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Government demolishes church in Malaysia

By Michael Ireland

GUA MUSANG, MALAYSIA (ANS) -- The Malaysian Government has apparently demolished a Christian church building in an Orang Asli settlement in Gua Musang in Ulu Kelantan on June 4, according to Salem Voice Ministries News Service.

The news service said that just few months ago, the Orang Asli community in Kampung Jias converted into Christianity as a result of the ministries of Pastor Moses Soo. Since they were in need of a church to worship they consulted the Village Development and Security Committee and the Department of Orang Asli Affairs to erect a church to mark their faith.

"It was sanctioned and they proceeded constructing the church with the help of volunteers and certain donations," SVM said.

On April 11, however, the Gua Musang district land office issued a stop work order, stating that the construction was being carried out on state land without permission from the authorities, the news agency reported.

The following day, Rev. Wong Kim Kong, Secretary General of the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship of Malaysia (NECF) sent a letter to the land office, saying the land belonged to the Orang Asli villagers under Section 2 6(1) and 7(1) of the Orang Asli Act of 1954. Rev. Wong sent copies of the letter to the Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Kelantan Menteri Besar Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and the Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail.

Construction of the church continued.

Once again the Land Office issued another notice on May 24 informing the village headman Pedik Busu that the "illegal" structure would be demolished.

Despite various efforts to block the demolishment, the church was finally torn down by bulldozers on June 4.

Pastor Moses Soo told Rev. Paul Ciniraj, the Director of the Salem Voice Ministries and the SVM News Service that police tortured him several times.

Pastor Soo also said the district land office does not have any right to reduce the church to rubble, because the land belonged to the headman of Kampung Jias but was donated to the Orang Asli community for the purpose of building the church.

After demolishing the church, a report was made on June 6 at the Gua Musang Police Station by the headman Pg. Pedik bin Busu of Kg. Jias, accompanied by the lawyer Mr. Lum C. S.

SVM news service says; "This is the latest in a string of incidents involving the demolition of places of worship of religious minorities in Malaysia. It goes without saying that this is a worrying trend and despite public outcry, there seems to be no indication that this will end anytime soon. Such incidents of discrimination and disregard of legitimate rights are especially prevalent with marginalized communities that are more out of sight, like the rural poor ethnic Indians and the Orang Asli."

** Michael Ireland is an international British freelance journalist. A former reporter with a London newspaper, Michael is the Chief Correspondent for ASSIST News Service of Lake Forest, California. Michael immigrated to the United States in 1982 and became a US citizen in September, 1995. He is married with two children. Michael has also been a frequent contributor to UCB Europe, a British Christian radio station.
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