Chairman of Lajnah Dakwah PAS Central visits Bishop Bernard Paul

The Chairman of Lajnah Dakwah PAS Central, YB Nik Mohamad Abduh bin Nik Abdul Aziz and his delegates visited MAJODI Centre, Plentong on the 21st. August, 2017. They were warmly received by the Bishop of Malacca Johore Diocese, His Lordship Bishop Bernard Paul, Vicar General 2 Monsignor Michael Mannayagam, the Taoist representative, Mr Tan Yong Seng as Vice-Chairman of MCCBCHST (Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism),  Reverend Fr Thomas George from Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Johor Bahru as Secretary of MCCBCHST, Reverend Fr Edward Rayappan as the Parish Priest of Sacred Heart Cathedral and Director of the Diocesan Ministry for Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs, Reverend Fr Moses Lui as the Parish Priest of the Church of Immaculate Conception and Head of Biblical Apostolate,  Reverend Fr Adrian Francis Matthews as the Head of Liturgical Commission of the Malacca Johore Diocese, several heads, staff and representatives of the Malacca Johore Diocese apostolates and ministries and invited representatives of NGOs.  This event marked the inaugural meeting between the PAS political leaders and the Malacca Johore Diocese under the leadership of Bishop Bernard Paul.

PAS Visit YB Nik Abduh commenced the dialogue session by introducing his delegation and explained the misunderstanding regarding the PAS party using religion for political gain. When explaining the objectives of Lajnah Dakwah PAS Central, he added politics cannot be a heated subject when religion is directed towards the citizens' welfare and rejects conflicts caused by political differences amongst the Muslim community through awareness. At the same time building relationships between PAS and the non-Muslim community.

YB Nik Abduh quoted a Quranic verse Surah Al-Maidah 5:82 to explain the main intention of their visit to MAJODI Centre as a beginning.

“you will find the nearest in love to the believers those who say: “We are Christians.”

Bishop Bernard Paul introduced the invitees representing the Diocese, the representatives of MCCBCHST, the history and formation of MAJODI Centre and demographical facts of the diocese. Bishop Bernard mentioned that there was no official agenda for the diocesan meeting with PAS. Nevertheless, the dialogue was held as an introduction to learning about PAS intimately.

Reverend Fr Edward Rayappan introduced Shaykh Imran Angullia, who is actively in dialogue with the diocese through Hidayah Centre Johor.

While there are differing doctrines between Islam and Christianity regarding Jesus (Isa), Hj. Hussin Ismail, the Permanent Chairman of PAS Central iterated that a Muslim is not regarded a faithful if he does not place Jesus in the highest position of honour. In fact, all of mankind awaits Jesus' return. He shared the belief that Prophet Zulkifli has similarities with the Buddha from his experiences in Nepal.

PAS Visit During the session on the exchange of views by both sides, many issues were raised. From the issue on religious unity, to legal issues till political issues were voiced. Clearly, these are the concerns of the non-Muslim citizens of Malaysia.

On the issue of Act355 (RUU355) Calvin Ohsey, a staff from the Diocesan Ministry of Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs questioned PAS' action in raising the said issue till the hudud polemic drowned many other primary issues and the position of the non-Muslim community under the Syariah law.

In answer to the question, YB Nik Abduh assured all present that the Syariah Court Act (Criminal Jurisdiction) 1965 - Act 355 is applicable to Muslims only. He reiterated the issue is related to the Enactment of Syariah Criminal Code 1993 amended in 2015 but not implemented subject to Act 355. To enable the implementation of the Enactment in Kelantan, Act 355 has to be amended according to the democratic process in the House of Representatives (Dewan Rakyat).

Commenting on the Act 355 said to open the way to fully implement hudud laws, YB Nik Abduh said Act 355 was intended to bolster Syariah laws. He stated the aspects of civil laws encompassed Syariah laws. Observing the circumstances in Malaysia, clearly Act 355 is not hudud and hudud cannot be fully implemented without the agreement of Malaysian citizens, in general.

Sr Susan Dulang SSFS as Head of the Diocesan Bahasa Malaysia Ministry voiced her regarding the issue of seized Bibles, the issue of using the term "Allah" and other religious restrictions on the Christian faithful and asked PAS to state its stand.

In reply to Sr Susan, YB Nik Abduh mentioned that Islam does not forbid the Christian faithful from using "Allah" and all related issues originate from the irregularities in implementing Islamic law. The Islamic religion forbids such intolerant actions. He promised Sr Susan he will look into the matter with the government, if the opportunity arises.

S. Jeyakumar, a lawyer and Chairman of the Catholic Lawyers Guild questioned the PAS representatives regarding their political cooperation with UMNO, the PAS crisis in Selangor, Pakatan Harapan (PH) and PAS' stand in facing GE14.

YB Nik Abduh mentioned that cooperation with UMNO is only related to empowering Islam whilst at the same time they are firmly against UMNO on many issues. Regarding the PAS  crisis in Selangor, it is the personal effort of YB Datuk Seri Azmin Ali. After PAS' aspiration was rejected by PH, PAS formed a 3rd block known as Gagasan Sejahtera  that includes Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia (IKATAN) and several other parties.

Fr. Thomas George asked regarding the Law Reform (Marriage & Divorce) Act 1976 (Act 164). YB Nik Abduh emphasized PAS' firm stand to bring all stakeholders; namely the government both the ruling and opposition politicians including eminent religious scholars for discussions before tabling the amendment in parliament as the matter is complicated because it involves religion and children’s custody rights. When the Act164 amendment was brought before Parliament, PAS objected because it contradicted Section 88A and opposed the Federal Constitution regarding Islam.

There are 4 types of dialogues espoused by the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue that are being achieved through these engagements.

PAS Visit The Dialogue of Life whereby the multi-faith community are able to live openly and harmoniously.  Dialogue in action where Christians and adherents of other faiths cooperate in human development. Dialogue through theological engagement where religious scholars and even the general faithful debate to deepen their understanding of each other's faith. Dialogue of religious experience where individuals and even segments of society confident n their faith are present to share in the rich traditions and spirituality of other faiths.

In concluding the 2-hour long dialogue session between the Lajnah Dakwah delegation from PAS Central and the Malacca Johore Diocesan delegation, Bishop Bernard Paul stated that the role of leaders of political parties and religious leaders are vital in ensuring the prosperity and harmony of society is preserved. On an appreciative note, he said, "We must and always check to ensure that our loyalty is to one law only that is the law of love, the law of our Lord God. Religion when practiced well, benefits everyone, protects the rights of the minorities, builds bridges and includes all; and we enjoy blessings from our Lord God."