Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Interfaith council urges temples, churches to open doors to Bersih 4 rally goers

BY JENNIFER GOMEZ

Three Bersih supporters representing different races pose for a picture during a forum in Ipoh, Perak on August 19. The national interfaith council is appealing to non-Muslim places of worship in Kuala Lumpur to allow Bersih protesters seek shelter if needed during the weekend rally. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Seth Akmal, August 26, 2015.
Three Bersih supporters representing different races pose for a picture during a forum in Ipoh, Perak on August 19. The national interfaith council is appealing to non-Muslim places of worship in Kuala Lumpur to allow Bersih protesters seek shelter if needed during the weekend rally. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Seth Akmal, August 26, 2015. 


The national interfaith council will appeal to all places of worship in Kuala Lumpur to open their doors to Bersih 4 participants this weekend, despite Putrajaya's declaration that the two-day rally is illegal.
Throwing their support behind the Bersih 4 rally, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) said the rally was to demand the people's rights and not about going against the government.
MCCBCHST acting president Datuk R.S. Mohan Shan said this after three Catholic churches offered their grounds as "sanctuary" for the participants.
"We will request for the temples in the city area to open their doors for participants to rest and use the washrooms.
"This is a rally asking for rights, it's not about being against the government, so nothing wrong for places of worship to open their doors to them," Mohan told The Malaysian Insider.
In confirming that three Catholic churches will open their doors to rally goers, Kuala Lumpur Archbishop Julian Leow (pic, left) said a place of worship is not only a house of prayer but also a place of rest for the weary and needy.
"It is in this great spirit of compassion that the Catholic church has decided to allow St. John's Cathedral in Bukit Nanas, St. Anthony's Church in Pudu and Church of Our Lady of Fatima in Brickfields to be places of sanctuary during Bersih 4 rally," said Leow.
The archbishop said the Catholic church is not aligned to any political party, but added that in the month leading to Merdeka Day celebrations, Christians have been praying for the nation and its leaders.
The weekend rally is organised by electoral reforms coalition Bersih 2.0, and is called Bersih 4 as it is the fourth such public gathering in Malaysia.
The previous gatherings were only held in Kuala Lumpur, but this weekend's rally will also be held in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.
The rally in Kuala Lumpur is scheduled to last 34 hours from Saturday afternoon to demand for reforms in the election system, governance, freedom to protest, parliamentary democracy and the economy.
Lawyers and the police have been at odds over the rally's legality. While the authorities are not allowing it to proceed, constitutional lawyers say participants will not be flouting any laws as long as they assemble peacefully and avoid causing serious public disorder.
Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah had previously said that the Kuala Lumpur mayor had told Bersih 2.0 that no permission was needed, since the rally was not going to be held within Dataran Merdeka, the venue of the Merdeka celebrations.
She had also assured that Bersih 4 rally would not disrupt preparations for the celebrations and would instead gather in the vicinity on nearby streets around the square.
Yesterday, however, Home Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Alwi Ibrahim said Bersih 4 was causing uneasiness and worry among Malaysia's multi-racial citizens.
"The Home Ministry has investigated Bersih 4 and found that it is not a registered organisation.
"As such, the ministry is requesting the public not to attend the gathering on August 29 to 30 as it did not obtain the authorities' approval, and it is organised by the unregistered organisation," he said.
In response, Maria accused Putrajaya of trying to confuse the public by declaring the rally  an "illegal organisation".
She pointed out that Bersih 4, like its previous three other rallies, is an event.
"Bersih 4 is an event, how do you define it as illegal? I think they got it wrong. Are they saying we have to register with the government for every event we want to do?
"They are trying to confuse the situation," she told The Malaysian Insider.
On support for the event so far, Maria said that since the announcement of Bersih 4 and the appeal for donations, more than RM1.5 million has been collected.
"Due to the overwhelming support, we now have more than enough funds to cover the expenses of Bersih 4.
"We are overwhelmed by the support the rakyat have shown for Bersih 2.0’s calls and actions for reforms in Malaysia," said Maria, adding that the balance of funds will be used for efforts in electoral reforms. – August 26, 2015.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/interfaith-council-urges-temples-churches-to-open-doors-to-bersih-4-rally-g#sthash.eE2i12eD.dpuf

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