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The Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM), the ecumenical body which includes the Province of South East Asia dioceses of Kuching, Sabah and West Malaysia, has spoken out following two recent attacks on churches. Three churchgoers were injured shortly after midnight on 1 January when a “water bomb” made from modified fragments of fireworks exploded in front of the Luther Centre in Petaling Jaya, to the west of capital Kuala Lumpur. A week later, a petrol bomb was thrown at a Methodist Church in Kota Bahru, on the north-east of the peninsula.
The general secretary of the CCM, the Revd Dr Hermen Shastri, explained that police believe the attack on the Luther Centre was carried out by a Mat Rempit – a gang-style individual who carries out public disturbances while on a motorbike or scooter. In contrast, the attack on the Methodist Church was “apparently motivated by extremists who are out to stoke the flames of religious intolerance in the country,” he said.
“The CCM strongly condemns the actions of those who were responsible for this crime that took place at the entrance of the Luther Centre, where people were holding a midnight worship to greet the new year,” he said. “We call upon the Police to intensify their investigations and take stern measures to curb such ‘Mat Rempit’ menace, before other similar incidents occur causing danger to innocent pedestrians, or even worse, target religious places with greater frequency.
“We also call upon the Police to increase vigilance of religious places during religious festivals and during public holidays.”
The petrol bomb attack on the Methodist Church was carried out from the 853-metre long Sultan Yahya Petra Bridge, which crosses the Kelantan River. A nearby temple was also attacked. The Methodist Church minister, Pastor Goo Siew Lai, told The Star newspaper that it was the second attack on the church that week, as windows had been broken four days earlier.
“We call on the police to reinforce their efforts to act firmly against this growing trend, where there are people committed to disrupting inter-religious harmony by targeting religious buildings with flagrant acts of vandalism and arson,” Dr Shastri said. “Such actions if left unchecked may embolden extremists and unscrupulous elements to engage in such actions in the run up to the coming national General Elections in 2018.