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November 2006 News
Safeguard rights of all religious communities
Petaling Jaya : The Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) has appealed to the Prime Minister and his Cabinet to safeguard the rights of all religious communities. This was said in a statement issued on Nov 7 following the incident, which took place at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Ipoh. The CCM also called on the authorities to deal firmly with those who try to "instill a climate of fear by perpetrating dubious text messages or demonstrating in front of religious places."

26 Jalan University, 46200 Petaling Jaya,
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Press Statement
The Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) views with great concern the incident that took place at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Ipoh on November 5. Why should worshippers who attend church be subjected to trepidation caused by unruly mobs bent on disrupting the religious and holy ceremonies of a religious community? What such acts have shown is that religious extremism is rearing its ugly head and soon such mobs may appear in other churches throughout the country to shake the foundations of interreligious understanding and respect that has kept our nation at peace all these years. We appeal to the Prime Minister and his cabinet that a clear statement be issued that the rights of all religious communities to worship in peace will be respected and protected. All attempts by ill-intentioned groups to instil a climate of fear, by perpetrating dubious text messages or demonstrating in front of religious places, should be dealt with firmly by the authorities to ensure such incidents do not recur.

Tan Sri Bishop Dr Lim Cheng Ean
President of CCM

Rev Dr Hermen Shastri
General Secretary

All Marriages experience calm and stormy weather
Kuala Lumpur : A Biblical Marital Seminar was held at Good Shepherd Church, Setapak from Oct 28 to Oct 29. A Catholic lay theologian, Dr Jeffrey Goh enlightened the participants with deep theological insights on Christian marriage. Drawing heavily on Scripture passages, classical paintings and moving real life stories, he imparted his wisdom through six talks, supported by his wife, Angie, who also managed the LCD projector. All marriages experience calm and stormy weather. Thus Jeffrey stressed the importance of imitating Christ in the fourth talk, Sweating Blood (Matt 26:36-46, Luke 22:39-46) to save a marriage in crisis. Each couple experienced their special moments of feet washing and the possibility of reconciliation in separate corners of the hall. The Renewal of marriage vows completed the session.-Herald

Legionaries visit Concilium in Dubin, Knock and Lourdes
Petaling Jaya : The legionaries of Malaysia were in Knock, Ireland recently for a meeting of the Concilium. Led by Spiritual Director, Fr Raymond Pereira and the President, Jenny Tan, the 15 Active and Auxiliary members visited the Legion Headquarters, Concilium in Dublin. It was the first time that Kuala Lumpur Regia, the highest Legion governing council in Malaysia, has led a group of legionaries to the Concilium meeting. A visit to the Legion's founder Mr Frank Duff's house and grave was also included in the itinerary. They also made a day trip to Our Lady of Knock - a beautiful pilgrimage place which is more than 2 hours drive outside Dublin. After four days in Dublin, the group proceeded to Lourdes. -Herald

Apostasy numbers are minimal
Kuantan : Conversions from Islam are minimal and nowhere near the 100,000 figure bandied around by some religious leaders, said a researcher. Based on official data obtained from the state syariah courts, religious departments and the National Registration Department (NRD), the number of conversions are only in the hundreds. Dr Mohd Azam Mohd Adil, a law professor at the Universiti Teknologi Mara (UITM), said that the NRD recorded 750 applications between 1999 and July 2003 to change names - from Muslim to non-Muslim - in the identity cards. Of these, only 220 were granted throughout the five years. Most of the applicants were converts to Islam, said Azam. However, actual numbers of apostasy - those who file an official application to leave Islam in the courts are much lower, about 100 between 1994 and 2003 among the country's 10 million Muslims.-Herald

Bishop Paul Tan recuperating after spinal surgery
Johor Bahru : The 66-year-old Bishop of Melaka-Johor diocese, Rt Rev Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing, SJ has been advised by his team of doctors to take "complete rest" following a major spinal surgery at the Mount Alvernia Hospital, Singapore on Oct 28. This was by a very senior priest from the diocese after his one-hour visit to the Bishop at the hospital on Oct 31. The priest said, "The operation went smoothly and the Bishop has asked for prayers." It was a year ago when Bishop Paul Tan met with an accident before the exit to Pagoh on the North-South highway. In that accident, he sustained a head injury, a cut on his left cheek, a fractured upper left arm and also hurt his left knee. Since mid-Oct 2006, Bishop Tan has been experiencing severe pain on his back which was caused by an injury in the 1960s. "I underwent two operations for this - once in the 1960s and another in the 1990s," he said. However, on Oct 25 this year, at the advice of his doctor, the Bishop checked into the hospital and three days later underwent a third operation on his back. In his absence the diocese will managed by Msgr Sebastian Francis.

