Pastor of Malaysian church in cross protest forgives protesters, will wait for 'enlightenment'

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The congregation of Taman Medan church, in Malaysia's Selangor state, will wait for "divine enlightenment" before deciding whether to put up their cross on the shoplot facade.

"Are we going to put up the cross again? Right now, the answer is simple. We are waiting for the Lord to direct us on what we should do next," said senior pastor Paul Packianathan outside the church on Sunday morning.

The Selangor government had given the greenlight to the church to put back the cross on the shoplot facade. The cross was taken down after a group of residents protested outside the church last Sunday.

The teary-eyed pastor choked on his words slightly as he thanked all Malaysians for their outpouring of support, on behalf of the Taman Medan church community.

"I pray Malaysia will go back to the glorious days when things were peaceful, like in the 60s and 70s," he said.

He also voiced full support for pastor Victoria Selammal's decision to agree to take down the cross last week.

"I applaud her composure and for keeping the Sunday service going then," he said.

Stating that the message of the cross is one forgiveness, Pastor Packianathan said that they had forgiven the protesters that made a stir last Sunday.

"We forgive them, no problem. If they were here, I'd hug them," he said, grinning.

He thanked Prime Minister Najib Razak for making a stand, and Selangor Mentri Besar Azmin Ali for his assurances of support.

Pastor Packianathan condemned the circulation of pictures of Datuk Abdullah Abu Bakar, brother of the Inspector-General of Police, showing him in a casino, saying it was "pure character assassination".

He said Datuk Abdullah was not described in the police report as an angry presence at the protest. Mr Abdullah has said he had acted as an intermediary between the protesters and the church.

He also rubbished reports that claimed the church was only two days old and had only 15 members in the congregation.

Social activist Azrul Mohd Khalib, who came with 15 other members of Malaysians for Malaysia, presented flowers to the pastors and the church congregation in a show of solidarity and support for the community.

"We feel for you in this trying time. We believe in freedom of religion, it's enshrined in the Federal Constitution. We should be able to worship in the way we want.

"Honestly speaking, we are all brothers and sisters," he added.