ASIA/MALAYSIA - Diplomatic relations with the Holy See get closer and closer: religious freedom and more rights for Christians

Kuala Lumpur (Agenzia Fides) - After this morning’s meeting between the Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak and Pope Benedict XVI "I expect we will soon officially announce relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Malaysia", says Fr. Lawrence Andrew, SJ to Fides, priest of Kuala Lumpur and Director of the Herald, the Catholic weekly of the Archdiocese of the capital. What leads to the establishment of diplomatic relations " is a journey that is being done , and it is very positive. Besides, the Malaysian government is one of the most democratic in Southeast Asia and, despite some problems, I see few obstacles", notes Fr Andrew. The delegation which arrived this morning at the Pope's summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, are the Malaysian Prime Minister and his wife, the ministers of Foreign Affairs and Industry, the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur His Exc. Mgr. Murphy Pakiam, and a religious Muslim leader from Malaysia, Tan Sri Dr! Abdul Shukor Husin, president of the National Council of Fatwa.
"Having a stable, Apostolic Nuncio in Kuala Lumpur, could have many positive effects on the Church and the entire Christian community in Malaysia", explains Fr. Andrew: " Communications between the Government and the Church will improve. Furthermore, it is for us Christians an opportunity to visibly become a big 'moral bank', that is to say a point of reference for morality, for the diffusion and protection of values, to fight corruption, abuse and other evil things that plague our national life ".
The Catholic Church in these days has also been criticized in Malaysia because promoting the meeting, according to some, "helps to restore the international image of the government of UMNO (United Malays National Organization), led by Najib Razak, today very weak" . Fr. Andrew, in this regard, says: "The intent is not this: the Church will continue to be herself, to proclaim the truth, to defend the fundamental values of human dignity and religious freedom: in this way we contribute to the development of the country ".
"The major issues that affect us - he continues - remain on the table: the use of the word Allah for non-Muslims; the free circulation of Bibles, the battle for the elimination of the death penalty; respect for freedom and respect for human rights, without any discrimination. On these issues, we will evaluate the concrete steps of the executive ", explains the Director of the Herald.
On the recent movements of civil society which crossed the country in recent days (see Fides 07/09/2011 and 8), the priest says: "The government and the police continue to intimidate people. Six activists are still in prison and there are various attempts to limit freedom. But the message sent to the government is clear: transparency and legality in the next elections, which must truly be free and democratic. A request that unites Christians, Muslims and believers of other religions ".
In Malaysia, 60% of the population are Muslims, Buddhists are about 20%, Christians 10% (including about a million Catholics), Hindus 6.3%, and there are also minorities of Taoists, Confucian and followers of traditional religions. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 18/07/2011)

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