The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship in Malaysia is calling upon believers to pray and fast for their country following the recent spate of attacks on churches of various denominations, including Pentecostal, Evangelical, Anglican, Catholic and Lutheran.
To date, the Malaysian evangelical body has revealed the names of 11 churches that were either vandalized or attacked with fire bombs since last month’s landmark ruling on the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims.
Though NECF reported that the Christian community is “jittery” following the attacks, it said there is also “an air of peace and tranquility as Christians look to God who is sovereign over all.”
“In the midst, Christians have continued to exercise love and have not over-reacted. Much good have come out of these events too. The entire Christian community has become more united,” reported church body affiliated with the World Evangelical Alliance.
On Dec. 31, 2009, two years after a lawsuit was filed against the government over its “Allah” ban, Supreme Court Judge Datuk Lau Bee Lan declared that the word “Allah” is not exclusive to Islam and that the government’s Home Ministry is “not empowered” to ban non-Muslims from using the word.
Christians in Malaysia have the constitutional right to use the word “Allah” to refer to God, she concluded following the hearing on the case last month.
While Christians in the country hailed the judge’s decision as a victory for freedom of religion in the Muslim-majority country, Muslim activists, including the National Union of Malaysian Muslim Students, immediately urged the government to take the case to the Appeals Court.
Those opposed to Lau’s ruling argue that Christian missionaries using the word Allah could trick Muslims into leaving their faith and that “heresy arises from words wrongly used.”
“Allah is only for us,” read posters carried by demonstrators earlier this month outside a mosque in Kuala Lumpur.
''We will not allow the word Allah to be inscribed in your churches,'' one demonstrator shouted through a loudspeaker, according to The Associated Press.
Despite the tension and the attacks that emerged following the ruling, the NECF said there was more good than bad that came out over the past month, including greater unity between Bahasa Malaysia-speaking congregations – who use “Allah” to refer to God – and congregations of other language groups.
“Church[es] across denominational lines ha[ve] come to know more of this issue and have a better understanding of the plight of our Bahasa Malaysia-speaking brethren. They have learned to stand with these brethren,” NECF reported. “In turn, the brethren from the Bahasa Malaysia speaking churches have begun to appreciate those from other language groups. The events have also resulted in more fervent prayer as we realize we are not struggling against flesh and blood but principalities and power. All these will only compel us to become a stronger community and a more matured nation.”
In light of the recent events in Malaysia, the NECF is calling on Christians to set aside time to fast and pray for their nation, specifically pointing out seven prayer topics.
The prayer topics include praying that the recent attacks will abate and not spread to other communities, praying that Malaysian Christians and the public in general will exercise patience and restraint as authorities investigate the attacks, and praying for a resolution to the “Allah” issue as the government earlier this week filed an appeal against last month’s ruling.
“Pray that the events will lead to unprecedented spiritual openness among the Malaysian population,” NECF added.
“Pray for the Church to be free from all confusion, speculation and manipulation; that she may know His will to pray effectively.”
According to the CIA World Factbook, 60.4 percent of Malaysia's 25.7 million people ascribe to Islam. Around 19.2 percent, meanwhile, is Buddhist, and 9.1 percent is Christian.
In general, Muslims enjoy special privileges in Malaysia as Islam is the dominant religion.