World churches' chief expresses solidarity with Malaysian Christians

By agency reporter
January 13, 2010

In a 13 January 2010 solidarity letter to the churches in Malaysia, the World Council of Churches General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, expressed deep concern and sorrow about recent attacks against church buildings in the country following a controversy over the right of Christians to use the term "Allah" to refer to God.

The controversy "generated by a small sector of Muslims" in the country is "very disturbing", Tveit said, especially as "Christians in majority Muslim countries all over the world, including [Malaysia's] neighbouring country Indonesia, have used the word 'Allah' for God for centuries".

Tveit expressed hope that "immediate action" would be taken "by both the government and civil society to resolve the conflict, in order to avoid renewed hostilities and escalation of violence".

The WCC chief also found it heartening that "numerous Islamic organisations and leaders have publicly condemned these wanton acts of a small group of people".

Several church buildings have recently been attacked in Malaysia following a High Court ruling last month allowing non-Muslims to use the word "Allah" to refer to God. Muslim radical groups see this as a Christian subterfuge to win converts from Islam.

The government has appealed the High Court decision.

About nine per cent of the Malaysian population are Christians, while Muslims amount to 48 per cent. Most non-Muslims are ethnically Indian or Chinese.

The full text of the WCC General Secretary's letter can be found here:

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