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Press Statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on Saturday, 9th January 2010:

Prayer and reconciliation sustainable alternatives for UMNOs politics of hate

The politics of hate and assault reared its head in Najibís 1Malaysia today. It marked a significant assault on diversity in the country and more importantly it demonstrated that after 52 years of nation building, we have failed to negotiate our differences.

Violence and intimidation has become the order of the day.

This is a shame.

The fire-bombing of the four Christian churches in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya amidst rising tensions over the High Court ruling allowing a Catholic weekly to use the word Allah to refer to God finally brings to the surface the institutionalized racial and religious intolerance in the country.

I strongly condemn these cowardly attacks on the churches which are totally unacceptable. These acts are despicable, shameful and certainly go against the very grains of Islam and all other faiths which teaches its followers to be respectful of other religions.

The early morning arson attacks are crafted to create fear among the people and also exert subtle pressure on the Court of Appeal to reverse the current decision.

We have felt the undercurrents of rising racial and religious intolerance over the last one decade. Instead of working towards an acceptable resolution, UMNO and BN had fanned further segregation and disunity for its own political agenda.

The infamous cow head rally and church burning are clearly strategies designed by UMNO to save itself from further becoming irrelevant to the people. But in this manoeuvring, the country has been divided down the middle and people are living in fear of possible racial clashes.

In this cunning manipulation by UMNO and BN, East Malaysia would become more alienated from West Malaysia as more than half of Malaysia's Catholics are from indigenous groups who mostly live in the Borneo island states and mainly speak Malay.

The row over the use of the word Allah is among a string of religious disputes that have strained relations between Malays and minority Chinese and Indians who fear rising Islamization in the country.

Therefore, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein must take responsibility for failing to prevent the arson attacks on the churches and creating a climate of fear that is threatening to ruin the racial fabric in the country even further.

I am making an urgent call to the Prime Minister to urgently convene an inter-faith meeting together with political parties and civil society to restore calm and alleviate fear and anxiety in the country. The meeting should formulate an acceptable strategy based on equal citizenship in resolving the current national crisis.

Furthermore, I urge Malaysians of all faiths and beliefs to - offer special prayers for peace in the nation at our respective places of worship and organise the inter-faith meetings and worship towards reconciliation - as a way to resist the politics of hate and assault.

* Charles Santiago, Selangor DAP Vice Chairman & MP for Klang



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