The following was presented by the Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore, the Rt. Rev. Philip Lok, as the opening comment during a dialogue session held between representatives of the Church in Malaysia with the leadership of the the Pakatan Rakyat coalition held on January 10, 2009 at Luther Centre, Petaling Jaya:
First, on behalf of the Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore, I welcome Datuk Seri Anwar, and all other distinguished guests to Luther Centre. How I wished that your first visit to the headquarters of the Lutheran Church is under more pleasant circumstances.
As Christians, we are very saddened and shocked by the terrible events which took placed in our nation during the past 2 days. Our dream for a peaceful and progressive Malaysia was viciously shattered by the petrol bombs. These series of unjustifiable attacks upon churches have shaken the very foundation of our Malaysian society and scarred our common psyche. On a personal level, I am distressed by the fact that one of our oldest Lutheran churches was also attacked yesterday.
Christians are called to be peacemakers. We are entrusted by God to carry out a special task in this world – to be agents of reconciliation. Therefore, in times such as these, the Church is committed to work with any parties that have a genuine burden in the pursuit of peace and stability in our country. In times like these, we need leaders who are confident, and open-minded enough to engage in dialogues to promote understanding and goodwill among the religious groups in our nation.
During the past two days, I have received many emails from churches around the world pledging their prayer support for the church in Malaysia. One of them comes from the Lutheran Bishop of Jerusalem, Bishop Munib Younan. Bishop Younan, an Arab Christian, met Datuk Seri last October in a Muslim-Christian dialogue in Georgetown University. In his letter, Bishop Younan argues that the word ‘Allah’ has been freely used by Arab Christians for nearly 2000 years! He further urges Datuk Seri and fellow lawmakers to safeguard the freedom of worship for the Christian community in Malaysia.
While the events of the past 48 hours have cast a dark cloud over our people, yet there are still pockets of hope that shine through. Allow me to share a story which just took place this Sunday morning, and I believe that stories like this must be retold over and over again in our conversations.
One of our churches in Petaling Jaya is located just next to a mosque. Yesterday, just as our worship service was about to start, three Malay gentlemen walked into the church. They identified themselves as leaders from the adjacent mosque, and gave their affirmation to the church of their continual friendship. They further assured the church that it is safe to continue with our services and ministries.
Dear friends, this is the kind of generous spirit which we need to cultivate in all Malaysians. This is the kind of goodwill that must permeate every strata of our society.
In response to such kindness, I also urged our church members to go and do likewise in the course of this week. We must go to our Muslim neighbors, our Muslim colleagues or our Muslim classmates, and affirm our friendship with them. This is the way of peace. This is the Christian way, and the only way we know. We have no other options.