Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Bible Confiscated - Update

Following the news from Malaysiakini (see also the news report from the Star) and my earlier post on English bibles that were seized by customs officers at the Kuala Lumpur Airport, both Christian Federation of Malaysia and Council of Churches Malaysia have acted immediately and issued press statements concerning this matter.

The press statements from both CFM and CCM are reproduced below:

Press Statement from Christian Federation of Malaysia

Hands Off our Bibles
The Christian Federation of Malaysia registers its protest in the strongest terms, at the action of a Custom Officer at LCCT, who confiscated 32 English Bibles belonging to a Christian, who was bringing it from Manila for use in her church.

The reason given by the Custom Officer is that since it is the Bible, it needs to be cleared by the Internal Security Ministry’s Control Division of Publications and Al-Quran Texts.

Since when has English Bibles become a "security issue" in our country?

Why is it, the said Control Division is amassing such rights to itself that allow Muslim civil bureaucrats to decide for Christians what religious material they can read, or bring into the country?

We have received many complaints from Christians being told to hand over religious books to custom officers at various checkpoints in the country. Now they even want our Bibles!

The Bible is our holy and sacred book. We will not comply with any directive from government or its agencies that infringe on our right to use our sacred book and other Christian literature.

We appreciate that the Deputy Minister of Internal Security, YB Dato’ Fu Ah Kiow has taken action to have the Bibles returned to the person concerned, explaining that the Customs officer had no such authority to seize the Bibles.

But in view of the fact that this is not an isolated case, we call upon YB Dato’ Fu to come up with a directive restraining all government agencies from future harassment especially by the internal security enforcement officers.

In the run-up to the National Elections, it is important for the churches to be convinced that the policy of the Barisan Nasional guarantees religious freedom and would not tolerate any actions that undermine the religious rights of all citizens of Malaysia.

Bishop Dr. Paul Tan Chee Ing., SJ
Chairman, Executive Committee
Christian Federation of Malaysia
5th February 2008

Press Statement from Council of Churches Malaysia

It has been brought to our attention that a Malaysian Christian has suffered much spiritual anguish and indignation as she had her English Bibles confiscated by the Custom Officers at the airport (LCCT) recently, when she returned from a visit to Manila, Philippines.

The Custom Officer had insisted that the English Bibles had to be sent to the Internal Security Ministry’s Control Division of Publications and Al-Quran Texts (Bahagian Kawalan Penerbitan dan Teks Al-Quran), for clearance .

The Council of Churches is flabbergasted that such acts are happening in our country with such frequency and impunity.

We want to state categorically that the Bible is Holy Scripture for Christians. No authority on earth should deny Christians the right to possess, read and travel with their Bibles.

The Council of Churches calls for the immediate release of the Bibles with an official apology by the Custom Department of Malaysia.

We call upon the Prime Minister, who is also the Internal Security Minister to make a clear and unequivocal statement to assure Christians in the country that they will not be subject to such harassment and that their holy books will not be subject to the scrutiny of the Control Division of Publications and Al-Quran Texts of the Internal Security Ministry.

For a country that has celebrated, cultivated and sustained fifty years of religious freedom and harmonious living between all faith communities, this latest episode is another example of how the unilateral actions of certain government agencies are undermining the government’s stated claims of protecting religious freedom in the country.

Rev. Dr. Hermen Shastri,
General Secretary
Council of Churches of Malaysia
4th February 2008.


sp lim said...

I like the statement made by CFM

'We will not comply with any directive from government or its agencies that infringe on our right to use our sacred book and other Christian literature.'

That is the language of civil disobedience. It's time we fight back the 'Salami Politics of Islamisation' (term coined by Dr. Ng Kam Weng during Kairos forum "Religious Liberty under Threat' last week) practiced by the Govt. Slice by slice, bit by bit our rights are being whittled away.

I've written a bit more about the forum in my blog in particular the problems faced by our East M'sian brothers and sisters due to this kind of Salami Politics

Kar Yong said...

Hi SP,

Thanks for your thoughts. It is certainly not the type of language where the church is "apolitical" or a "neutral institution" as suggested by Rev Wong KK.

Pardon my ignorance here - I wonder whether NECF has issued any statement. Does anyone know anything about this?

Sze Zeng said...

>it is important for the churches to be convinced that the policy of the Barisan Nasional guarantees religious freedom and would not tolerate any actions that undermine the religious rights of all citizens of Malaysia.

To be convinced????? How????? Unless one is blind, deaf, and mute. I suspect, together with many others, that these nonsense are happening precisely because it is the failure of the BN to guarantees this basic human rights :(

Kar Yong said...

Hi Josh,
Perhaps it is not only the failure of BN, but it is also an extension of the failure of the church thus far - we have been keeping rather quiet, choosing instead to focus the "spiritual" agenda by being "apolitical" - and by the time we wake up, we realise that much has been taken away from us.

Sze Zeng said...

Oh my... I think that's absolutely true, KY. To paraphrase Desmond Tutu:

"When the missionaries came to Malaysia, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we NEITHER had the Bible NOR the land."

Sze Zeng said...

...at least Tutu's people still have the Bibles...

sp lim said...

Technically NECF doesn't have to issue a statement since it is one of the 3 component members of CFM. However, CCM is also a component member of CFM and I believe was the first to issue a statement. Once again the evangelicals are 'left behind'.

