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Sultan returns confiscated Bibles to Archbishop Lapok: Church of England Newspaper, November 21, 2014 November 21, 2014

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Bolly LapokThe Sultan of Selangor has returned Bibles and religious literature confiscated by the State Islamic Affairs Department on 2 Jan 2014 for using the world “Allah” in Malay and Iban language versions of Scripture to the Archbishop of South East Asia, the Most Rev. Bolly Lapok, Bishop of Kuching. On 14 Nov 2014, on behalf of the government the Sultan returned the Bibles to Archbishop Lapok, who is also chairman of the Christian Association of Sarawak, on the condition that they be distributed in Borneo, not in Malaya. A statement released by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council said the Sultan had ordered the Bibles be returned after state prosecutors declined to Bible Society officials arrested in the January raid on charges of proselytizing Muslims. Archbishop Lapok thanked the Sultan for his intervention in the dispute. “It would not have been proper to allow these Bibles to be stored indefinitely or destroyed. In this manner, the Bibles are being delivered to the ACS for distribution in Sarawak,” he said.

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Malaysia on the edge warns archbishop: The Church of England Newspaper, June 27, 2014 July 22, 2014

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The Primate of the Church of the Province of Southeast Asia, the Most Rev. Bolly Lapok, has criticized the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, for his silence over the government’s seizure of Malay language Bibles for using the word “Allah” for God. “I am inclined to think that he is conveying that the whole charade is not worthy of his comment. To do otherwise is to dignify what is plainly wicked,” Archbishop Lapok told reporters in Kuching on 20 June 2014. The prime minister’s refusal to speak out in support of the rights of Christians to practice their faith and condemn militant Islam was “poisoning inter-religious tolerance.” Last week Malaysia’s Attorney General ordered Bibles seized by the government’s Islamic Religious Department in Selangor (JAIS) to be returned to the Bible Society of Malaysia. However, JAIS has refused to comply with the Attorney-General’s order saying the use of the word “Allah” in Malay language Bibles violates the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation among Muslims) Act 1988. “Unless nipped in the bud, we have a perfect recipe that can cause Malaysia to descend into anarchy,” the archbishop said, bemoaning the spirit of tolerance that had “traditionally characterized Malay society.” Archbisohop Lapok warned:  “When unscrupulous individuals are allowed to behave and make reckless utterances with impunity for the sake of political exigency, I dread to think of the consequences on the minds of Malaysia’s plural society.”

Allah ban upheld: The Church of England Newspaper, June 27, 2014 July 22, 2014

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The Federal Court of Malaysia has upheld a ban on the use of the word “Allah” by a Catholic newspaper, the Herald. The Christian Federation of Malaysia voiced disappointment at the ruling, but noted the decision “relates solely to the use of the word ‘Allah’ in the Herald newspaper. Therefore we ask the government and the judiciary to publicly remember that the decision of the Federal Court is limited to the specific circumstances of the case and for Malaysian Christians to continue to have the right to use the word ‘Allah’ in the Bible, in religious functions and gatherings.” In 2009 the Ministry of the Interior banned the Catholic newspaper from using “Allah” stating the word could only be used in connection to Islam. The Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur filed a lawsuit challenging the ruling, and prevailed at trial. However the Court of Appeal reversed the decision in October 2013, and by a vote of 4 to 3 the Federal Court last week upheld the Appeal Court decision.”We continue to support that the decision of the Court of Appeal, upheld by the Federal Court, is seriously flawed in many respects. According to Justice, many erroneous and inaccurate observations had to be corrected. Now there will be serious negative consequences for the religious freedom of Christians in Malaysia,” the statement said.

Respect minorities demands Malaysian Church: The Church of England Newspaper, May 16, 2014 June 2, 2014

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The Malaysian Government’s silence in the face of Islamist extremism could destroy the harmony of the country’s multi-racial society. Speaking to reporters following his election last week as President of the Bible Society of Malaysia, the Anglican Bishop of West Malaysia, the Rt. Rev. Ng Moon Hing said that he was “really worried for the nation in the next 10 years, if nothing is done to stop” anti-Christian and anti-Chinese provocations. In January the government raided the warehouses of the Bible Society confiscating Iban and Malay language Bibles on the grounds that their use of the word Allah for God was an affront to Islam and a violation of civil law. On 6 May 2014 the president of the Islamic Society of Malaysia Abdullah Zaik Abd Rahman said allowing Chinese migration to Malaya was “a mistake” that must be rectified. He added that the Chinese were intruders who had been brought to Malaya by the British to oppress Malays. Bishop Ng warned “If the fabric (of society) is torn to a position that it cannot be mended, I feel very sad for the next generation. My generation is retiring, your generation will be very difficult to mend… trust is difficult to mend.” He added religious faiths must promote the community. “It must promote harmonious living, living together and sharing, then only the religion can survive and the nation will have parallel benefits from it,” he said.

Allah is not a Muslim word, Archbishop says: The Church of England Newspaper, April 11, 2014 May 10, 2014

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The Primate of the Church of the Province of Southeast Asia, the Most Rev. Bolly Lapok, has warned Islamist extremists that Christians would not be silent in the face of demands that they be forbidden to use the word Allah. “Turning the other cheek to the provocateurs and extremists in political Islam that are relentlessly stoking the fire of hatred and bigotry is tantamount to sending a wrong message to them”, he said on 29 March 2014. Christians had lived in peace with Muslims in Southeast Asia, but in recent years Islamist extremists had hijacked the faith to further political ends. “The Bible reminds us that there is a time for war, and a time for peace. It seems like a paradox that we are called to be peacemakers,” he wrote,”yet at the same time we are also to brace ourselves for war.” Under pressure from Islamist extremists, Malaysia’s government has sought to ban the use of the word Allah in Christian newspapers, books and prayers. Last year the Court of Appeals held Christians had no right to use the word – a ruling the Archbishop said was a “travesty of our constitutional right for the church to manage its own affairs, including translation of our Holy Scriptures into Bahasa Malaysia and our native languages. This is the exclusive ecclesiastical authority of the church that neither the state nor the judiciary should trespass in accordance to settled international convention and law.”

Bibles seized by police in Malaysia: The Church of England Newspaper, January 10, 2014 January 16, 2014

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The president of the Bible Society of Malaysia and the organization’s office manager were arrested by police on 2 January 2014, during a raid on their offices in Selangor. Officials of the State Islamic Affairs Department confiscated Bibles and religious literature for using the world “Allah” in Malay and Iban language versions of Scripture.

The Archbishop of South East Asia, the Most Rev. Bolly Lapok, Bishop of Kuching denounced the raid as unlawful. “If an action assumes such arrogance that violates the Federal Constitution and pays total disregard to the Prime Minister’s directive is not treason, I do not know what is,” he said.

A recent court ruling in Malaysia banned a Catholic newspaper from using the word “Allah”, but the government had given permission for the Al-Kitab, the Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia translation of the Old and New Testament to use the world “Allah” for the name of God.

Muslim extremists had “poisoned” interfaith relations Malaysia by demanding exclusive use of the word “Allah”, the archbishop said. He urged all sides to heed the “voice of reason” and for the state to “respect, honour and abide by the guarantee of religious freedom as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.”

