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,
Council of Churches of Malaysia
4th February 2008.