Malaysia church to reinstall cross it removed following April protest

(Photo: REUTERS / Samsul Said)Worshipers sing during a mass service inside the church of Our Lady of Lourdes at Klang, outside Kuala Lumpur January 12, 2014. The Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic church seems like a model for the multicultural, tolerant Malaysia that its government likes to present to the outside world. A long tussle over who can say "Allah" in Malaysia has flared anew, as Islamization that many see as driven by political forces threatens to erode the secular constitution and minority rights in the ethnically diverse country following a divisive election last year.

The Malaysian church which took down its cross in April after Muslim protesters pressured it to do so has vowed to put the symbol back on its building.

A senior pastor of the Community of Praise Petaling Jaya said the church leadership has decided to install another cross in the place of worship after the original was removed after it triggered a protest from the Muslim community.

"The timing would depend on the availability of the contractor," said Rev. Paul Packianathan in an interview with The Malaysian Insider.

The pastor said that the church had already commissioned a contractor to do the job, adding that it was only a matter of time before workers begin installing the cross.

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Asked if he was concerned about a backlash regarding the church's decision to install another cross, the pastor said that depends on the government.

"That is a question for the authorities, what they will do if there is another protest," he said. "We want to live in peace with everyone and don't want any hassle," he continued. "At the same time it is our symbol and nobody can deny us that."

On April 19, some 50 residents of Taman Medan marched to the shop lot where the church was located. They staged a protest there, demanding that the church take down the cross installed on their building because the symbol offended the Muslim majority living in the area.

The protesters claimed that installing such a symbol "challenged" Islam, and they also feared it could sway the youth there to their faith.

Among the protesters was the brother of Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar.

The Selangor government - which had jurisdiction over the area -maintained that churches did not have to seek permits to put up places of worship in shop lots or commercial areas.

Minority faiths only need to notify the state's Council on Non-Islam Affairs, according to the government.

Government officials also encouraged the church to put its cross back.

The Home Ministry earlier disclosed that an investigation into the protest is still going on and appropriate charges are to be filed once the probe is complete.

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