Church besieged after false rumours about Muslim baptisms

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – A Muslim protest outside the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Ipoh, 220km north of Kuala Lumpur, luckily ended without any harm done. The protest was prompted by false rumours about a baptism ceremony of a group of Muslims.

Yesterday, as a first Holy Communion service for 110 Catholic children was under way, 300 Muslims mounted a protest outside the church, instigated by SMS messages claiming that a group of Muslims was to be baptized there.

Despite the tense situation outside the church compound, the congregation of about 1,000 parishioners continued with the service, having been advised not to leave the church until the protesters had left.

Perak State police chief, Datuk Abdul Aziz Bulat, who was at the scene, advised protesters not to believe rumours, especially those transmitted through SMS. “Contrary to what the SMS claimed, no such thing took place at the church and I have directed my men to investigate and trace the source of this malicious text message and its sender,” he told a media conference.

The protesters dispersed after about two hours, during which Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) troops arrived in four trucks and a water cannon truck and formed a barricade between the protesters and the church. Aziz said the crowd comprised members of a political party and some curious onlookers. The police chief also said officers from the Perak State Religious Affairs Department were at the scene to assist and explain to the crowd that the SMS was sent by provocateurs.

Policemen were anyhow stationed in the vicinity to ensure there would be no more such protests.

The National News Agency, Bernama, quoted the Perak Religious Affairs Department director, Datuk Jamry Sury, as saying that he would have the case investigated and take action against the culprits who spread the rumour.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop Emeritus of Kuala Lumpur, Anthony Soter Fernandez, told AsiaNews: “It is not the nature of the Catholic Church to indiscriminately baptize any person. Any adult seeking baptism has to first undergo a long period of examination and faith education.”

Mgr Fernandez, who now lectures at the General Seminary in Penang, said the onus was on any adult who wished to know more about the Catholic faith to sort out all impediments before seeking such instruction. He reiterated that the Catholic Church in Malaysia had never conducted clandestine baptisms of Muslims.