A ripple in the stream
By Debbie Mitchell
The Herald, 16 Feb. 2014
On Sunday morning, January 26, as parishioners of the Church of St John Britto, (one of the four Churches that make up the City Parish), prepared for Mass at 8 am, they noticed a banner with the words Allah is Great and Jesus is the Son of Allah on the fence. It was promptly taken down and a police report was lodged immediately.
At 8.40am, that same morning another similar banner was found by parishioners who arrived early for the morning Mass at the second oldest Catholic Church in Malaysia, the Assumption Church. The banner was taken down and a police report was also lodged.
The incidents were promptly dealt with so it was somewhat daunting to learn that at 1.30am on Monday morning, two molotov cocktails were thrown into the compound of the Assumption Church. One exploded near the Shrine of Our Lady while the other did not explode but burnt the grass surrounding it. The parish priest, Fr Dominic Santhiyagu, together with the Parish Supervisor, were called by the security guard, and the police were alerted to the situation. An investigation was launched to seek out the people who were carrying out these acts of mischief.
At 2.00pm on Monday, January 27, a press conference was called by the Chief Minister of Penang, Yang Amat Berhormat Lim Guan Eng, who stated that “The Penang state government will neither bow down nor provoke retaliatory acts against religious extremists and racial bigots now laying siege to Penang but unite all to defeat their violence and hatred with the weapons of social justice and sustainable development.” Together with Fr Dominic Santhiyagu, Yang Amat Berhormat Lim Guan Eng called for everyone to stay calm and united against these racists and extremists.
On January 29, Bishop Sebastian Francis of Penang met up with Fr Dominic, to present his press statement on the Diocesan Stand on the issue. In his statement, he quoted Pope John Paul II, “There is no peace without justice and there is no justice without forgiveness.” Bishop Sebastian went on to state, “In the light of the incidents of various Churches in Penang Island and Butterworth, especially at the Church of the Assumption, I send greetings of Peace, Justice and Forgiveness to the people of God and brothers and sisters in Christ. I thank all the people of God, of all races and religions together with the political leaders, the media and all people of goodwill from Malaysia and elsewhere who have expressed genuine concern in various ways.
“Last but not least, I invite people of all faiths and the Church to stand firm and endure in times of trials as has been our tradition.”
On Sunday, February 2 (3rd Day of Chinese New Year), as part of a joint consolidation effort, YAB Lim Guan Eng, the Chief Minister of Penang, visited the Church of the Assumption and stayed for Mass.
A Chinese New Year fellowship followed the Mass with a spread of sandwiches and local savouries, for all who came for the morning Mass.
In spite of the spotlight on City Parish in the aftermath of the banners and molotov cocktails, the Parish, under the able leadership of Fr Dominic Santhiyagu and the support of Bishop Sebastian Francis of the Diocese of Penang, continues to move ahead in its work in the community, unfazed by the ripple in the stream.