Church groups speak up on politics

(The Malaysian Insider) KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 26 — When the provocative cow's head protest took place last month, the Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) was among the first to issue a statement of condemnation.

When opposition aide Teoh Beng Hock died during a graft investigation in July, the CCM's youth section came out with a strongly-worded statement.

And when Perak descended into political chaos after the Barisan Nasional toppled the Pakatan Rakyat government in February, council members joined the chorus calling for fresh state elections.

These are not “Christian” issues, but the CCM — an organisation of the mainstream Protestant churches — considers them as issues of social responsibility.

It is not the only church body that has become socially conscious and vocal. The Catholic church has long been active in such issues.

“I think it augurs well for moral responsibility. This is a responsibility of our faith,” said Reverend Hermen Shastri, secretary-general of the CCM.

Christians make up about 9 per cent to 10 per cent of Malaysia's 27 million people.

Their active political voice adds a new dimension to a political landscape which already has many players. Political parties are the most active, but civil liberties groups and bloggers have emerged as another force.

However, until recently, non-Muslim religious groups have rarely been active in political activism other than a few Catholic churches.

“This will definitely have an impact on politics. We may describe the activism as activities by churches, but churches are made up of members, and voters,” said political analyst Khoo Kay Peng.

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