By Worthy News Asia Service with Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA (Worthy News)-- Worshipers of a Pentecostal church that was burned by suspected Islamic arsonists in a suburb of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur have forgiven those who destroyed their building, a senior pastor said Sunday, January 10.
Several other churches and Christian buildings have also been attacked in and around Kuala Lumpur, following a controversial court ruling allowing non-Muslims to use the word "Allah" for God, in this predominantly Islamic nation.
Pastor Ong Sek Lang said his congregation does not condone violent acts by Muslims to make their opinion heard, but "would forgive" those responsible. There are 333 Assembly of God churches in Malaysia, according to 2007 statistics.
"There are witness reports two persons on a motorbike came near the entrance and hurled in something looking like a petrol bomb. Our church is 90 percent gutted (on the first floor)," said church spokesman Kevin Ang from the Metro Tabernacle Assembly of God.
The violence broke out after The Catholic newspaper The Herald, which has been using Allah in its Bahasa Malaysia publication since 1995, successfully asked a court tooverturn a government-ban on the use of that word by religious minorities.
The Arabic word is often used by Christians to describe God in countries such as Egypt, Syria and Indonesia -- the world's largest Islamic nation -- but in Malaysia Muslim leaders have accused Christians of using the term 'Allah' to convert Muslims.
Church observers said the December 31 court ruling could also impact the shipment of Malay-language Bibles, 10,000 copies of which were recently seized by authorities because they translated God as Allah.
The government has appealed the verdict.Despite the violence, thousands of Christians attended church services nationwide.Reporters saw men, women and children from the Metro Tabernacle parish assembled Sunday in a huge 1,800-seat meeting hall of the Malaysian Chinese Association party for the service.
They lifted their hands and sang "We put all our faith in you," and "You are the God of love and peace."Government leaders and many Muslims have condemned the firebombings, saying it is un-Islamic to attack places of worship.
Prime Minister Najib Razak, who visited the Metro Tabernacle church this weekend, announced a grant of 500,000 ringgit ($147,000) for rebuilding it at a new location, news reports said.The move is seen as a major concession in a country where permission is rarely given for building new churches or temples.