Allah ban upheld by Malaysian court: The Church of England Newspaper, October 24, 2013 October 27, 2013

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A Malaysian Court of Appeal has forbidden a Catholic newspaper from using the word “Allah” to refer to God, ruling the use of the Arabic word for God was not a central tenet of the Christian faith.

On 14 October 2013 the three judge court of appeal overturned a 2009 Kuala Lumpur High Court ruling which rejected the Malaysian government’s ban against using the word “Allah” by the Herald, a Catholic newspaper published in Malay.

“Our common finding is that the usage of Allah is not an integral part of the Christian faith. We cannot find why the parties are so adamant on the usage of the word,” the court wrote last week.

Using “Allah” in a Malay language newspaper would confuse Muslims, the court said, and in the interest of public safety it granted the government’s appeal. “The welfare of an individual or group must yield to the interest of society at large,” wrote Justice Mohamed Apandi in his ruling.

Christian leaders reacted strongly to the verdict. The Primate of the Church of the Province of South East Asia, the Most Rev. Bolly Lapok, Bishop of Sarawak said Anglicans would continue to use the word “Allah”.

“For an outsider to say that the use of the word Allah is ‘not integral to the Christian faith’ is excessive, utterly irresponsible and grossly demeaning, to say the least. The Church does not need an apologist from outside to decree what is integral or not regarding her faith,” he said in a statement released after the decision was published.

“In fact, the ruling has far-reaching implications. It is not only insensitive to Christians in Sabah and Sarawak, but it is an insidious aberration to the spirit of Muhibbah (harmony), which the government has been so desperately trying to promote among all Malaysians. It is repugnant to the universal common sense.”

The government, however, was quick to assure Christians that the Allah ban applied only to the Herald and not to other Christian publications. The ban on the use of the word Allah only applies to the Catholic weekly, Herald, and not other Christian publications or the Al-Kitab, the Bahasa Malaysia bible which is widely used in Sabah and Sarawak, said Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

New Archbishop installed for SE Asia: The Church of England Newspaper, February 24, 2012 p 6. March 1, 2012

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Outgoing Archbishop John Chew greeting the new Archbishop of South East Asia, Bolly Lapok. Photo: Diocese of Singapore

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Over 2000 worshipers from across East Asia celebrated the installation last week of the new primate of South East Asia, Archbishop Bolly Lapok.

On 12 February 2012 Archbishop Lapok was installed as metropolitan archbishop of the Anglican church in Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, Laos, Indonesia and Brunei at St John’s Cathedral in Kuching.

The new archbishop was elected at a special meeting of the provincial synod convened in Kota Kinabalu on 22 September 2011 in succession to Archbishop John Chew of Singapore.

The new archbishop will be the first non-Chinese primate for the province.  Archbishop Lapok is an Iban (or Sea Dayak) born in Sri Aman, Sarawak.  He trained for the ministry at the House of Epiphany in Kuching and received a Masters degree from the University of Birmingham.

Ordained deacon on March 2, 1975—a special dispensation had been granted by Archbishop Donald Coggan as Lapok was then below the minimum canonical age for ordination—he was ordained to the priesthood on Dec 7, 1975 and served in Borneo.  In 1991 he was appointed archdeacon and was elected Assistant Bishop of Kuching on Sept 5, 1999 and was enthroned as the Diocesan Bishop on April 15, 2007. He is currently Chairman of the Association of Churches in Sarawak.

Speaking to The Borneo Post after the service, the new archbishop said he was humbled by his election.  “This occasion is not about me but for the church of God,” Archbishop Lapok said. “Given so high a calling and the enormity of the expectation, I feel so small, so unequal. This is definitely one of those mysterious ways of God.”

New Primate for South East Asia: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 30, 2011 p 7. October 1, 2011

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Archbishop-elect Bolly Lapok

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Province of South East Asia reports the Bishop of Sarawak, the Rt. Rev. Bolly Lapok, has been elected primate and archbishop for the church in Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, Laos, Indonesia and Brunei.

A special meeting of the provincial synod convened in Kota Kinabalu elected Bishop Lapok as the province’s fourth archbishop in succession to Archbishop John Chew of Singapore on Sept 22.

The new archbishop will be the first non-Chinese primate for the province.  According to a press statement released by the province, Archbishop-elect Lapok is an Iban (or Sea Dayak as they were known in the colonial era) born in Sri Aman, Sarawak.  He trained for the ministry at the House of Epiphany in Kuching and received a Masters degree from the University of Birmingham.

Ordained deacon on March 2, 1975—a special dispensation had been granted by Archbishop Donald Coggan as Lapok was then below the minimum canonical age for ordination—he was ordained to the priesthood on Dec 7, 1975 and served in Borneo.  In 1991 he was appointed archdeacon and was elected Assistant Bishop of Kuching on Sept 5, 1999 and was enthroned as the Diocesan Bishop on April 15, 2007. He is currently Chairman of the Association of Churches in Sarawak.

Archbishop-elect Lapok’s installation is scheduled for Feb 12, 2012 at St. Thomas’ Cathedral, Kuching.

Speaking to The Borneo Post, the archbishop-elect said “given so high a calling and the enormity of the expectation, I feel so small, so unequal. This is definitely one of those mysterious ways of God.”

A strong supporter of the Gafcon and Global South movement, the new archbishop is expected to take a stronger line than his predecessor in dealing with the issues currently dividing the Anglican Communion.

Bishop denies treason charges: The Church of England Newspaper, May 13, 2011 p 8. May 13, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of South East Asia, Politics.
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Bishop Moon Hing Ng of West Malaysia

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Treason charges leveled against the leaders of the Christian churches of Malaysia by a national newspaper are a “lie”, the Anglican Bishop of West Malaysia tells The Church of England Newspaper.

“Without a shred of evidence and referring only to supposed postings on a blog, these rumor-mongers, assisted by certain elements in the mainstream media, are seeking to play up lies and falsehoods in order to artificially create religious conflict,” Bishop Moon Hing Ng said on May 10.

“By so doing they are attempting to raise tensions so as to engineer a clamping down by the authorities.”

Last week the Malay-language newspaper, Utusan Malaysia, in a front page story claimed that on April 7 a cabal of Christian leaders meeting in Penang plotted to install a Christian prime minister for the majority Muslim country, and to make Christianity the official religion of the state.

Bishop Moon told CEN that there were two meetings in Penang, “but Utusan Malaysia has lumped them together as one meeting which is a lie.”

The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) had organized a seminar entitled “Unashamedly Ethical” dealing with a Christian response to corruption and bribery.  The second meeting, held in a “different location and on different date,” organized by the Democratic Action Party (DAP – a multi-racial, non-sectarian opposition party in Malaysia) was to “welcome some pastors from Sarawak” visiting Penang.

The NECF and DAP “have come out strongly denying this allegation,” the bishop said.

Other church and civil leaders have denounced the accusations of treason in strong terms.  The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Murphy Pakiam called the report “baseless and highly irresponsible.”

“It is clear that such reporting has the effect of creating religious disharmony, inciting hatred and heaping odium on Christians,” Archbishop Pakiam said, while DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said the newspaper report was designed to undermine the government’s ‘1 Malaysia’ campaign to promote racial harmony.”

Utusan wants to set 1 Malaysia on fire… it is the most evil and dangerous element in our country right now,” Mr. Guan Eng said.

