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Malaysian prelate blasts politicians after religious police raid church

Catholic World News - August 08, 2011

A Malaysian bishop has offered strong criticism of politicians who seek to foster anti-Christian sentiment in the largely Muslim nation.

Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing’s remarks follow a decision by religious police to raid a Catholic parish dinner at which Muslims were present. Claiming that Christians were proselytizing Muslims, the state executive councilor for religious affairs defended the raid.

“Devious and conniving politicians … thrive on keeping people apart to achieve their nefarious designs,” said the Jesuit bishop of Melaka-Johor, who also criticized “manipulation and duplicity by politicians who are out to win votes at the expense of the gullible and the ignorant.”

Bishop Tan distanced himself from proselytism but made clear that Catholics would answer questions posed by Muslims about the Gospel.

“If the claim [of proselytism] is substantiated, I will exert myself to initiate corrective and contrite action by Christians,” he said. “Otherwise I want a recantation and an apology.”

“If someone wants us to share our faith with him or her, we will not hesitate to do so because of our belief that religion can be proposed but not imposed,” he added. “Conversion is at the volition of the individual concerned; it cannot be at the persuasion of the person being asked to share the faith.”

3% of the residents of the nation of 27.7 million are Catholic, according to Vatican statistics. 60% are Muslim, 19% are Buddhist, 6% are Hindu, and 6% are Protestant.

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