The Malaysian Insider reported earlier this morning that some 30 policemen and enforcement officers from the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) had barged unannounced and without a warrant into a multiracial dinner at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) here last night over an unspecified complaint.
But Shastri said he understands the raid was linked to attempts to preach to Malay Muslims about Christianity.
“Apparently there was a police report by Jais on proselytising to Malays,” he told The Malaysian Insider when contacted.
“The facts of what happened are yet unclear but the Council of Churches view with great concern this development and call on the government to take whatever action necessary to curb the power of Jais to just go into the religious places of other communities and conduct their investigations,” he added.
The vocal Christian slammed Jais for resorting to such high-handed action in conducting its investigations without first checking with the church leaders.
“This is unprecedented. Should the authorities have any concern, the courteous thing to do is to contact the church for clarification,” he said.
“Before [they] enter any place of worship, they should talk to the leader. They should not storm the church. Imagine how it would look if someone stormed a mosque,” he continued, saying Jais’ act was “totally unacceptable” when various groups were trying to build a harmonious community in line with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s unifying 1 Malaysia call.
Shastri, who is on the Cabinet’s Special Committee to Promote Harmony and Understanding Among Religious Adherents set up last year is expected to raise this issue to Putrajaya’s attention.
He co-chairs an interfaith subcommittee aimed at resolving peaceably disputes between Muslims and non-Muslims.
A DUMC pastor, Daniel Ho had told The Malaysian Insider last night that the church had hosted a thanksgiving dinner organised by a non-governmental organisation called Harapan Komuniti that was attended by between 100 and 120 guests of all races.
“This is a dinner for people to come in the 1 Malaysia spirit,” Ho said, adding they were mainly Christian although he admitted there were “there were about 15 or so Malays.”
On its website, Harapan Komuniti describes itself as a non-profit organisation that provides disaster relief and helps single mothers, children and AIDS patients regardless of race.
Ho said the authorities did not arrest anyone, but seized the function’s programme sheets and questioned the dinner organisers and guests.
“(They came in) on the pretext of a complaint and said somebody made a complaint,” said the pastor.
He pointed out, however, that the authorities did not explain what the complaint was.
Last night’s raid in the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state came after Malaysia sealed formal ties with the Vatican last month, seen as a high point in religious relations where Muslims are the majority.
Religious tensions heightened two years ago when the Home Ministry barred Christians from referring to their god as “Allah” in a Catholic newspaper.
In 2009, the High Court allowed the church to use the word, but the case is pending a Home Ministry appeal of the decision.
Several churches across the country fell victim to arson attempts in January last year following the ruling.
Christians, who form 9.2 per cent of Malaysia’s 28.3 million-strong population, were further outraged when the Home Ministry seized 35,100 Malay-language bibles.
The bibles were later released ahead of the Sarawak state election in April on condition that copies in Peninsular Malaysia be marked with a cross and the words “Christian ation”.