Sectarian tensions have been high in Malaysia, and in recent months have focused on the government ban on importing or printing of Malay copies of the Bible, the al-Kitab.  After impounding, then requiring the registration of imported Bibles, the government last month backed down and allowed unrestricted entry of Bibles into the country, provided a message stating the book was for the use of Christians was stamped on copies distributed in West Malaysia.

Bishop Moon said the Utusan report was designed to “artificially create religious conflict,” and was politically motivated.  Christians were loyal citizens of Malaysia, the bishop said, and had always sought to “promote, protect and uphold the provisions of the Federal Constitution” and had “consistently sought dialogue with other stakeholders as a means to avoid and resolve conflicts or misunderstandings.”

“Targeting the Christian community and their legitimate concerns serves as a convenient bogeyman and a rallying cry to unite in the face of a common ‘enemy’,” the bishop said.

“Such partisan machinations should be exposed for what they are – sheer lies and falsehoods,” Bishop Moon told CEN.

South East Asia endorses the Anglican Covenant: The Church of England Newspaper, May 13, 2011 p 7. May 12, 2011

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Bishop Albert Vun of Sabah, Archbishop John Chew of Singapore, Bishop Bolly Lapok of Kuching, and Bishop Ng Moon Hing of West Malaysia

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Church of the Province of South East Asia has endorsed the Anglican Covenant, stating the pan-Anglican agreement was necessary for the church to express our communion with the Triune God and with one another,” to guard the boundaries of the faith, and to be “faithful witnesses of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

South East Asia now joins Mexico and the West Indies in formally endorsing the Anglican Covenant—reports that the Province of Myanmar (Burma) has endorsed the covenant have appeared, but could not be independently confirmed.

On May 7, the Diocese of Singapore’s website reported the province had released a 3000 word statement detailing the historical background and theological and ecclesiological rationale for its endorsement.

The province noted that “our accession” to the covenant was based on the understanding “that those who accede” to the agreement “will unequivocally abide by Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10 in its spirit and intent,” and would honour the moratorium on gay bishops and blessings.

Churches that accede to the covenant should also “bear authentic witness to the orthodox faith by an unequivocal commitment to the standards of moral and ethical holiness as set by Biblical norms in all aspects of their communal life.”

And South East Asia stated that it saw the primates as the body to oversee the implementation of the covenant, as it was the group “responsible for Faith and Order” in the Anglican Communion.

The language of the covenant that called for “common commitments and mutual accountability” among Anglicans to “hold each Church in the relationship of communion one with another,” echoed the “closing appeal” of the Kuala Lumpur statement.  The 1997 statement called call for new structure to “guard the internal unity of our Communion,” and “strengthen the bonds of affection between our provinces, and especially, make for effective mutual accountability in all matters of doctrine and polity throughout the Communion.”

The province said the “similarities” between the documents were “not accidental” as the covenant was “the culmination of a decade of intense disputes over ethical teaching and church order in the Communion. The Kuala Lumpur Statement, in fact, marked the beginning of a united stand, spearheaded by churches in the southern continents, for the faith that was once delivered to the saints across the Communion.”

The covenant “offers a concrete platform in ordering” Anglicans as a communion “with a clear ecclesial identity,” the said, and begins the process of “overcoming” the “ecclesial deficit” within the structures of the church.

The Anglican Communion should adopt more uniform processes in the election and appointment of bishops, to ensure that such processes are not held hostage to local politics and to parochial understandings of the episcopal office.

“Churches that accede to the Anglican Communion Covenant need to subject their common life to the reforming and transforming work of the Holy Spirit,” the Church of the Province of South East Asia said, “so that the Communion may be built up until all ‘reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph 4: 13).”

Church and State debate Malaysia’s ‘Bible ban’: The Church of England Newspaper, April 21, 2011 p 6. April 23, 2011

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Prime Minister Najib Tun Ramzak and Bishop Bolly Lapok during a lighter moment at the ACS meeting. Photo courtesy of the Malaysian prime minister's office

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Talks to relax the remaining restrictions on Malaysia’s Bible ban are underway, church leaders tell The Church of England Newspaper.  On April 13, the leaders of the Association of Churches Sarawak (ACS) told Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak that they endorsed the call for patience and for study of the government’s “10-point solution” to the al-Kitab controversy.

Last month the government demanded that 5100 copies of the al-Kitab, the Malay-language Christian Bible, imported by the Bible Society of Malaysia be stamped with a government warning that the Bible was “for the use of Christians only.”

The Bibles were also to be sequentially numbered and registered with the government and the cover of each book was to bear the seal of the Home Ministry.  Church leaders denounced the government’s actions, and shortly before local elections in Sarawak and Sabah, on April 2, the government announced it would allow the al-Kitab to be imported and printed in Borneo without any restrictions.

However, in West Malaya, the al-Kitab would be allowed to be distributed and imported freely, but with restrictions.

Government minister Idris Jala told a press conference, “the Bible issue is very unfortunate” and that in the “spirit of Lent” the government sought “reconciliation and forgiveness.”

“And for all our shortcomings in handling the Bible issue, I hope the Christians will find it in their hearts to forgive us,” Mr. Jala said.

The Anglican Bishop of Kuching and chairman of the ACS, the Rt. Rev. Bolly Lapok told reporters after the meeting with the prime minister “as a body that brings together a wide cross-section of the Christian community in Malaysia, we know about the sinfulness of man and have experienced the forgiveness of God.”

“As such, we receive these expressions with all the sincerity with which they are offered,” Bishop Lapok said, calling for “patience and perseverance, and continued prayer and quiet reflection, as we allow God the Holy Spirit to guide us in our deliberations.”

Bishop Lapok told CEN “in Sarawak and Sabah, the ban on the import and printing of vernacular bible has been lifted, thanks to the recent election in Sarawak.”

He added that across the China Sea in West Malaysia “the ban remains, albeit it has been slightly adjusted.”

Christians are allowed to “use their Malay bible provided that on the cover the words ‘Christian Publication’ and a cross are inscribed,” he said.  The reason the government has given for this condition is “so not to confuse the majority Malay Muslim population because of the Bible use of the word ‘Allah’ for God.  The Muslims insist that Allah is theirs exclusively.”

He added the government also believes the “condition on the al-Kitab is for sake of national security.”

The “Church is still engaging with the government to remove these restrictions,” Bishop Lapok told CEN.

Malaysia ends Bible ban: The Church of England Newspaper, April 8, 2011 p 8. April 7, 2011

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Bishop Bolly Lapok of Kuching

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Malaysian government has lifted its Bible ban.  On April 2, cabinet minister Idris Jala announced that Malaysians would be free to import and print the al-Kitab, the Malay-language Bible.

However, several conditions were attached to the “10 point solution” proposed by the government in response to the unprecedented protest campaign waged by Church leaders.

Last month the government demanded that as a condition of their release, the 5100 copies of the al-Kitab imported by the Bible Society of Malaysia be stamped with a government warning that read: ““Reminder: This ‘al-Kitab Berita Baik’ is for the use of Christians only. By order of the Home Minister.”

