In the early morning hours of Jan. 9, the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Malaysia was attacked. A firebomb was thrown at the church, but it fortunately bounced off a window and just scorched the outside wall.
This was the fourth attack on a Christian church in Malaysia following a High Court decision on the use of the word “Allah” by Christians. The Catholic Church had for years used “Allah” in reference to God in its publications in the Malay language. But this usage had been banned two years ago by the government. But, on Dec. 31, 2009, the court ruled that the Christians could indeed use the name “Allah.” Both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars, theologians, historians and academicians have generally spoken in support of the fact that the word “Allah” is not used exclusively by Muslims.
Despite these acts of violence by just a few extremists and in the face of further possible attacks, Christians from all traditions returned to their respective churches for worship and prayer. Among the Lutheran churches, worship attendance was as usual. Bishop Philip Lok of the Lutheran Church in Malaysia said: “I must thank all our members for their courage to gather for worship as we have done in the past. We must never bow down to such hateful intimidations and allow fear to disrupt our Christian way of life.”
Meanwhile, further waves of attacks prompted churches, political parties and civil societies to come together in order to find a solution to prevent the country from spiraling further downward. One such meeting was hosted by the Lutheran church.
Bishop Lok writes: “The Lutheran Church in Malaysia, together with other Malaysian churches, humbly requests our sisters and brothers from the world-wide Lutheran Communion, to remember us and our nation in your prayers. Please intercede that the Prince of Peace will pour out his peace upon Malaysia and her people in these difficult times. Say a prayer for the safety of Christians in our country. Pray that God’s children will confront hatred with the love of Christ.”
Y. Franklin Ishida
Director for Asia and the Pacific, ELCA Global Mission