World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

Appeal for respect of right to religious freedom

02 August 2006

Letter to H.E. Dato' Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi, Prime Minister of
Malaysia, 2 August, 2006

Your Excellency,

It was around two years ago that the World Council of Churches (WCC) Faith
and Order Plenary Commission met in Kuala Lumpur. This was a historic event
in the life of the member churches of the WCC. It was the first time ever that
the Faith and Order Plenary Commission met in a predominantly Islamic country.

Members of the Commission who came from all over the world were well
received with the traditional warmth and affection of the Malaysian society. They
were impressed and touched by Your Excellency's words made in the presentation
"Dialogue is the Key to Unity of Multi-religious, Multi-culture and Multi-cultural
Societies". Your reflections on the present state of the world where inter-religious
dialogue seems to have become increasingly difficult were well thought
through, meaningful and reflective of the impediments in the relationship between
Islam and the West. The path of interfaith dialogue can never lead to confrontation.

We urge your Government to create and offer open spaces where frank and
creative dialogue can take place, without extremists derailing such positive measures.

We in the World Council of Churches not only treasure your participation in
this important ecumenical event, but also your reflections on the need for interreligious
dialogue, since inter-religious dialogue has always had high priority on
the WCC agenda. It is in pursuance of the WCC's objectives to break down barriers
between people and to promote one human family in justice and peace and
uphold the integrity of creation so that all may enjoy the fullness of life. Malaysia
is one of the most progressive countries in the region that subscribes to enlightened
moderation inherent in a democratic plural society. Malaysia's progressive
and secular-based constitution caters to the needs and aspirations of its multiethnic
and multi-religious society.

Your Excellency, the right to freedom of religious liberty has been a major concern
of the member churches of the World Council of Churches since its inception.

We believe the exercise of religious freedom must always reflect the great
diversity of convictions that exist in the world. This right is inseparable from
other fundamental human rights. The right to religious freedom is enshrined in
most constitutions, as is the case in the Malaysian Constitution, Article 11. We
hope and pray that the sanctity of the constitution and the values it promotes will
be ensured so that all Malaysian people continue to enjoy the right to religious
freedom and liberty, which includes the right to choose one's religion without let
or hindrance. We are heartened by the recent measures of Your Excellency's
Government to ensure religious peace and harmony in the Malaysian society.

We pray that under Your Excellency's enlightened and able leadership, Malaysia
will continue to grow economically and will remain politically strong to face the
challenges from forces of retrogression and reaction.

Yours sincerely,

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
General Secretary