The Bibles were also to be sequentially numbered and registered with the government and the cover of each book was to bear the seal of the Home Ministry.  A second shipment of 30,000 Malay Bibles imported by the The Gideons, but held in customs in Kuching, would also have been subjected to the government warning label and stamps.

Church leaders denounced the government’s actions.  The Anglican Bishop of Kuching, the Rt. Rev. Bolly Lapok said the demand was “ridiculous because it is illegal constitutionally,” while the Anglican Bishop of West Malaysia, the Rt. Rev. Ng Moon Hing, speaking on behalf of the Christian Federation of Malaysia, rejected “the government’s contention that the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia is prejudicial to the national interest and security of Malaysia.”

On April 2, Mr. Jala said the government’s “10 point solution” to the dispute would permit unfettered access of imported copies of the al-Kitab into Sarawak and Sabah.  Local publishers would also be allowed to print the al-Kitab as well as offer editions of the Bible in local languages.

However, in West Malaya, the al-Kitab would be allowed to be distributed and imported freely, but the cover of each book must bear a cross and the words “Christian publication.”

“I hope this 10-point solution will be received positively by the Christian groups as being fair and reasonable. I think the Bible issue is very unfortunate and, in the spirit of Lent, it is time for sacrifice, reconciliation and forgiveness,” Mr. Idris said.

“And for all our shortcomings in handling the Bible issue, I hope the Christians will find it in their hearts to forgive us,” the minister said.

Church leaders have offered mixed responses to the government’s offer. Bishop Lapok said he was pleasantly surprised by the “generosity and sensitivity” of the decision.

While the government’s actions were but “an ointment for a symptom,” Bishop Lapok was nonetheless heartened by the “government’s commitment to work with the churches to address inter-religious issues.”

However the Roman Catholic Bishop of Malacca & Johor Paul Tan called the two sets of rules “evil”.

“If the policy is one for Sabah and Sarawak and another for Peninsula Malaysia, this is tantamount to using the insidious tactic of ‘divide and rule.’ I adamantly condemn and reject such means,” the bishop told the Malaysiakini website.

Warning: Reading this Book can seriously damage your health: The Church of England Newspaper, March 25, 2011 p 8. March 28, 2011

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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Malaysian government has announced that it will stamp a government warning on the cover of Malay-language editions of the Bible, as a condition of their being allowed to enter the South East Asian nation.

The cover of the al-Kitab, the Malay-language version of the Bible must say: “Reminder: This ‘al-Kitab Berita Baik’ is for the use of Christians only. By order of the Home Minister.”

In 2009 the Home Ministry confiscated two shipments of the al-Kitab, the Malay-language translation of the Old and New Testaments, bound for Christians in Borneo.  In 1986 the government banned Christians from using the word “Allah” in their literature, saying it would confuse Muslims and could lead to their converting to Christianity.

Last year the country’s High Court overturned the ban, but the Home Ministry has so far refused to allow Malay Bibles to enter the country—Chinese and English language Bibles have not been affected by the ban.

Church leaders launched an unprecedented public campaign to shame the government this month, and in response to their demands, the Home Ministry on March 15 told the Bible Society of Malaysia that it could collect its shipment of 5100 Bibles if each were stamped with the seal of the Home Ministry and individually numbered, with the numbers recorded and registered with the government.  The cover of each Bible was also required to carry the government warning.

This demand was “ridiculous because it is illegal constitutionally” the Bishop of Kuching, the Rt. Rev. Bolly Lapok said, and violated the “human rights” of Borneo’s Christians.  The General Secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, the Rev Hermen Shastri, told the Press Trust of India the Home Ministry’s actions were unprecedented as “none of the Bibles was ever defaced in such a manner.”

The chairman of the Christian Federation of Malaysia, Anglican Bishop Ng Moon Hing denounced the government’s decision as well.  “We wholly reject the government’s contention that the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia is prejudicial to the national interest and security of Malaysia.”

The Malaysian Insider reported the second shipment of 30,000 Malay bibles imported by the Sarawak chapter of The Gideons remains in a customs warehouse in Kuching.

Speaking to reporters last week, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said his department’s decision to stamp the Bibles with a warning conformed to past government practice.  He said the al-Kitab uproar was a manufactured crisis, spurned by the Malaysia Bible Society’s demand that the Bibles be released immediately.

The Bible Society wanted their shipment to be released “quickly” the minister said.  “If they want to find fault they can find fault,” he noted, adding that one could say “the Bibles are smelly after being kept for so long, if you want to find fault.”

However, Bishop Lapok warned that Christians would not stand for the status quo of unequal civil rights and religious freedoms.  Speaking to a meeting of the Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS), Bishop Lapok said the country’s multi-ethnic multi-religious foundations were being stressed by the demands of militant Islam.

“It is indeed ironic that what is so beautiful about our culture has become a source of our undoing as it has exposed some of our communities to be taken advantaged of and become easy prey for exploitation,” he said, according to an account published in the Borneo Post.

Churches must not stand back from confronting injustice in society with the plea that its voice should remain outside of politics, the bishop said.

“If indeed our preaching has been out of touch with the harsh realities that our people are grappling with each day, on this crossroad point, our various congregations are looking up to us for light and guidance for their journey,” said Bishop Lapok.

Church protest over Malaysia Bible ban: The Church of England Newspaper, March 18, 2011 p 7. March 20, 2011

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Bishop Bolly Lapok of Kuching

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders are “fed up” with the Malaysian government’s discrimination against Christians and have condemned the seizure of 35,000 Bibles imported from Indonesia for Malay-speaking natives of Borneo.

In a statement released on March 10, the Anglican Bishop of West Malaysia, the Rt. Rev. Ng Moon Hing, speaking as president of the Christian Federation of Malaysia, said the government’s refusal to release the Bibles, seized in 2009, threatened religious liberties.

Malay-speaking Christians were “greatly disillusioned, fed up and angered by the repeated detention of Bibles,” the bishop said.

“It would appear as if the authorities are waging a continuous, surreptitious and systematic program against Christians in Malaysia to deny them access to the Bible;” known in Malay as the al-Kitab.  Imports of English and Chinese language Bibles, however, are not banned.

The Bible ban centers round the use of the word “Allah” in the Malay Bible to refer to God.  In 1986 the Malaysian government introduced legislation forbidding the use of “Allah” in non-Muslim texts.  Christians in Borneo and other Malay speakers, however, have used “Allah” to refer to God since British missionaries brought the Christian faith to the island in the Nineteenth century.

In 2009 a Roman Catholic newspaper, The Herald, successfully challenged the ban, and the country’s High Court struck down the Allah law.  The Home Ministry appealed the ruling, but no re-hearing has yet been scheduled.

The chairman of the Associated Churches of Sarawak (ACS), Bishop Bolly Lapok of Kuching  last week said using the word “Allah” was “fundamental to our faith.”

The word has been used “for centuries and is already in the DNA of our vernacular” he told an ACS meeting on March 14 and was “banned for the exclusive possession of a certain race.”

The government’s ban served only to foster tension and mistrust, he said and would fuel sectarian tensions.  “It is restrictions such as these that provide a perfect recipe for murdering the spirit of goodwill and peace among neighbours,” the Anglican bishop said.

