Churches worldwide lend support to Catholics on ‘Allah’ row

Abrahams noted that throughout the world, the use of the word God in a believer's mother tongue was "not something that authorities should be seen as politicizing".

Malaysia
Feb 13 2014, 2:15 PM
Churches worldwide lend support to Catholics on ‘Allah’ row

The World Methodist Council (WMC) has lend support tothe Catholic Church in Malaysia as the court date to hear its appeal against the ban on the use of the word Allah draws nearer. The petition against the Court of Appeal’s October ruling is scheduled to be heard at the Federal Court on March 5.

In a letter addressed to the Christian Federation of Malaysia, WMC general secretary Bishop Ivan Abrahams wrote, "The verdict has the possibility to create unnecessary division between Christians and Muslims in Malaysia."

Abrahams noted that throughout the world, the use of the word God in a believer's mother tongue was "not something that authorities should be seen as politicising". He added that this would only create a troubling and dangerous precedent in an already fragmented world.

"The Malaysian courts need look no further than neighbouring Indonesia to see that Christians and Muslims refer to God as Allah, without incident or controversy," he said.

Last week, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), in a letter to the Council of Churches of Malaysia, noted that Christian communities in the Muslim world and in countries where Arabic words permeate local languages, God has always been referred to as Allah. "This is not just a matter of faith, but also a reality of history and language,” it said.

ELCA Bishop Elizabeth Eaton in the letter dated February 5 reminded that Article 11 of Malaysia's Constitution sets out the freedom of religion.

Even the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, called on the Malaysian government to reverse its decision to ban Catholic weekly Herald from using the word.

In a statement released in Geneva late last year, he had warned that the case may have far-reaching implications for religious minorities in the country.

"Freedom of religion or belief is a right of human beings, not a right of the state,” Bielefeldt had said.

UN Independent Expert on minority issues Rita Izsak and UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression Frank La Rue had both echoed Bielefeldt’s call.

The Herald won a High Court decision in December 2009 that overturned the Home Ministry's ban on the use of the word “Allah” in its Bahasa Malaysia section. However, last October, the Court of Appeal overturned that decision, saying that the word was not integral to Christianity.

Source: The Malaysian Insider

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