KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 — A Cabinet minister today slammed the so-called Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy’s (Centhra) demand for the formulation of anti-evangelism laws, saying such a proposal is narrow-minded, and violates basic human rights on religious freedom.
Labelling the proposal as ignorant, minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low said the group must first understand that Malaysia is a multi-cultural society which recognises diversity, and the rights of religious beliefs and cultural practices.
“The Federal Constitution was made to protect the rights of various groups, including (the) rights of those who are in the minority groups,” Low who is in charge of governance, integrity and human rights, told Malay Mail Online.
“So, the call by this Centhra — note that they ironically call themselves a human rights centre—to prohibit the evangelical Christians, would violate the spirit of our Constitution with regards to freedom of worship, and most importantly, basic human rights.”
“So, I would say the proposal is myopic or narrow, and ignorant of the spirit of the Constitution, and also ignorant of the rights of others,” he added.
Malay daily Utusan Malaysia had published on Thursday an essay by Centhra chief executive Azril Mohd Amin, which called for “anti-evangelicalism laws” outlawing Christian evangelism in the country.
Azril claimed “evangelicalism”, which he described as having “exhibited new religious tendencies towards positivism, unfettered freedom and a tendency to uncontrolled openness”, was seriously threatening Malaysia’s religious harmony.
Evangelism in the Christian context is an activity that broadly refers to spreading its gospel.
Evangelicalism, on the other hand, is a movement born from the Protestant school with a specific core belief that is said to be different from mainstream Protestanism; one of them being the belief in “personal conversion”.
It has been alleged that evangelical churches are the most active and purportedly running a well-financed proselytisation campaign worldwide.
In arguing for “anti-evangelicalism laws”, Azril claimed evangelicalism is also opposed by followers of other Christian denominations.
Low however said that while Malaysia is a democratic country which allows freedom to think and express views, one must always be mindful of the need to respect the differing beliefs and culture.
“It is important for all sections of the society including those think tanks. Of course there are liberties to say and think what they like, but there is a need to respect the cultural differences because Malaysia’s harmony and peace rests on the respect of this relationship, which the government is continuing to try to nurture, to ensure that there is no disunity,” he added.
Low said that he would also be engaging with Centhra on a human rights basis, should the centre push for the implementation of such laws.