Posted by: malaysianchristian | June 21, 2007

UNITY THREATENED BY CONTINUING INFRINGEMENTS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

This was a press release on June 19, 2007, Tuesday:

The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism today launches a Note of Protest that we intend to disseminate locally and internationally to highlight various infringements of religious freedom that threaten national unity in Malaysia.

The Note of Protest highlights the personal tragedies of various ordinary Malaysians suffering anguish as a result, in one way or another, of the misuse of religion e.g. persons who are treated as “Muslims” against their will, some who are being detained for “rehabilitation” merely because they want the Government to recognise their choice of religion and women (and men) who are faced with the loss of their children merely because of the religious conversion by one spouse.

The Note of Protest contains as an annexure a Memorandum submitted to the Government, through the National Unity Advisory Panel, in October 2005 which contains an exhaustive summary of our position on various issues of concern as well as our suggested solutions. The conclusion of the Note of Protest reads as follows:-

“In a memorandum entitled ‘RESPECT THE RIGHT TO PROFESS AND PRACTICE ONE’S RELIGION’ dated October 2005, we had set out all these problems and urged the Government to make urgent legislative reforms to alleviate these concerns. Until today, no such reforms have been made and more and more Malaysians are suffering.

“After much deliberation, it is therefore our considered decision to make public that Memorandum and the reforms we had proposed together with our rationale for the same and to disseminate it both locally and internationally in order to encourage debate so we can all jointly seek solutions to these problems.

“We urge the Government to urgently alleviate these concerns, so that our nation and people can concentrate on the more pressing tasks that face us in achieving our shared national vision and aspirations.

“In closing, we reiterate the stand of MCCBCHST since its inception in 1983 that Malaysians of all ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds can best resolve whatever differences of opinion which may arise through peaceful engagement in mutual respect and genuine dialogue. As we prepare to observe our 50th anniversary as an independent nation, let us be in prayer for a peaceful and just society which will find UNITY IN DIVERSITY.”

In addition, we will also be holding a candlelight vigil tonight, Tuesday, 19th June 2007 from 8.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. in solidarity with Revathi, the Indian lady held in “rehabilitative” detention at the Islamic Rehabilitation Centre in Ulu Yam, Selangor. Revathi says she is a Hindu and wants the Government to recognise her choice of religion. Further details of Revathi’s case are set out in the Note of Protest. The vigil is a joint initiative of civil society groups including the women’s rights groups All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), Sisters in Islam (SIS), Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Women’s Centre for Change, Penang (WCC) and Women’s Development Collective (WDC). The venue for the vigil is at the base of the flagpole at Dataran Merdeka, where 50 years ago our independence from colonial rule was first proclaimed. The venue was intentionally chosen to give Revathi some hope that she too will have freedom soon.

MCBCHST Executive Committee

19.06.2007

The Vigil was peacefully conducted as planned.  Farish A. Noor chips in his views here in  A Vigil for Malaysia:

Needless to say, Malaysians of all creeds and races have begun to ask: What is the government of Abdullah Badawi doing to curb these tendencies, and where is Malaysia heading?

Fed up with what they see as the singular failure of the current Badawi administration to defend the secular constitution of the country, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCBCHST) have issued a protest letter entitled Unity Threatened by Continuing Infringements of Religious Freedom.
 
The protest letter contains a memorandum originally submitted to the Malaysian government in 2005, asking the government to take steps to ensure that religious freedom would be respected and protected in Malaysia. But now with the failure of Lina Joy at the courts and with the detention of Revathi by the state’s religious authorities, non-Muslims in Malaysia feel that they can no longer protest in silence.

In a significant gesture pregnant with symbolic meaning, the MCBCHST organised a candlelight vigil at the Merdeka (Independence) square in downtown Kuala Lumpur, where Malaysian independence was first proclaimed half a century ago this year. The vigil was meant in support of Revathi, the Malaysian citizen who now faces an unknown fate detained in one of the country’s ‘Islamic rehabilitation centres’ and separated from her husband and child. No doubt, the country’s non-Muslims are worried about where the trend of religious-based politics is taking Malaysia, and there as many Muslims who likewise have questioned the wisdom behind the government’s overtly political attempts to turn Islam into part of the state’s ruling ideology.

In the end, however, cases like Revathi’s and Lina Joy’s revolve around the fundamental freedom to believe in what one believes, and to be recognised as such. The Muslim majority in Malaysia are not Muslims because their identity cards and passports tell them they are, but because they simply are, and exist, as Muslims.
 
The time has come for the laws of the land to recognise that being Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Buddhist in Malaysia has little to do with paperwork and legal technicalities, but in the more fundamental nature of existential being itself. Until then however, those trapped in the legal chasm where Revathi and Lina Joy are in at the present are the unfortunate victims of a legal system at odds with itself and which oddly defend freedom of belief for some and yet not for others…”

 

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