The Allah fight was a defining moment for Malaysian Christians, he said.  “I call it a crossroad because never before have the churches ever encountered, [been] rattled and stunned by the events that occurred during our tenure of office,” he said

Bishop Lapok’s views found support in a separate statement issued by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Malacca and Johore, Paul Tan.  The church would not back down from their 1989 declaration “not to relinquish its right to use the word ‘Allah’ in its rituals of prayer and worship, and the dissemination of its teachings to the faithful,” Bishop Tan said on March 14.

“This right is grounded on history, etymology and now by secular jurisprudence,” he said, asking the government to honor its commitment to religious freedom, and “match deed to word as otherwise sloganeering becomes mere posturing, and words become platitudes.”

First Anglican ordination for Thailand: The Church of England Newspaper, Nov 26, 2010 p 6. November 28, 2010

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Archbishop John Chew and the first Thai Anglican priest, the Rev. Pairoj Phiammattawat at Christ Church, Bangkok. Diocese of Singapore photo

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Anglican Church of Thailand as ordained its first priest.

On Oct 31, Archbishop John Chew of Singapore ordained the Rev. Pairoj Phiammattawat to the priesthood at Christ Church, Bangkok, making him the first native priest in the 105-year history of the church’s work in Thailand.

In 1904 King Chulalongkorn donated the land to construct a Protestant church for Western expatriates in the Southeast Asian nation. Constructed in 1905, Christ Church has conducted services in English since its foundation. But in the 1980’s a Thai language ministry was introduced, and work in the Thai deanery of the Diocese of Singapore has expanded to six congregations, three schools, a social services agency, and a university chaplaincy programme.

In an interview published in the Singapore Diocesan Digest, Mr. Phiammattawat stated that though he had been educated in a Catholic mission school as a boy, it was not until he was a teenager that he came to faith in Christ through the intercession of his friends. A social worker by training, Mr. Phiammattawat began his ordination training at the age of 45, studying at the Bangkok Institute of Theology.

“In Thailand, there are many churches,” he noted. “Some operate independently of others and do not see themselves as part of the universal church nor accountable to others. I began to appreciate the sense of family amongst Anglican ministers, our mutual accountability and submission as well as life-long commitment to each other,” he said.

“It is not about me as a pastor with my own supporters or congregation. I serve under a bishop whom I am in submission to and both my congregation and I are part of a larger family,” of Anglicans and Christians across the world he said.

“This is a new journey,” Mr. Phiammattawat said. “I covet your prayers for me and my family, that we will remain faithful to the Lord, the ministry and His church.”

Church call for government crackdown on Malay & Muslim extremism: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 24, 2010 p 8. September 26, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of South East Asia, Politics.
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Bishop Ng Moon Hing of West Malaysia

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders in Malaysia have called upon the government of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to combat the Malay and Muslim chauvinism within the government that has threatened to divide the multi-ethnic, multi-religious Southeast Asian nation.

In a statement released on Sept 16 to mark Malaysia Day, the national holiday that commemorates the federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore in 1963 to form Malaysia, the leaders of the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) urged the government to stamp out racism and religious extremism within its ranks.

“In recent times we have seen even those who occupy positions of influence blatantly exhibiting racist attitudes and behavior and promoting hate speech and disunity,” the CFM said in a statement signed by its president, the Anglican Bishop Ng Moon Hing of West Malaysia, and other Catholic, Evangelical and Orthodox leaders.

“Malaysians deserve courageous and committed leaders who will have the courage and the strength of character to do what is right and who are resolute in bringing wrong-doers to justice,” they said.

Earlier this year Malaysia saw an outbreak of church burning by Islamic extremists, and an increase in anti-Chinese and anti-Indian agitation by Malay nationalists.  The church leaders welcomed the government’s efforts to foster religious and racial reconciliation, but warned there were “evil people in this country that clearly do not seek the common good and well-being of all Malaysians. We call on the government to work to frustrate the efforts of all such groups even if it means acting against elements within the administration of the ruling coalition itself.”

The independence day letter also urged the government to tackle “rampant corruption” and the destabilizing effects of Sharia law.  “Unresolved issues include the many cases where the religious conversion of one spouse in a marriage has resulted in great injustice to the non-converting spouse and the children of the marriage; the continuing ban of the Allah word which affects the printing of the Alkitab and Christian publications and the lack of adequate and proper land to build places of worship and for use as burial grounds for non-Muslims.”

The church leaders stated that as Malaysians “we have always lived in the midst of minarets, church steeples, temple bells, religious celebrations and processions. This is the hallmark of Malaysian life.”

“Yet today many of us are being segregated, separated and segmented by the inappropriate application and imposition of sectarian religious values by elements within the very same government that is charged with protecting and preserving our religious freedoms and fundamental liberties. We call on all Malaysians not to allow such insensitive attitudes and actions to divide us, and to stand together to oppose those who would damage and ultimately destroy the unity that our founding fathers so earnestly and sincerely forged with one another,” they said

Khmer Rouge killer/Christian convert: The Church of England Newspaper, July 30, 2010 p 6. August 3, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of South East Asia, Crime.
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Comrade Duch

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A UN-backed War Crimes Tribunal in Phnom Penh has sentenced the commandant of the Khmer Rouge’s main death camp to 35 years imprisonment for crimes against humanity.

The trial of Kang Kek Iew, whose revolutionary nom de guerre was ‘Comrade Duch’, has been compared to the trial of Adolf Eichman in Jerusalem, and has served as a cathartic political and historical moment for the Southeast Asian country. He is also the only Khmer Rouge leader to have admitted his participation in the genocide that killed an estimated 2 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979.

The Duch trial has also been an exercise in Christian doctrine for the predominantly Buddhist country. In 1996, while in hiding from his crimes, Comrade Duch converted to Christianity.

On July 26, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) held that when Comrade Duch commanded Camp S-21 he was responsible for the torture and deaths of an estimated 17,000 enemies of the regime.

“He worked tirelessly to ensure that S-21 ran as efficiently as possible and did so out of unquestioning loyalty to his superiors,” the ECCC said, noting that his zeal led to his promotion as head of the Santebal, the Khmer Rouge’s internal security apparatus.

After the Communist seizure of power in 1975, the Khmer Rouge under their leader Pol Pot emptied Cambodia’s cities, forcing residents into collective farms and forced labour projects, with the goal of forming a Utopian society.

Approximately 21 per cent of Cambodia’s population died following the restarting of civilization in “Year Zero.” The regime collapsed in 1979 when Vietnam invaded the country and from 1979 to 1997 Pol Pot and his supporters operated in the jungles in along the border with Thailand. A factional split within the Khmer Rouge led to Pol Pot’s house arrest in 1997, and he died in captivity in 1998.

Four leading figures of the former regime are awaiting trial before the ECCC. However, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith and Nuon Chea are unrepentant and have defended the record of the Khmer Rouge. Hun Sen, the current Prime Minister of Cambodia, is also a former official of the Khmer Rouge regime who defected to Vietnam in 1979, and has dismissed any suggestion that he stand in the dock for his part in the regime. Unlike his former Khmer Rouge colleagues, Comrade Duch has asked for forgiveness from the Cambodian people for his crimes.

Comrade Duch’s trial began in March 2009 and concluded last November. The ECCC reported that over 28,000 people followed the proceedings from the public gallery, while the trial was broadcast across the country.