SMSes bring chaos
Ipoh : Rumours that were circulated through SMSes nearly jeopardised the peace, harmony and religious freedom experienced by the Catholics of Ipoh. All was well when the Tamil Mass began at 7.OOam on Sunday, November 5, 2006. However by 7.30 am, assistant parish priest Fr Dominic Santhiyagu had realised (from the altar) the mounting presence of police personnel and patrol cars on the main road. The crowd had swelled outside and Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) personnel and trucks had arrived and taken up their positions along the main road in front of the church. Soon the crowd on the right side of the church started shouting, "Kalau Mansor masuk, bakar bangunan ini! " (If Mansor goes in, burn the building). They then advanced to the gateway and began shouting religious slogans in Arabic. However, the FRU personnel took control of the situation and moved the crowd further up the road, away from the church vicinity. What had brought this mass of people from a different religious faith to the steps of the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Ipoh on the day of a First Holy Communion celebration? The SMSes might shed some light. One went thus: Sejumlah Melayu akn dibaptiskan oleh Dato Azhar Mansor Ahad ini di Gereja Selibin IPOH. Seramai 600 plajar Poli teknik Unku Omr Ipoh telah msuk Kristian baru2 ini. Pendedahan oleh Mufti Perak ptg ini di masjid Negeri. Sampaikan sms kpd org-2 yg mahukan ISLAM (A number of Malays will be baptised by Dato Azhar Mansor this Sunday at the Silibin Church, Ipoh. Recently 600 students from the Ungku Omar Polytechnic have converted to Christianity. Revealed by the Perak Mufti this afternoon at the state Masjid. Please forward to all who stand for Islam). Regardless of the imminent danger looming, parishioners moved through the crowds to attend the 9.OOam Mass to be celebrated in three languages (English, Tamil and Bahasa Malaysia). Other than a firecracker that went off beside the church during Mass, nothing untoward happened, thanks to the tight security and personal attention given by the Perak Special Branch Chief, Ipoh Assistant OCPD and various FRU and police personnel- civil as well as those in uniform, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.-Herald

British DPM misses out on religious minorities
Petaling Jaya : The Council of Christian Churches of Malaysia (CCM) is saddened that John Prescott, the British Deputy Prime Minister, did not meet with the minority religious communities here during his visit. The Deputy Prime Minister was in Malaysia on a four-day visit which began on Friday, Oct 27. During the press conference, both John Prescott and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, the Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister reiterated the importance of interfaith dialogue. They said that interfaith dialogue was very important in maintaining and promoting understanding and harmony. The CCM regrets that John Prescott did not get the thoughts of all the religious communities in Malaysia, as this would give a clearer picture of the situation in Malaysia.

The Council of Churches welcomes the visit of Mr John Prescott, the British Deputy Prime Minister. We are glad in the Press Conference, both our Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and him, spoke of the importance of inter-faith dialogue as key in maintaining and promoting understanding and harmony. While Mr Prescott returns with a harmonious impression of Malaysia, we express our disappointment that during his four-day visit he did not seek to meet with the religious representatives of the minority religious communities in our country. If he did, he would probably get a better picture of the current state of inter-faith relations in our country. As he himself had mentioned there is much that Muslims and Christians in Britain can learn about inter-faith relations in Malaysia (Sun, 30 Oct., If he really thinks so, he should get the insights of all the religious communities in the country concerning this important matter.

Rev Dr Hermen Shastri
General Secretary
Council of Churches of Malaysia

Sports carnival by MCCBCHS, Pahang branch
Kuantan : The spirit of Muhibbah could not be more palpable than was shown at the Merdeka Sports Carnival on Oct 7. Organised by the Pahang branch of the Malaysian Consultative Council for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism & Sikhism (MCCBCHS), the event saw the field of St Thomas Primary School turn into a carnival-like atmosphere. The inaugural sports carnival attracted about 100 children, youth and adults of various faiths Buddhists from the Pahang Buddhist Association and Buddhist Light International Association (BLIA) Eastern Chapter (also known as Fo Guang); Hindus from the Sri Mariamman Temple; and Christian representatives fromthe St Thomas Catholic Church. The carnival began with the launch by Fr Eugene Benedict, president of the MCCBCHS Pahang Branch. The balmy weather was perfect for the participants who took part enthusiastically in the six events offered.-Herald

