Hello World! Churches in Malaysia

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Malaysia’s religious demography is closely linked to its ethnic profile. The 60.2% of total population is Malay and Muslim. The remaining 40% of the total population consists of Hindus of Indian origin (6.3%), Buddhists of Chinese origins (19.2%) and Christians of indigenous groups (comprising of 9.1% of the total population) and the rest include Confucian, Taoism, Tribal and folk religions and some follow no faith. The non-Muslims can convert to Islam but the Muslims can not convert out of Islam. Considering this, the claims made by the fanatic groups in Malaysia involved in the series of carnage, attacking churches were absolutely fallacious that the Church was using the term “Allah” to convert the Muslims into Christianity. The truth is that the Malay translation of the Bible had used the term “Allah” for God for centuries, without anyone having any problems with it. In any case, there can be only one Supreme Divine Power, no matter by what name people choose to call this power, so this entire argument is absurd and smacks of political opportunism.

I call this political opportunism because there were signs that the right-wing ruling party there had lost popularity in some parts of Malaysia and hence, decided to resort to gain political mileage by fanning popular sentiments, at the cost of harming the communal fabric of the society. Indian readers of this page can easily relate this to the RSS ideology at home.

Even more serious is the statement made by the Malaysian Prime Minister during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, where he had the audacity to call this communal carnage in his country as “minor aberration” and called for a positive portrayal of Islam in collaboration with the Saudi King. It must be noted that the Saudi King has a dubious record in his own country to set straight and Saudi Arabia is in fact involved in exporting an orthodox, intolerant version of Islam to the world, which attempts to wipe out the more tolerant versions being practised outside the Arab world. Malaysian PM owes an apology to the world for this violence, he has to repair the damaged churches and rather than collaborating with the orthodox Saudi version, he has to align with the more tolerant versions of Islam being practised in other parts of the world. Without this, his statement is nothing but a political rhetoric, calculated to pay a servile lip service to the Saudi King.

For those who haven’t seen the churches in Malaysia, here is a visual feast, which shows how rich a tradition Malaysia has in church architecture which this dangerous political policy is trying to wipe out –

St. Paul’s Church in the World Heritage City of Malacca is one of the historical churches of Malaysia.

Above is the Church of Visitation, Seremban. The placard shows a verse from the Bible in Malay saying “Allah” for God (first line).

St. Francis Xavier, at Malacca, exterior with lighting and interior.

St. Anne’s Church in Penang is an old church built amidst picturesque surroundings. Below that, you can see its expanded modern portion.

Penang has some more styles of Church architecture. For example, St. Joseph’s Novitiate (above) is made out of bamboo poles in the indigenous architecture of Malaysia. On the other hand, Cathedral of Assumption shows European architecture (below St. Joseph’s above).

Kualalumpur, the Malaysian capital has this majestic Holy Rosary Cathedral (above), as also the St. John’s (below) and the St. Aloysious Mantin at Negeri Sambilan nearby (shown below St. John’s, below).

Below is the Metro tabernacle Church in the suburb of Kualalumpur, that was torched and badly damaged in the violent attacks and bombings.

11 Responses to “Hello World! Churches in Malaysia”
  1. rushda says:

    Archana, i see you have developed extremely strong opinions. only, in the world of international politics strong opinions will only lead to more conflicts. for the record, nearly 90% of the malays are muslims. since malaysia is a secluded island country, it never came to limelight. however, since the 1990s when the americans took over the oceans and built their bases their, they have only been promoting and fomenting socio-economic conflicts in the region. GWoT only strengthened their powers to unleash more social unrest in the region. malaysia systematically gets small returns for its mineral wealth and facilitation of trade. from being a once self-sufficient country, it is gradually becoming one of the weakest countries in asia.
    there is a reason why only the christian churches are being targeted. since bush declared the WoT, malaysia has been the worst hit. the crusades that bush was fighting is most visible in places like malaysia and indonesia. the tsunami brought to surface what was lost in the darkness. the attack on churches is a result of clash of fundamentalists from both sides.
    targeting malaysia for a hate campaign will not help. targeting india, china, the US, denmark …. it will just spread the social dissensions and fracture polity. malaysia is a symptom …. not a cause, not a root, and not even a source. somewhere we will have to learn to rise above all this.

