Catholic church head Pakiam calls for unity in diversity

The Catholic church will continue to respect all faiths and will reach out to bigots and fanatics who advocate religious fundamentalism, Kuala Lumpur Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam (pic) said yesterday in a Malaysia where the majority Muslims are advocating more limits.

Pakiam, in quoting the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, said that lasting peace did not arise from a "negotiated settlement, but from the belief that unity is brought about by the spirit of God which can harmonise every diversity".

"He does not suggest a syncretism of religions but a clear and joyful reliance on one’s own religious identity and acceptance of a healthy pluralism," Pakiam said of the Pope's message.

While non-Muslims are not allowed to preach to Muslims, several Umno members told the party's annual general assembly this week that the Federal Constitution should limit the official religion, Islam, to just the Sunni branch, following restrictions on Shia Islam, which some say is deviant teaching.

In calling for Catholics to pray for bigots, Pakiam said: "In all communities, there will be some religious fanatics or zealots who will advocate religious fundamentalism and make hurtful declamations.

"I urge Catholics to pray that God will enlighten the minds and hearts of these bigoted individuals," he said in his speech at the Global Peace Convention 2013 titled "Faith leadership for the greater good: forging unity in diversity based on shared values" in Kuala Lumpur.

The forum was organised by the Malaysian chapter of the Global Peace Foundation in collaboration with the Department of National Unity and Integration in the Prime Minister's Department.

Pakiam said the teachings of the Catholic church called on its people to recognise, preserve and promote all spiritual and moral good things as well as socio-cultural values through dialogue and cooperation with followers of other religions.

He added that the church condemned discrimination or harassment because of race, colour, class or religion.

Pakiam urged Catholics, in keeping with the tradition of "open houses", to make it a point to visit their neigbours during religious festivals, "instead of going away on a family picnic because it is a public holiday".

He encouraged visits to the elderly and home-bound neigbours, saying: "I was happy to hear the story of a humble lady who visits her neighbour, a bedridden stroke patient, elderly Malay, and helps the wife sponge and powder the husband every week. What an edifying example of human solidarity".

Pakiam said the commitment to peace and brotherhood of all mankind was embodied in all religious teaching.

"All religions are taught that God, or by whatever name we address the Almighty Creator, the Shanti, the Brahman, the Maha Guru, Allah Maha Kuasa, created the whole world and all it contains and consequently, all mankind are brothers and sisters."

The Catholic church had come under the spotlight, since it challenged a government ban on using the word "Allah" in its weekly publication, "Herald".

In 2009, the "Herald" filed a judicial review in the High Court to challenge the home minister's order banning it from using the word "Allah".

High Court judge Datuk Lau Bee Lan quashed the home minister's order, ruling that the ban had violated the constitutional rights of the publisher.

Putrajaya appealed against the decision and on October 14, a three-member bench led by Datuk Seri Mohamed Apandi Ali, allowed the appeal on the banning of the word from "Herald" as there was a 1986 directive by the Home Ministry which prohibited non-Muslim publications from using four words – Allah, Kaabah, Solat and Baitullah.

Apandi, in his judgment, said the prohibition was to protect the sanctity of Islam and prevent confusion among Muslims.

The decision sparked an outcry among Christians and other non-Muslims in the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak.

Yesterday, Putrajaya and seven Muslim organisations said they are opposing the Catholic Church's leave application to appeal against the Court of Appeal ruling.

The eight respondents maintained that the Court of Appeal ruling was correct and that it was not worthwhile for the Federal Court to determine the question of law outlined by the church.

Federal Court deputy registrar Nor Aziati Jaafar fixed the leave applicaton for hearing next February 24. – December 6, 2013.

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