Archbishop Bolly Lapok of Kuching has denounced as “shocking” a police raid on the Bible Society of Malaysia, which led to the arrest of the society’s president and office manager and the confiscation of over 300 Bibles.
The Primate of the Anglican Church of South East Asia, Archbishop Bolly Lapok of Kuching has denounced as “shocking” a police raid on the Bible Society of Malaysia, which led to the arrest of the society’s president and office manager and the confiscation of over 300 Bibles.
He warned the government that Islamist extremism could lead to the unraveling of Malaysia society, pitting the multi-ethnic multi-faith country’s citizens against each other.
On 2 January 2014 officials of the State Islamic Affairs Department [JAIS] accompanied by police officers raided the BSM office in Selangor confiscating Bibles and Christian religious literature for using the word “Allah” in Malay and Iban language versions of Scripture.
A recent court ruling in Malaysia banned a Catholic newspaper from using the word “Allah”, but the Prime Minister Najib Razak had given permission for the Al-Kitab, the Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia translation of the Old and New Testament to use the world “Allah” for the name of God.
However, Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar, a lawyer representing the government in the October law suit against the Catholic newspaper The Herald told the BBC.”Allah is not a Malay word. If they [non-Muslims] say they want to use a Malay word they should use Tuhan instead of Allah,”
Archbishop Lapok, speaking in his capacity as chairman of the Association of Churches in Sarawak, denounced the police action.
“If an action assumes such arrogance that violates the Federal Constitution and pays total disregard to the Prime Minister’s directive is not treason, I do not know what is,” the archbishop said.
“In the face of the unrelenting dispute, a voice of reason among us has called for all citizens to respect, honour and abide by the guarantee of religious freedom as enshrined in the Federal Constitution and which was agreed to when Sabah and Sarawak joined Malaya to form Malaysia.”
“I would urge that in our handling of such a sensitive issue, it is imperative that we exercise maximum restraint and without undue prejudice. Our action will either convict or commend us before men and God. JAIS has much to answer for its action,” the archbishop said.
The Council of Churches of Malaysia also urged Christians to remain calm and urged the government to enforce the rule of law. A statement issued by the group noted Islamic officials had no legal authority to intervene in the affairs of non-Islamic religious groups.
“The Federal Constitution guarantees by Article 11 (3) the right of religious communities of Malaysia to establish and maintain institutions and premises to freely profess and administer their affairs,” said the statement.