sense of their Malay brothers and sisters, many of whom have greatly benefitted from the education offered in mission schools, and who were familiar with Christians’ belief in God.

“We continue to pray that God will bless and enlighten all Malaysians to accept one another in unity and diversity,” said the head of the Catholic Church.

Last Monday, a three-man Court of Appeal bench ruled that the Herald was banned from using the word Allah, overturning a High Court decision in December 2009.

In the judgment, the Court of Appeal ruled the word Allah was not essential to or an integral part of Christianity. (Read the three grounds of judgment here, here and here).

Politicians and lawyers have argued that the decision is binding on all and that it also affects Christians in Sabah and Sarawak who worship in Bahasa Malaysia.

The church will file an appeal to the Federal Court. – October 21, 2013.

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