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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Islamic Government Providing Land for Christian Church?

I found this interesting story from the latest entry on Messy Christian's blog. It seems the State government of Terengganu, a predominantly Islamic state, is going to consider issuing a parcel of land for the Anglican Church to build a Church building. What is interesting about this is that the State of Terengganu is very staunchly Islamic, one that, for instance, have their weekly day of rest on Friday to coincide with the Muslim day of corporate worship. This has forced some Christian churches to hold their weekly services also on Friday, while others to have their weekly corporate worship services on Sunday evenings. I alluded to this state of affairs in a recent post about the Sabbath.

Apparently, there are only nine churches in Kuala Terengganu, the capital of the state, and none of those churches have their own purpose-built buildings. They meet on the second or third floor of "shophouses," and although the Anglican church has applied for land over the past half a century, it has been turned down, the government citing various reasons for doing so. It is interesting that the government is going to look into the matter and at least consider the application.

If the government were to give the church the land, it would not have been the first time that an Islamic government in Malaysia have been involved in assisting the building of churches in Malaysia.

In 1980, as I was traveling in Sarawak on a short term mission trip, I was intrigued by the observation that at every longhouse village up and down the Miri River, there was one new building, usually brightly painted, and located prominently in the middle of the village. It was noticeable that these buildings were the local church building, so I made a comment to my host that I noticed the church buildings in every single village was the largest, newest and most well kept building of the village. My host's comments to me were enlightening: "Oh, that is because in the last elections, when the government was soliciting for their votes, they asked them what was the most critical needs of the community, and promised to build new hospitals, schools or even roads. But all they requested for were new church buildings. So, after the election, the government (which is Islamic), kept their promises and built them all new churches."


I wonder what would happen if this happens here in the US? Would the ACLU cry foul? And, what would happen if the government were to assist in building Buddhist temples and other religious houses on worship based on the same reasons? Would Christians decry the subversion of the gospel by our governmental leaders? (Think about Bush's faith-based programs and how Christians react to stories of the program benefiting organizations not particularly "Christian").