Year-long jubilee celebrations launched
Rawang : The parish of St Jude launched its year-long golden jubilee celebrations on the feast of its patron Saint on Oct 28. Parish priest, Fr Leonard John, released five doves, to mark 50 years since the birth of the parish in 1957, just before the main Eucharistic celebration. According to E. Pathinathan who is the Coordinator for the Golden Jubilee, several events for the jubilee will be planned and will be discussed at the forthcoming Parish Pastoral Assembly on November 8. The main celebration marking the 50th anniversary will culminate in October 2007 during the parish feastday. The St Jude's Church building fund drive was also relaunched to collect funds for the new church. It was earlier launched in early 2006. The proposed new church costing RM8 million can accommodate some 1,500 to 1,800 and includes a separate four-storey Community Centre, which will mainly be used for Sunday School. Pathinathan said that the building plans have already been submitted to the Majlis Pembandaran Gombak (MPG) some months back and they are still awaiting its approval. Pathinathan said that if all goes well, tenders will be called and construction might start at end of 2008 or early 2009. So far RM1.5 million has been raised since the initial launch of the building fund in 2006. -Herald

Fellowship held for East Malaysian Catholics in Shah Alam
Shah Alam : A fellowship cum-get-together for the East Malaysian Catholics residing in Seksyen U5 Shah Alam was held at the Divine Mercy Church. Organised by the parish's BEC of St Andrew, this special event started off with the recitation of the Rosary in conjunction with the month of Rosary, devotion to Mother Mary. There were also some traditional dances and songs performed to make this occasion a memorable one. The event was graced by the parish priest Fr Raymond Pereira, who presented a crucifix to our East Malaysian brothers/sisters to mark their presence and for the love of the community The Bahasa Malaysia Apostolate Chairman, Mr. Joseph Jaline Asim, in his speech, said that such an event was the first of its kind where a BEC had organised such a gathering. He added that it was his hope that this would be emulated by other BECs, to take positive steps to integrate East Malaysian Catholics into their BEC community.-Herald

YB Bernard Dompok gives motivational seminars held for East Malaysian students
Cheras : The Minister in the PM's Department, YB Tan Sri Bernard Dompok was a guest speaker at a motivational session for East Malaysian students studying in local universities and colleges. This seminar held on Oct 14, was organised by the Bahasa Malaysia apostolate of the parish of St Francis of Assisi and initiated by the apostolate's spiritual adviser, Fr Valentine Gompok, OEM Cap, who is also the assistant parish priest. About 100 students attended the one-day seminar, which was designed to help them be witnesses of Christ by professing their faith through daily life as well as through spiritual guidance. Besides YB Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, the guest speakers also included Nora Matuya of the 'Momogun' Society of Malaysia, Mr Harold Gomes from SMIDACC Associates and Fr Valentine himself. The seminar began with Tan Sri Dompok expressing his joy for the opportunity to meet and speak with the students, adding that he hoped they would make the most of the time spent in Peninsular Malaysia, not only to excel in their education, but also learn from their experience while living in West Malaysia. Tan Sri Bernard Dompok also shared that more of these kinds of seminars should be held to assist in fulfilling the spiritual as well as the social needs of the students. - Herald

Home away from home (Youth Article)
Banting : Since the middle of this year, a new group of students was enrolled at the MARA College Banting taking the place of their seniors who had completed their course. Like their predecessors, juniors now seniors to the new batch, brought them to Gereja Katholik Fatima (GKF) for their Sunday obligation. Apart from the MARA students, the community here, were blessed in having another group of students from the Kolej Teknologi Timur, Salak Tinggi. Months have gone by and the question was put forward to them on what they felt about coming to GKF Banting and here are some of their comments: Francis anak Felix of MARA College explained that coming to the church was a very interesting experience. The church gives him a very family-like experience. Everyone is close together and they are extremely friendly. The students of Kolej Teknologi Timur, Salak Tinggi added they have all come to love and cherish the church because they felt welcome during their first visit to the church. They wish to add their big thank you to all the friendly parishioners, aunties and uncles of the church. -Herald

ALPHA reunion dinner at PJ Chapel
Petaling Jaya : The graduates of the ALPHA 2005 and 2006 programmes from Capel Kurnia Kristus reunited at a dinner gathering in Subang Jaya on Sept 23. The occasion rekindled memories of the 10-week ALPHA course and retreat where there were food, singing, prayer, fun and games. Most importantly, it was an opportunity to rekindle deep friendships made during the course. Fr John Gnanapiragasam, ALPHA Spiritual Director in the Catholic Church and KL Archdiocese ALPHA Advisory Team and Datin Kathleen Chew, Chairperson of ALPHA Malaysia Board and husband, Dato Yeoh Seok Hong were among the guests present at the gathering. Fr John, parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes parish, updated those present on how ALPHA had grown and developed in Malaysia and the region over the past few years. They were proud to learn that the KL Archdiocean Team was making positive progress in the other Malaysian states and as far as Myanmar, in their outreach programmes. In all these areas, interest and enthusiasm was overwhelming among both the clergy and laity.-Herald

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