Organiser for Muslim-only Christology event apologises, will drop ‘ex-nun’ label

By Ida Lim

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 — The organiser of a two-day Muslim-only event on "Christology" today apologised and said it will remove the “former nun” label used to describe its invited Indonesian Muslim speaker Irena Handono.

Organiser Nur Fitrah said it had received criticism on using the phrase “former nun” by Christians in Indonesia, asserting that this was despite Irena's representative confirming that she was allegedly formerly a nun and chalking this down to a difference in understanding of the label.

“Based on the understanding of Muslims in Malaysia, someone who had declared themselves as a nun and had gone through several training to be a nun is a former nun. This understanding actually contradicts the term among Christians where a nun candidate who stopped from being a nun or a nun who doesn’t meet ordination criteria cannot be called a former nun.

“Therefore, to prevent prolonging the dispute, Nur Fitrah will drop the words former nun from the posters advertising our programme,” it said in a post on its official Facebook page.

Nur Fitrah was commenting on posters of its upcoming event on December 9 and December 10 titled “Mengenali Kristologi” (Understanding Christology) previously posted on its Facebook page, which drew questions regarding Irena's status.

Christology refers to the field of study within Christian theology on Jesus Christ, whom Christians worship as an aspect of God.

Nur Fitrah, which Malay Mail Online understands was founded about two months ago, said the event is “restricted to Muslims only.”

“The official letter and publicity through social media was sent only to the target group of this programme,” the Muslim group said.

“We invited Ibu Irena in her capacity as a Muslim pendakwah (missionary) that has knowledge about Christology to share her knowledge and experience. The target of our programme is Muslim students that are learning the knowledge of comparative religion and Muslim missionaries in Malaysia,” it added.

Screen shot of a Facebook posting by Nur Fitrah on November 8, 2017.

Nur Fitrah explained that the poster was posted on its Facebook page as publicity for the newly-established NGO's activity, adding that it did not expect the page to have such a wide reach.

“We apologise if there are any quarters who felt offended by the poster advertising our programme,” it said, further thanking all who had expressed concern and given feedback.

The programme was advertised to be held at Kolej Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Selangor (KUIS) with only Irena listed as the speaker, and with two other groups called PERMADA and ALAM KUIS as co-organisers. The fee for students and the public were listed at RM30 and RM100 respectively.

A check by Malay Mail Online showed that Nur Fitrah's three Facebook posts on November 8 and November 18 advertising the event and the accompanying posters have been removed.

Malay Mail Online understands that this event is the first large-scale event by Nur Fitrah.

The Facebook posts on November 18 also carried a line saying "Mengenali dakyah dan pemesongan kristian sebagai persiapan dakwah" (Understanding Christian propaganda and deviation as a preparation for evangelism).

The posters spell Irena's name as Irene, although the Facebook posts also refer to her as Irena.

Irena was part of the controversial seminar on “Kalimah Allah dan Kristologi Nusantra” in May 2014 that was held at Universiti Teknologi MARA's (UiTM) Shah Alam campus, which drew criticism and attracted police reports over the event's alleged “Christian-bashing.”

Following the 2014 seminar at UiTM, the Bishops Conference of Indonesia was reported by the now-defunct portal The Malaysian Insider as saying Irena was not a former Catholic nun as alleged as she was only briefly with the Congregation of the Ursuline Sisters as a novice and “never completed” her education.

“After that we don’t know where she ended up getting ‘educated’, to the point now where she is speaking at seminars mostly belittling Christianity, especially the Catholic church,” Bishops Conference of Indonesia executive secretary Father Edy Purwanto was quoted saying then.