Friday, December 07, 2007

Removal of crucifixes,sign of religious tolerance?

Baptism of fire for 'remove crucifixes' MPs

Yoges Palaniappan
Dec 7, 07 5:43pm

The two Barisan Nasional (BN) parliamentarians who called for the removal of crucifixes in mission schools came under fire from the Christian Federation of Malaysia today.

In a statement, chairperson of the federation’s executive committee Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing described the MPs remarks as “insensitive, unsubstantiated and baseless.” On Oct 29, Parti Sulong MP Syed Hood Syed Edros (left) and Sri Gading MP Mohamad Aziz suggested in the Dewan Rakyat that crucifixes in mission schools be removed and church influence over these schools be stopped.

Syed Hood said he believes that the school board in mission schools are partially administered by foreign churches, for example the Vatican City in Italy. He said he was "ashamed and disappointed" that schools in an Islamic country like Malaysia are still under the control of churches and that they display icons like crosses and statues.

Commenting on this, Tan said the comments were “most appalling and hurtful” and do nothing except cause misunderstanding and erosion of trust and respect among ethnic and religious groups in this country. “The reason for having brought up the comments and accusations “based on grouses from the ground” is not acceptable as in the first place, there is no compulsion for any one to study in a mission school if one does not wish to. “Moreover, one would expect that before any accusation or comment is made, one should verify the facts, especially with the management of the mission schools,” he added.

Tan was referring to Syed Hood’s explanation that he was merely raising the concerns of the people as an elected representative. The MP claimed that on a personal note, he had the utmost respect for all religions.

Love and sacrifice

Prior to this, Deputy Education Minister Noh Omar told the Dewan Rakyat that there was no need for mission schools to remove the crucifixes as that is part of their tradition. Meanwhile, Tan said the federation is appreciative of the education ministry’s recognition of the tradition.

“These crosses and religious images are part of the ethos and culture of mission schools which the ministry has repeatedly assured us will remain.

“Our mission schools have been founded with so much love and sacrifice consistent with Christian values and principles with a view to providing quality education to all students, regardless of race, religion and culture,” he added.

Following the ‘crucifix’ controversy, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz urged those offended by the remarks to lodge a police report against the parliamentarians involved.

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