NECF has not issued any public statement since the judgment of Lina Joy despite so much has happened to the country since then. I guess all we need to do is to fast and pray and our beloved country will be transformed.

Kar Yong,

Don't think you got permission from Rev. Wong to publish his response. So I guess I'll hold on to my associate membership first. Nearly dump it 7 years ago. Well, that's another story.

Kar Yong said...

Dear SP,

I thot so - but CCM also issued a statement, like you said. Unless there is some mutual understanding among NECF-CCM-CFM that certain umbrella bodies issue certain statements pertaining to certain issues.

I have written a second email to Rev Wong, and yet to receive a reply from him. So I'd just let the matter rest. Definately, he is very busy with other priorities.

Anonymous said...

Josh...u are a joker!

Anyway, come think of it, perhaps Rev. WKK does after all represent the true view of the evangelical churches.

Someone told me quite recently that the only logical thing for us to do is to "pray like nobody's bizness".

To many christians, it just doesn't make sense to "fight" the system through natural means.

It seemed that we have thrown the towel on whatever that is worldly and prefered that god just do his job to zap us away to land of 24 hours hymn singing and while he is at that try to minimize pain and suffering with random works of divine interventions.

I think all of us here who believe the gospel is not mere religious conversion to go to heaven must strive harder to keep ground and really spread the message, literally evangelism. Keep talking!

Kyrion Iesoun


Kar Yong said...

Hi Jack,

I would concur with you, Jack. Sometimes, I feel the evangelical church is simply NAPO - No Action, Pray Only. It is not that I am against praying - but when everything is "spiritualised", that's where I am troubled. When we open our eyes, we are like a domesticated dog - we can bark (and wag our tail at the same time), but no one pays attention to us anymore. And if we get frustrated, we can always migrate, leave the country, and seek for greener pastures.

So if I may add to your comment - So that leaves "all of us here who believe the gospel is not mere religious conversion to go to heaven" and who have a strong conviction that Malaysia is the place where we belong and where we will live and die "must strive harder to keep ground and really spread the message, literally evangelism. Keep talking!"

pearlie said...

I have been asking myself recently whether we have been too apathetic about the way we go about in our country in comparison with the bold acts of the apostles in Acts. For fear of jeopardizing our comfort and safety, we tend to remain quiet and inactive. I am seeing this stance in the clergy, what is expected then of the church? It is frustrating. I understand the need for safety if not comfort, but something can be done and must be done.

KY, I have linked you - like Jack said: keep talking! Something is bound to happen, soon, when we keep talking.

Kar Yong said...

Hi Pearlie,

Thanks for the link.

I think we need to keep talking and talking and talking; keep praying and praying and praying; and keep taking action and taking action and taking action!!

Alex Tang said...

hi Kar Yong,

perhaps you are not aware that the bibls have been returned.

Monday February 4, 2008
MYT 7:34:12 PM


Seized Bibles returned

PUTRAJAYA: Copies of the Bible taken from a woman at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal recently has been returned to her, Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow said.

He said the English Bibles were confiscated by a Customs officer from the woman who had just returned from a visit to Manila . It did not involve the ministry.

"The Customs officer has no authority to do so and on being told of the matter, we asked the Bibles to be returned immediately to the person,'' he said, adding that no Immigration officer was involved.

Fu said the incident should not have taken place, adding that he had clarified the matter with the Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM).

He said the address of the woman was taken down but no telephone number was recorded and as a result, the ministry had to wait for her to call to collect the books.

He was responding to a statement by CCM secretary-general Rev Dr Hermen Shastri that a Malaysian Christian had her Bibles taken away by Customs at the airport.

Shastri said the unilateral actions of certain government agencies were undermining the Government’s stated claims of protecting religious freedom in the country.

Last month, Fu ordered Christian children’s books with drawings of prophets to be returned to a bookshop in Kuala Lumpur after the books were seized by a unit in the ministry.

Kar Yong said...

Hi Alex,
Thanks for this - Yes, I am aware that the bibles have been returned. The link to the Star was also mentioned in my original blog post.

sp lim said...

So what if the bibles have been returned. Are we now going to be grateful to the Govt or Mr. Fu for returning the Bibles?

Kam Weng lamented the fact that through the years, when our rights were being threatened, the church would send a memo to the Govt to protest. Then the Govt will pull back a bit and the church will be so thankful and grateful to the Govt. We thought we have won when out of 10 points, the Govt compromised on 5 points. Then the process is repeated. If we continue to compromise all our rights will eventually be taken away.

Nothing short of a public apology from our PM and an assurance that such nonsense will not be repeated is going to appease me. Also there must be an unequivocal statement from him that our Bible is not a threat to national security. Sorry but I'm not going to turn the other cheek on this!

Jack Said said...

Turn the other cheek we must!

We must be ready to go out, make a strong and VISIBLE stance, risking more than our little bibles, in a confrontation which as St. Paul said, not merely against flesh and blood.

While we must not be overwhelmed by them, we must never play their game.

So, if anyone confiscates your bibles, be ready to let them have your lives for which the bibles were meant as well.


Kar Yong said...

Dear SP and Jack,

Thanks again for your contribution to the discussion. Both of you have a strong point to make.

Jack, I particularly like what you say - that's what I came to conclude too as I reflected on my thesis on Paul's sufferings in 2 Corinthains. Hope it can be published by end of this year or early 2009!