In addition to his testimony about Cambodia’s killing fields, the country learned that while in hiding in 1995, Comrade Duch heard a Cambodian-American Protestant missionary preach in a village near Battambang. Two weeks later Duch approached the Rev Christopher LePel and asked to be baptised.

On Sept 24, 2009 Mr LePel told the court that he did not know who his new convert was, but said the man he knew as Hang Pin confessed to him he had done things that “couldn’t be forgiven.”

Mr LePel said that after converting from Buddhism to Christianity, Duch changed from that of a man with “no joy, no peace, no purpose in life” to someone whose “heart wanted to share the word of God to his friends and family.”

The minister noted that his parents and a brother and sister had died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge and a number of friends had perished at S-21. However, as a Christian he had forgiven Duch. “I hate the sin, but I love the sinner,” he told the court.

The prosecution discounted Duch’s conversion, noting that a court-appointed psychologist believed it was insincere. The prosecutor told the court that while Christianity promises instant forgiveness, Buddhism would require many cycles of rebirth to expiate his crimes. Duch had made a pragmatic decision to become a Christian to avoid bad karma, prosecutors claimed.

Mr LePel said he was convinced of Duch’s sincerity, saying that in a 2008 jailhouse visit he “was sorry for the crimes that he did in the past and that he did not rejoice for what he had done.”

“I am proud of him for his willingness to accept his crime and punishment,” Mr LePel told the court.

With credit for time served, Comrade Duch will serve 19 years in prison for his crimes.

Militants attach churches: CEN 1.15.10 p 8. January 22, 2010

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Police inspect All Saints Taiping after it was firebombed in the wake of the Malaysian Supreme Court "Allah" ruling

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Eight churches and a convent school have been attacked by Islamic militants in Malaysia in the wake of a High Court ruling overturning a government ban on Christians using the word “Allah” to describe God.

All Saints Anglican Church in Taiping in the northern state of Perak and Good Shepherd Anglican Church in Miri in Sarawak on the island of Borneo were among the Catholic, Lutheran and Pentecostal churches attacked by militants between Jan 8-10. Prime Minister Najib Razak has denounced the attacks, and promised government assistance in rebuilding the Metro Tabernacle church in suburban Kuala Lumpur, which was badly damaged by petrol bomb on Jan 8.

The attacks follow a Dec 31 High Court ruling overturning a ban on Christians using the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God. The government has seized Malay-language Bibles that use ‘Allah’ for God, and has sought to close the country’s Catholic Herald for using the word in its publication.

The government has appealed the court ruling, arguing that making ‘Allah’ synonymous with God will confuse Muslims and aid in their conversion to Christianity.

However, lawyers for the Catholic Church have argued that the Arabic word ‘Allah’ has been used in Christian Bibles for the past millennia and its use in Malay to refer to God is not sectarian. The government’s fear of confusion and potential conversion, they argue, is not shared by other Muslim nations, including neighboring Indonesia where Christians and Muslims both use the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God.

The ‘Allah’ dispute has political repercussions for the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak whose United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party leads the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition of fourteen political parties, including the Malaysian Chinese Association and the Malaysian Indian Congress.

In Sept 2008 Razak’s predecessor as prime minister and UMNO party leader Abdullah Badawi instituted the “1Malaysia” campaign to promote national unity, ethnic tolerance, and government efficiency. Since taking power in April, Najib Razak has sought to broaden the coalition’s political base.

Muslims comprise approximately 60 per cent of the country’s population and are predominantly ethnic Malays, while Christians comprise 10 per cent of the population of 28 million.

Opposition MP Charles Santiago told the Press Association the attacks showed that “after 52 years of living together, nation building and national unity is in tatters. The church attacks shattered notions of Malaysia as a model secular Muslim nation in the eyes of the international community.

“Malaysians are now living in fear of a racial clash following the church attacks and rising orthodox Islamic tones in the country,” Santiago said, while opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim blamed the attacks on the UMNO’s “incessant racist propaganda” over the ‘Allah’ issue.

All Saints Church in Taiping, the first Anglican Church consecrated in the Federated Malay States in 1887, was attacked by a petrol bomb on the night of Jan 8. Police report the bomb failed to ignite the Gothic wooden church, which had survived the Second World War unscathed,

Across the country in Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo, the windows of Good Shepherd Church in Miri were smashed by bricks during the night of Jan 9. The Rev. Donald Jutie told the Utusan Borneo newspaper that upon arriving for church on Sunday morning, he found the windows of the sacristy and choir room, as well as windows in the parish hall smashed.

He told the Borneo Post his congregation was “nervous but we want very much to act like nothing had happened to our church. We have been living in harmony. It is sad for such a thing to happen if indeed it is related to what had been happening in West Malaysia.”

“We really don’t want to speculate on the incident and we don’t want to blame anybody as we don’t know who is behind this,” he said

UK fights for religious freedom in Nepal amidst Maoist protests: CEN 12.04.09 p 7. December 9, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Nepal, Persecution, Politics.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Britain will press Nepal to guarantee freedom of religion in its new constitution, the Foreign Office has assured the Archbishop of York. The government’s pledge comes amidst a growing political crisis in the Himalayan republic with Maoists threatening to pull out of the 2006 agreement that ended the 10-year civil war that left over 10,000 dead.

On Nov 12 Baroness Kinnock, the Foreign Office Minister for Africa, the Caribbean, Central America and the UN responded to Dr John Sentamu’s question whether Britain would “encourage” Nepal to “honour its obligations under international human rights treaties by guaranteeing freedom of religion and belief in their new constitution.”

Britain to press Nepal on religious freedoms

“We regularly raise with the Government and political parties of Nepal the importance of ensuring that the new constitution is fully in line with Nepal’s commitments under international human rights treaties,” Baroness Kinnock told Parliament, noting Nepal’s interim constitution already “provides for freedom of religion,” and that the country was declared a “secular state” following the downfall of the Shah dynasty in 2007.

“We will continue to urge the government of Nepal to give priority to the implementation of all rights and freedoms, including religious freedoms,” she said.

After the last King of Nepal, Gyanendra Shah, was driven from office by a loose coalition of Maoist guerrillas and pro-Indian political parties, work began on a new constitution that would transform Nepal from a Hindu kingdom to a secular republic.

However, the talks broke down in May 2009, after the government led by the Chairman of Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), Pushpa Kamal Dahal — known by his revolutionary nom de guerre ‘Prachanda’, resigned after Nepali President Ram Baran Yafav backed the military in a dispute over the integration of former Maoist guerrillas into the army.

Prachanda and his cadres have since been campaigning across Nepal for the restoration of “civilian supremacy” and have called for a three-day General Strike beginning on Dec 20. The Nepal Telegraph last week reported that Maoist guerrillas had declared the Kirat region in Eastern Nepal an independent republic, with local cadres calling for a resumption of war with the central government. Nepal’s new constitution is scheduled to be unveiled in May 2010, however, the deadline has already been set back seven times.

Christians in Nepal have been hard pressed by Maoists and by Hindu extremist groups who seek to restore the Hindu monarchy. On May 23, a bomb at Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Kathmandu killed three and injured 14 others. A Hindu extremist group, the Nepal Defence Army claimed responsibility.

