Malaysian Catholics win battle for new church

KUALA LUMPUR - After a decade-long struggle to build a church in a mostly Muslim state, Malaysian Roman Catholics have been offered a new site to avert a courtroom showdown, a leader of the community said on Friday.

The offer came on Thursday, minutes before a court in Selangor state's capital, Shah Alam, was to hear a challenge to a government decision to revoke the approval of an earlier site.

It is the third time Selangor has changed its mind about the location of the church, which would serve the area's 3,000-5,000 Catholics.

Last year Selangor's new chief minister declared Shah Alam -- 30 kms (19 miles) south of the capital Kuala Lumpur -- a "Malay city." About 70 percent of the city's 400,000 people are Muslims.

Church building committee chairman J.V. Rao told Reuters Catholics were likely to accept the new site if Selangor agreed to certain conditions.

"They will have to make sure the land is given to us first, along with the approval to build the church," he said.

The two sides have until December 7 to make a deal.

Unlike the previous site, the land offered this time is serviced by all the necessary amenities, said Rao.

The state has also reimbursed the church for its building costs to date, he added. The church had spent 50,000 ringgit ($13,158) preparing a site before the state's December decision to change locations.

Christian's make up around six percent of Malaysia's 23 million people.