Bishop Calls For An End To Christian Bashing

Catholic Bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing today denounced the latest instance of what he called "Christian bashing" following reports in Utusan Malaysia alleging funding for the Bersih 2.0 march by foreign Christian organisations.

The Bishop of the Melaka-Johor diocese who is concurrently president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Malaysia, said the Malay daily "appears to have a licence to publish unsubstantiated and wild allegations aimed at fomenting discord between Christians and Muslims in Malaysia."

In an article in yesterday's edition of the paper, the Utusan had claimed that millions of ringgit were being funneled from some 11 foreign Christian organisations to fund the Bersih march planned for July 9 to push for electoral reform.

"I'm appalled that nothing is being done to stop this paper from spouting arrant nonsense," said the Jesuit-trained prelate.

"It appears the authorities are more interested in checking and monitoring people engaged in legitimate expression of their rights than in stopping people who spread all sorts of calumnies against individuals and groups in this country," he said in remarks made to Malaysiakini today.

Several weeks ago, accusations that Christian groups were engaged in a conspiracy to dethrone Islam as the official religion of the country surfaced in blogs allied to Umno.

Utusan gave prominence to these claims which emanated from a gathering of Christian clergymen and activists in Penang in May.

Police investigations dragged on inconclusively, shedding no light on the substance or its lack in the accusations.

"How is it the authorities are seemingly lax in their investigative and preventive ardour when irresponsible and wild allegations are made against law-abiding individuals and groups but appear to move with alacrity against people engaged in the exercise of their rights," asked Bishop Paul Tan.

"Why this disparity in the discharge of solemn duty?" he inquired.

Allegations reek of malicious intent

Bishop Paul Tan noted "with relief but no surprise" that the Bersih organisers have denied any links to Christian funding.

Bersih organising chair, Ambiga Seenivasan, has scoffed at Utusan's allegations, saying instead that funds for the march came from local sources.

"With that denial would the authorities now compel Utusan to show where they obtained knowledge of foreign Christian funding for the march and in the absence of proof thereof apologise for misleading the public," queried Bishop Paul.

"These are not innocuous allegations; they reek of malicious intent and must, if unsubstantiated, be called to account," he asserted.

"Otherwise, Malaysians - Christians in particular - might have to conclude that the initially compelling '1Malaysia slogan - People First, Performance Now' has now come to mean 'Woebegone Malaysia - Vested Interests First, The Rest Afterwards'," chided Bishop Paul Tan.

"I know this does sound facetious but that is what things have come to," he sighed.

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