  2. Archana says:

    Hi Rushda,
    Thanks for your response. Your data of Malaysia’s religious demography is not correct. Please check the exact demographic break-up of religions in Malaysia here – http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/malaysia/religion.htm.

    While you may be right about the impact of GWoT on the economic profile of the Asia-Pacific, I am not sure that this attack on the Churches is a direct reaction to the exploits of the “Christian Power” that the US is often perceived as. There is an almost certain link with the ruling party’s losing ground to the opposition Islamic party – this is reported not by the American media, but by the Arab News, which quotes an expert from the Malaysia University making this link. Please have a look – http://arabnews.com/?page=4&section=0&article=131046&d=12&m=1&y=2010. This is very similar kind of politics as played by our own very familiar RSS brigade in India.

    Moreover, I am not sure there have been fundamentalist Christian attacks on Muslims in Malaysia. Besides, there does seem to be a direct link between the growing orthodoxy in Malaysian Islam with Malaysia drifting closer to Saudi Arabia. But I do agree with your point that the growing economic failure of the country may have brought a feeling of insecurity amongst the Malay majority, who just happen to be Muslims in this case.

    I want to underscore here that it’s not my intention to target the Muslim community or Malaysia through this post. I am just trying to understand this incident from a socio-political perspective.

  3. John Burgess says:

    “Blame it on the West” is a much easier enterprise than stopping for self-examination. Even better, it never makes one feel bad about oneself.

  4. Archana says:

    Thanks, John for your comment.

    The Church in Malaysia has a real lesson which every other community should learn from them –


    I salute them!

  5. Arati says:

    Hi Archana, I can not agree more with you on your view that weak economic condition of a country is mostly responsible for the growth of extreme right groups in a country.

  6. Hilal Ahmad says:

    Dear archana, your concern for the mankind is laudable, I am impressed. One thing I will like to mention RSS in India can not be compared with the communal out break in Malaysia, it was an incident to get Political mileage. While RSS is an ideology of hatred and terror in India, I will call it a terror in the minds of all the minority community. There of shoots are Bajrang Dal and many other Senas active in the name of Region, Religion and lately Language. But they are not TERRORIST since they belong to MAJORITY community.

  7. सुयश says:

    हर देश में सत्ताधारी वर्ग सदियों से गरीबी, असमानता, शोषण आदि मुद्दों से ध्यान हटाने के लिए धर्म का इस्तेमाल करता आया है। मलेशिया में भी यही हो रहा है।

    चर्चों पर हमला करने वाले लोगों को भड़काने का काम वही लोग करते हैं जिन्हें अपने भ्रष्टाचार पर पर्दा डालने के लिए ऐसे धार्मिक मुद्दों की हमेशा तलाश रहती है।

  8. Archana says:

    Thanks Hilal,

    You are right that the RSS creates terror in India, but I think their intention is also to get political mileage for their political outfit – the BJP.

    You are right that political authority uses religion as a tool to divert the people’s attention away from the real issues such as economic crisis and social inequality.

  9. oby says:


    I think your report on Malaysia is well thought out and insightful. In fact I did not realize that Malaysia had such a strong history of religions besides Islam. The photos you have posted are not only beautiful but seem to speak silently to the fact that Christianity has a place in Malaysia and by the looks and care for the buildings one of consequence. Thanks so mcuh for sharing this perspective.

  10. Archana says:

    Hi Oby!
    Thanks for vsiting my page and for your comment. Yes. it is true that Malaysia has had a very composite and tolerant religious culture in history. Unfortunately, that seems to be getting marginalised now that Malaysia is moving more towards the orthodoxy of the Arab Islam.

  11. matthias says:

    i guest so do you

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