Hindus have also come under pressure from Maoists. In January 2009, the Maoist government intervened in a dispute at the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, the Hindu temple of Lord Shiva and seat of Nepal’s national deity.

Priests at the temple have traditionally been Brahmans from south India, but the CPN-M government backed a mob headed by the Young Communist League that forced the Indian priests from the temple, stripping them naked and parading them through the streets. The Indian government objected and a diplomatic incident was averted when the Nepali Supreme Court ordered the reinstatement of the Indian Brahmans at the temple.

Archbishop of Singapore re-elected Primate: CEN 8.21.09 p 6. August 21, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of South East Asia.
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Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Singapore, Dr John Chew has been re-elected as Primate of the Anglican Church of the Province of South East Asia.

The Provincial Extra-Ordinary Synod meeting July 29-30 at Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia re-elected Dr Chew to serve a second four-year term as primate. Dr Chew also serves as President of the Singapore Anglican Community Services, President of The Bible Society of Singapore, and President of the National Council of Churches of Singapore.

Primates of the province are elected to a set term of office, but may stand for reelection up to the age of retirement. On Feb 2, 1996 Archbishop Moses Tay was installed as first archbishop of the new province by the Archbishop of Canterbury

Dr George Carey , while the second Primate, Archbishop Yong Ping Chung of Sabah, served from 2000 to 2006.

In other business, the synod approved the election of the first indigenous bishop in North Borneo. The Ven Melter Jiki Tais was consecrated as suffragan bishop of Sabah at All Saints Cathedral, Kota Kinabalu on Aug 14, and will assist Bishop Albert Vun in the supervision of the fast growing diocese. Archdeacon Tais is the first Kadazan-Dusun to be consecrated as bishop. Sabah’s Anglican bishops have historically drawn from the ranks of British missionaries and in the past 30 years, from Chinese-Malaysians. At age 44, he will be the youngest bishop in the province, and at less than five feet tall, its smallest bishop.

Archdeacon Moses Chin described the new bishop as a “small man with a big heart.”

The bishop’s duties will be to train youth and lay leaders and develop mission churches to parish status “so that they are self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating,” Archdeacon Chin told the Daily Express.

Archbishop of Singapore re-elected Primate

Woman arrested over Nepal church blast: CEN 6.10.09 June 10, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Nepal, Terrorism.
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Nepali police have arrested a Hindu extremist in connection with last week’s bomb blast that killed three and injured 14 at a Roman Catholic church outside Kathmandu.

Wire service reports from the Himalayan republic state that a 27-year-old woman, Sita Shrestha nee Thapa, has been detained by the police and charged with planting the bomb on May 23.

A member of the Hindu Rashtra Bachao Samiti — a hitherto obscure Hindu extremist group that seeks to restore the monarchy and expel non-Hindus from Nepal, the suspect is alleged to have attended the worship service and placed her handbag under a cushion. During the middle of the service the suspect left the church, saying she needed to use the toilet. A bomb police believe was secreted in the handbag then exploded.

Literature from an allied Hindu militant group, the Nepal Defence Army (NDA) was scattered outside the church after the blast. The NDA’s leader Ram Prasad Mainali, is also being sought by the police for questioning.

On May 29 the NDA released a statement saying it wanted “all the 1 million Christians out of the country, if not we will plant 1 million bombs in all the houses where Christians live and detonate them.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Woman arrested over Nepal church blast

Bomb blast kills two at Nepal church: CEN 5.29.09 May 29, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Nepal, Politics, Terrorism.
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A bomb blast at a Roman Catholic Church in Nepal has killed two and wounded a dozen more.

The May 23 attack on the Church of the Assumption in Lalitpur, three miles south of the capital Kathmandu, comes amidst growing political instability in Nepal. On May 4, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who is also known by his guerilla nom de guerre “Prachanda” or “fierce”, resigned after President Ram Baran Yaday refused to relieve army chief of staff General Rookmangud Katawal.

The Maoists refused to endorse a replacement and a leader of the Communist UML party, Madhay Kumar Nepal was elected Prime Minister, hours after the attack on the Catholic Church.

The Rev Normal Beale, priest in charge of the Church of Christ Our Peace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia a former missionary and Dean of the Anglican Church in Nepal told The Church of England Newspaper: “We are shocked and saddened by the violence used against Christians while worshipping in Nepal this morning. We deplore the use of terror and the targeting of innocent civilians in this atrocity.”

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Bomb blast kills two at Nepal church

Clergy should avoid partisan politics, says Archbishop of Singapore: CEN 5.14.09 p 6. May 18, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of South East Asia, Politics.
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Clergy should steer clear of partisan politics and not use their pulpits to advance secular causes, the Archbishop of Singapore said last week.

Archbishop John Chew’s statement, released as president of the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS), comes amidst a squabble over an Anglican congregation’s involvement in a hotly contested election battle to replace the leadership of the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) — a women’s advocacy organization.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Clergy should avoid partisan politics, says Archbishop of Singapore

Scenes from Alexandria: Southeast Asia February 20, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Album (Photos), Church of the Province of South East Asia, Primates Meeting 2009.
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The Primate of Southeast Asia, Archbishop John Chew of Singapore at St Mark's Cathedral, Alexandria on Feb 1, 2009

The Primate of Southeast Asia, Archbishop John Chew of Singapore at St Mark's Cathedral, Alexandria on Feb 1, 2009

Call for Muslim representation on UN Security Council: CEN 9.28.08 September 28, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of South East Asia, Islam, Politics, UN.
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Fairness dictates that Muslims must be given their own seat on the UN’s Security Council, Indonesia’s foreign minister told the General Assembly in New York on Sept 27.

Hassan Wirajuda (pictured) urged the reform of the 15-member Security Council, saying the five permanent members wielded too much power. Reform also meant “an equitable distribution of its membership – not only in terms of geographical representation, where we already have imbalances – but also in terms of constituencies. Hence, the world’s major civilizations should be proportionately represented,” he said.

There appears to be little appetite, however, among the five permanent members of the Council, or among other states to expand the Council’s veto-wielding members, with Uruguay’s foreign minister saying his country opposed special seats on the Security Council for Muslims or any other group.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Call for Muslim representation on UN Security Council

Archbishop [Chew]: “We must focus on the cross”: CEN 9.05.08 p 7. September 4, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of South East Asia, Politics, Popular Culture.
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The Archbishop of Singapore, Dr. John Chew has urged Christians not to be distracted by quick fixes or faddish solutions to the problems facing the church and the world, but to take the time to seek the Lord’s will in all things.

The church was more than a service agency or advocate for political or social change, but had been charged with preaching the saving news of Jesus Christ, Dr. Chew said, and must be lead not by a desire for comfort, but by the cross.

“Until we know the cross, in these days and age, we will not have anything to offer, so may the Lord bring back the glory to the Church; His glory, not the glory of men, so that we on His behalf can offer this and hopefully we can, as a result of this, at least in Singapore, we don’t need to go through the last hour,” the primate of the Church of the Province of South East Asia said.

In his presidential address to members of the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) at the annual National Day of Thanksgiving Service on August 28 at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Singapore, Dr. Chew drew upon the Gospel of John’s account of the wedding at Cana to illustrate his theme.

