Catholic Church Demands Apology From Al-Islam

 The Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam, today said the Catholic Church would not pursue legal action against Al-Islam magazine and its reporters who had desecrated a ritual sacred to the Catholic community if it was offered a public apology.

Speaking at a press conference on behalf of the church and the Catholic community at large, Pakiam said it would be enough for the magazine editor and the two reporters to apologise publicly for their acts.

 “Forgiveness is a main part of our ‘club’,” the head of the KL archdiocese quipped, referring to the Catholic church’s central belief.

 “We strive daily in our prayers for forgiveness,” he added.

 He pointed out that it would not be the first time the church had dropped the pressure to take a publication to court, referring to a Tamil newspaper that had published an advertisement a few years back mocking a popular image of Jesus Christ holding a can of beer in one hand.

“As soon as the editor apologised, I told them, ‘Yes. I accept the apology. The matter is closed,” Pakiam said.

Pakiam had earlier at today’s press conference slammed the Attorney-General for deciding against prosecuting the Islamic magazine and its two reporters who had published a report of their exploits while undercover at a Catholic church in Ipoh last year.

Two Catholics had filed a police report against the magazine last July, claiming its reporters had desecrated church grounds when they pretended to be Christians and took part in the Holy Communion, a ceremony sacred to Catholics.

The police had investigated the reporters under section 298A (1) of the Penal Code for causing disharmony, disunity or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will, or prejudicing harmony or unity on religious grounds.

The punishment carries a jail sentence of between two and five years.

But the A-G last week disclosed that it would not press charges against the magazine which had published the incident in its May 2009 issue.

The district police headquarters at Dang Wangi here had subsequently informed the complainant, KS Sudhagaran Stanley, in a letter that the deputy public prosecutor had decided to take “No Further Action”.

“It appears that the DPP’s instruction of no further action implies and conveys the message that no crime has been committed, despite an admission by the journalists of desecrating the Holy Communion,” Pakiam said.

The man of the cloth noted that the authorities had failed to understand the magnitude of the wrong done to the Catholic community.

Pakiam described the acts by the magazine’s writers as not only disrespectful but “shows contempt for our belief and a hatred for the church when our belief is violated”.

However, he told reporters he was not in support of Sudhagaran Stanley’s idea for a public demonstration and discouraged other supporters from the Catholic Church from joining in because “it is not an effective way to bring about the resolution to the issue”.

“If those in authority fail in their duty to take action against the perpetrators, then others will feel less compelled to act within the constraints of law and basic civilised norms of decency, if this or like incidents are repeated.

“The lack of positive action would appear to legitimise the actions of the journalists,” he added, lamenting that Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had failed to respond to a memorandum sent by the Catholic Lawyers’ Society protesting the outrage and received at his office by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Abu Seman.

Pakiam denied the inaction was related to the church’s suit on the “Allah” issue, which it finally won in the High Court on New Year’s Eve 2009.

In very strong language, Pakiam challenged the home minister to do his duty, but stopped short of saying the church would file another suit to review the A-G’s decision.

Pakiam appeared less than eager to push the legal path for justice. Instead, he said, he was “advocating greater understanding and foremost respect from all concerned”.

“We live in a multicultural, multi-religious community. There is a need to be respectful of each other’s beliefs, failing which we will lose sight of our own humanity and dignity, the very best of the 1 Malaysia concept,” Pakiam said.

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