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Wednesday March 23, 2011

New stamp for Bible copies

Full text of the statement by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Senator Datuk Seri Idris Jala is below:

PETALING JAYA: The 35,100 impounded Bahasa Malaysia Bibles will be released without the need to be numbered, but will be stamped “For Christianity”, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala.

"The focus should be in getting the Bibles into the hands of people who want to read them"- DATUK SERI IDRIS JALA

The announcement is a major move as the Home Ministry had earlier used the stamp “For Christians Only” on copies of the Bible held at Port Klang and Kuching.

Church groups had protested against the decision, saying it would be unconstitutional and deprive people of other faiths from reading the Bible.

“The Government has agreed to issue a directive so that future Bibles in Bahasa can be brought in, as long as they have the words “For Christianity,” Jala added in a statement yesterday.

He said copies of the Bible were not being singled out and that imported copies of the Quran were also checked to see if they were authorised copies and stamped with serial numbers before they were released.

The minister, who is a Christian, said the Government urged Christian groups to collect copies of the Bible at the ports.

“The focus should be in getting the Bibles into the hands of people who want to read them,” he said.

Jala added that the groups could choose to put a sticker “For Christianity” over the serial number and the stamp “For Christians Only” in the impounded copies of the Bible, and the impound costs would be paid by Christian sponsors.

Alternatively, Christian sponsors would pay for the import of new copies with the words “For Christianity” printed at the source, he said.

“This is a fair and reasonable solution from the Government and with the help of Christian donors, all 35,100 copies are to be released at no cost to the importers,” he said.

According to the statement, a special Cabinet committee had met on March 17 to find a solution to the matter, taking into account the polarity of views between Christians and Muslims.

Jala said he and the Attorney-General had met with Christian groups the following day to present the proposed solution, adding that the Government wanted to resolve the issue amicably in line with the spirit of 1Malaysia.

On his role in helping to sort out the matter, Jala said he was requested to discuss with the Christian groups in his capacity as Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (not as CEO of Pemandu), as a Christian and more importantly as the only Cabinet minister who was not a member of any political party.

THE following is the full press statement by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Senator Datuk Seri Idris Jala on the Bahasa Malaysia Bible issue:

The Government wishes to reiterate that, since March 15, it had given the directive to release all Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia which had been impounded in Port Klang and Kuching.

However, to date, the Christian groups who imported the Bibles have yet to collect them because they do not accept the stamps and the serialisation on these Bibles.

Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein mentioned that the act of stamping and serialisation was standard protocol.

For example, Qurans imported into the country are also checked to ensure they are authorised, and are stamped with serial numbers before they are released.

Qurans which are not authorised are impounded and destroyed.

The act of stamping and serialisation of the Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia and the Qurans should not be perceived as desecration of holy scriptures.

A special Cabinet committee on this matter comprising the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Home Minister, Unity Minister, Minister in the PM's Department

(Law and Parliamentary Affairs), Religious Affairs Minister and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department/CEO of Pemandu and the Attorney-General (AG) met on March 17 to discuss the issues at hand and find a fair and amicable solution.

The solution should take into account the polarity of views between the Christians and Muslims within the context of the existing laws of the country.

Subsequently, on March 18, Jala and Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, the Attorney-General, met with representatives from the Christian Federation of Malaysia, the Council of Churches of Malaysia, and other relevant Christian groups together with their legal advisors.

At this meeting, Jala said: “AG and I presented on behalf of the Government what we believe is a workable solution for all parties.”

The solution put forward by the Government is as follows:

> The BM Bibles currently impounded in Kuching and Port Klang will be released with the words “For Christianity” stamped clearly in Arial font, size 16, in bold. No other words or serial numbers will be stamped on the Bibles.

> To ensure that there is no misrepresentation in its implementation by civil servants, the Government will issue a directive from the director-general of the Home Ministry.

As with all similar directives, failure to comply with this directive will subject the relevant officers to disciplinary action under the General Orders.

> To highlight the Government's commitment to resolving this issue amicably, the Government has received an offer from Christian donors

who are prepared to pay for the cost of all the Bibles that have already been stamped and serialised.

These BM Bibles can either be released in their present state (with stamps and serial numbers) or arrangements can be made to put stickers with the words “For Christianity” to cover the existing stamps and serial numbers. The choice is for the importers of these Bibles.

In the event they do not wish to take possession of these impounded Bibles in the present state, the Christian donors will pay for the full cost of new Bibles to be brought in with the words “For Christianity” printed at source or stamped with these words “For Christianity” by the Home Ministry at Port Klang and Kuching.

At the end of this meeting, the representatives from Christian groups requested time to meet and discuss, and have advised the Government that they would revert on their decision as soon as practicable.

Jala said: “In presenting the above solution, the AG and I have been authorised by the Prime Minister and the special Cabinet committee to convey the Government's proposed solutions to the Christian groups.”

He further clarified: “I was requested to discuss this matter with the Christian groups in my capacity as Minister in the PM's Department (not as CEO of Pemandu), as a Christian

and, more importantly, as the only Cabinet minister who is not a member of any political party.

“The Government wants this matter to be resolved amicably in a non-partisan manner and in line with the spirit of 1Malaysia. The AG's involvement is obviously necessary because we have to ensure that the solution must be in the context of the existing laws of the country.”

The Government urges the Christian groups to collect the Bibles immediately for three reasons:

> The focus should be on getting the Bibles into the hands of people who want to read them; it has been established that the Home Ministry is not singling out the Bibles

for stamping and serialisation because this is also the same practice as they appear in the Quran.

> Notwithstanding (1) above, an arrangement has been made by the Government with the help of Christian donors to pay for the cost of all 30,000 impounded Bibles in Kuching and the 5,100 Bibles in Port Klang.

The importer can take these Bibles completely free of charge. If the Christian groups do not wish to take the Bibles, then the Christian donors have agreed to pay for the cost of bringing in new Bibles as replacement and these will be printed or stamped with the words “For Christianity”.

> The Government has agreed to issue a directive so that future Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia can be brought in as long as these have the words “For Christianity” in Arial font, size 16 either printed at source or stamped at the receiving port.

Finally, Jala said: “This is a fair and reasonable solution from the Government and with the help of Christian donors, all 35,100 Bibles are to be released completely free of charge at no cost at all to the importers.

“In addition, by virtue of the Government directive, there is an assurance from the Government that future Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia can be imported and released with the words For Christianity'.” Bernama

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