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Thursday, 25 September 2014

'Mediate religious conflicts instead of going to courts'





A Malaysian academician and activist has urged that religious conflicts and misunderstanding be settled through mediation rather than going to the courts or lodging “hundreds of police reports”.

Society for Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) secretary general Dr Denison Jayasooria said that both sides of the conflict could appoint a mediator to resolve the conflict, as it is done in some cases in the private sector.

“Why can’t two religious groups sit down and mediate?” he asked, urging that professional mediators be trained and also be neutral to both parties in an issue.

“It must be someone that the state appoints and approves, and the communities must trust them,” he told reporters after a public forum on ‘Should governments control religious affairs?’ organised by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) and Coalition on Plan of Action for Malaysia (GBM).

He said that sitting down to have mediation would show that both sides “want” the conflict to be resolved.

“You cannot have a period of unhappiness and a stalemate. You don’t want one party to feel like they’ve lost,” he added.

Religious tension in Malaysia has increased in Malaysia following the actions of some state religious departments, which included raids on temples and seizure of Bibles. There were several cases in courts involving child custody, marriages and claims of dead bodies of converts which came into the limelight in recent years and which has been a concern for many.

In January, 321 copies of Malay language Bibles were confiscated by religious authorities at the premises of the Bible Society of Malaysia. A Hindu wedding was interrupted in June as religious officials took in a 32-year old bride on suspicion that she is a Muslim.

He said that the high-handed approach by Islamic authorities is a “great embarrassment” to the religion itself, and urged that more dialogue be held between religious leaders of different faiths.

“Islamic leaders, not NGOs, must sit down with the bishops and other religious leaders. It doesn’t make you subservient to the other, it is only fair (to do so),” he said.

He said that the decisionmakers and the authorities in charge of Islamic affairs in this country should sit down with other religious leaders.

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