Christian Group Tells Ministry to Build Bridges, Not Walls

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The Education Ministry should retract its warning to the Methodist Girls’ School (MGS) in George Town, now that it has emerged that the controversy involved a speech calling for unity among students, said the Council of Churches Malaysia general secretary.

Reverend Hermen Shastri told The Malaysian Insight that the ministry should build “bridges” instead of “walls” and understand the facts fully before threatening action.

“The education minister, along with the whole cabinet, should retract their warning, and be seen as bridge builders rather than wall builders.

“Before the ministry threatens action against the school for reciting prayers, it should provide the public with the facts on what actually took place at MGS,” he said in response to Director-General of Education Dr Amin Senin’s handling of the matter.

On Friday, a Penang man lodged a police report, saying a Christian prayer was recited at the school, where most students are Muslims.

Muhsin Abdul Latheef also said the prayer was an attempt by the school to “Christianise” its Muslim students.

Amin issued a statement on Sunday, warning MGS that it has flouted ministry guidelines on protocols at mission schools, and that further disciplinary action will be considered against the school authorities.

Shastri questioned the government’s right to decide whether prayers of religions other than Islam should be allowed.

“Since when was the government endowed with the right to decide which prayer of any religion is official?

TMI

“Even if Islam is accorded an official place, it does not necessarily preclude other religions from saying prayers at official functions that are connected to their religious institutions.

“Prayers by different religious groups at special functions have shown the openness and tolerance of Malaysians… This will now be in jeopardy because of the narrow-mindedness of some to score political points.

“Let the people pray always for the well-being of the nation and society. Does it matter who says the prayer?”

The prayer at MGS was actually a speech on unity given by a Christian member of the school board, said Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy, who is also in charge of the state education portfolio.

He told a press conference yesterday that he was informed by the school authorities that the theme of unity was chosen for the event, a prize-giving ceremony, because students had been dealing with racial issues.

“On that day, there had been no prayers recited at all. What they had was only a speech on unity, which the school administration and board had planned.”

Two speeches were assigned to speakers: one to a Christian member of the school board, and the other to a Muslim member.

However, the Muslim member had not prepared a speech, and only the speech by the Christian member was delivered, said Ramasamy.

The school board also decided against reciting any prayer at the event.

Ramasamy said the school authorities were later surprised to find out that police reports had been lodged. It was reported that a total of 10 reports were filed.

Police have opened investigations into the matter and questioned a few people.

MGS, also called SK Perempuan Methodist, was established by Methodist missionaries in 1891.

Like other mission schools in the country, it was taken over by the government in the 1970s. Teachers are considered civil servants, whose appointments and deployments are determined by the Teachers’ Service Commission.

Amin’s warning for breaching regulations on protocols is based on a 2016 circular, which, in turn, is based on a 1977 directive on how activities at mission schools should be conducted, whereby Christian prayers are to be recited only by pupils and teachers of the faith during school events and assemblies.

Some Muslim parents have said they plan to transfer their children out of MGS next year. – TMI