Saying they had not expected a violent reaction to the Malaysian High Court’s ruling that a Christian newspaper may use the word “Allah” for God, Catholic leaders in Malaysia have said there is an urgent need to “defuse the conflict” they say fundamentalists are trying to start in the country.
The Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, scheduled to meet in the Malaysian city of Johor Baru long before the attacks on several churches, said it was “concerned” by the reaction, the Malaysian Insider reports.
The bishops discussed the impact and the necessary response to defuse what they described as a “worrisome and delicate” situation.
The prelates said that meetings with civil authorities and dialogues with Muslim leaders are ongoing and will continue.
“We must act in harmony and seek the necessary co-operation of the government and the high religious authorities in order to restore a peaceful environment to Malaysian society,” the Conference added, according to Fides.
The bishops said the violent episodes are “smearing” the reputation of Malaysian Islam, which they said is known for its “moderation and peaceful co-existence with other religions.” They noted that “groups of moderate Muslims” have taken turns guarding churches to avoid further violence.
Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, the Apostolic Delegate to Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, also stressed the need to work for dialogue, the Malaysian Insider reports.
The bishops said that Christians will do “everything possible” to keep calm, not retaliate, and pray to avoid “a dangerous escalation of the violence.”
On Dec. 31 the Malaysian High Court had ruled that the Herald, a Catholic newspaper, could use the Malay word “Allah” for God. At least four churches in and around Kuala Lumpur suffered firebomb attacks and the newspaper website was hacked by protesters angered by the decision.
Other firebombs were thrown at a church and a convent school in the state of Perak and at a church in Sarawak on the island of Borneo.
The High Court suspended its ruling on Jan. 6.