Dr. Chew likened the wedding guest’s consumption of wine to the heady consumerism and materialism of Southeast Asia. Just as the wine ran out at the wedding, so to had Asia’s economic “miracle” burst in 1997. Churches also had been through periods of boom and bust, fixating on growth for growth’s sake—becoming fascinated with numbers that masked a spiritual shallowness.

The modern world, including the church, demanded immediate answers to every problem. However, lasting answers were not created on the spur of the moment, and too often ignored the deeper spiritual issues at play.

The church had failed to respond to the challenges of the Prague Spring of 1968, and the Fall of Communism in 1989, and it appeared to be missing the opportunity of responding to the crisis of globalization today, he said.

Materialism, consumerism, ethnic, social and religious tensions all demanded a response, he said. However, the church should focus its energies on answering the question, “What are people really needing in their lives?”

That answer had not changed, he said, and it remained the cross of Christ.

Muslims force Christian seminary to close in Jakarta: CEN 8.30.08 August 30, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of South East Asia, Islam, Persecution.
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A Christian seminary in Jakarta has been forced to close its doors after a Muslim mob attacked the campus last month, forcing 1,400 students to take refuge in the lobby of parliament and in a refugee camp for over a month.

On July 25 a clash between students at the Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology and Muslims turned violent when Muslims invaded the campus hurling Molotov cocktails and attacking students with machetes. Eighteen students were wounded in the attacked and the school evacuated five dormitories after two nights of violence.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Muslims force Christian seminary to close in Jakarta

The Bishop of Faisalabad, the Archbishop of Southeast Asia and the Bishop of Raiwind July 17, 2008

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From left to right: The Rt. Rev John Samuel, Bishop of Faisalabad, the Most Rev. John Chew, Archbishop of Southeast Asia and Bishop of Singapore, and the Rt. Rev. Sammy Azariah, Bishop of Raiwind.

South East Asia coming to Lambeth: CEN 3.14.08 p 6. March 16, 2008

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The House of Bishops of the Church of the Province of Southeast Asia has voted to attend this summer’s Lambeth Conference. Meeting in Kuching from Feb 27-29 during the first session of General Synod, the bishops agreed to accept the invitation. The Primate of Southeast Asia, Archbishop John Chew of Singapore was named last month by Dr. Williams’ to the Windsor Continuation Group and is expected to play a high profile role in the gathering. In other business, the Province elected new officers and members to its Standing Committee, and reviewed the work of mission and evangelism in the extra-provincial deaneries of Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Nepal and Indonesia.

Nepali move ‘could boost Christians’: CEN 1.11.08 January 10, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Nepal, Politics.
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king-gyanendra.jpgThe Nepali parliament has abolished the monarchy, and voted to turn the Himalayan Hindu kingdom into a secular republic.

The Dec 28 vote by members of the provisional parliament was 270 in favor, 3 against, and 48 abstentions, and comes as part of peace negotiations with former Maoist rebels.

The vote to end the 240 year old Hindu monarchy must be ratified by the country’s new parliament, which is to be elected in April.

King Gyanendra (pictured) will continue to live in the palace in central Kathmandu without any powers until after those elections, protected by a 3000-man palace guard. “But if the king creates serious hurdles in the elections he can be removed by a two-third majority of the interim parliament before the polls,” the motion said.

The abolition of the monarchy will be “good for the church when all is said and done,” the Dean of Nepal, the Very Rev. Norman Beale told The Church of England Newspaper.

“The abolition of the monarchy paves the way for the secular state to become a reality, in which diverse religious groups such as Christians, Buddhists, and Muslim will no longer be marginalized as they have been for centuries,” he said.

The 2001 murder of the King’s brother, Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, shocked the country, he said. While Birendra “concurred with widespread belief that he was a living incarnation of Vishnu, many Christians still loved him, or at least respected him,” Dean Beale said. “Gyanendra however, is a different story.”

Under the monarchy, most Christian churches did not choose to register with the government. “There is a saying in Nepal and in much of Asia: the nail that sticks up gets hammered down,” the long service missionary said.

“Many churches felt then as now that it is better not to ask for permission, then you cannot be turned down. So you never try to register, and you just get on with it and conduct your affairs as best you can. Bank accounts and land are held for churches in the names of several individuals,” he said.

While the Church’s legal position will now be on sounder footing, Dean Beale reports that “most Hindu Nepalese will still feel that Christianity is a ‘foreign’ religion,” and “there is regnant in society, if not in legal and royal strata, [of] a kind of xenophobic reaction to the growing Christian community.”

Until the 1950’s, there were only a handful of Christian Nepalis although there had been attempts to send missionaries into the kingdom in the Nineteenth century and in 1821 William Carey translated the New Testament into Nepali.

The church began growing in the 1970’s following the arrival of Indian missionaries, and in the 1980’s the Church of the Province of Southeast Asia began supporting sub rosa missionary work. The spread of Christianity was also fostered by the return home of retired Gurkhas, who had converted to Christianity while serving in the British or Indian armies. Even though missionary activities were forbidden, the church has grown to over 400,000 members in recent years, some two percent of the population.

“Now that many Christian groups will be more open and will seek formal recognition, it is difficult to predict how the wider society will react and what this may mean for the Church,” Dean Beale said.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

‘Interfaith co-operation can continue despite disagreements about truth,’ Archbishop says: CEN 12.29.07 December 29, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of South East Asia, Islam.
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MULTI-FAITH communities are not predestined to succumb to sectarian violence, the Archbishop of Canterbury told a Christian-Muslim seminar in Singapore on Dec 6, as disagreement about the nature of truth does not ‘necessarily mean the violent disruption of social co-operation.’

A robust view of disagreement and debate between religious communities may play a major role in securing certain kinds of social unity or cohesion,” Dr Rowan Williams said.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

'Interfaith co-operation can continue despite disagreements about truth,' Archbishop says

Bible Society Legalized: CEN 8.24.07 p 7 August 24, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Nepal.
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The government of Nepal has granted legal status to the Nepal Bible Society permitting the Christian charity to operate legally in the mountain kingdom.

The Bible Society has worked for 30 years supporting Nepal’s growing Christian population, now estimated at over 700,000. It filed its first application for registration 11 years ago, and will now be permitted to open bank accounts, rent property and conduct business.

The Bible Society had printed Scripture texts in India for use in Nepal, but the new regulations will allow it to begin work at home.

Tej Jirel, General Secretary of the Nepal Bible Society said, ‘They could have arrested us and taken legal action against us for translating, publishing and selling the Bible as an unregistered organisation. Even with the registration, we cannot do many things freely. We have to renew our license every fiscal year.’

Row as Forum Cancelled: CEN 5.18.07 p 7. May 20, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of South East Asia, Interfaith, Islam.
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A Christian-Muslim interfaith forum in Kuala Lumpur organized by the Archbishop of Canterbury has been cancelled by the Malaysian government out of fear it might provoke sectarian tensions in the Southeast Asian nation.

Scheduled for May 7-11, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Building Bridges seminar was to have brought “internationally known Islamic and Christian scholars to consider together important issues in the light of our scriptures,” the Rev. Canon Guy Wilkinson, Dr. Williams’ interfaith advisor, told The Church of England Newspaper.

“We are disappointed that the seminar was not able to take place in Malaysia and was considered inopportune by the government,” he said.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.