Overwhelmed by support for his church, the senior pastor of Taman Medan’s Community of Praise Petaling Jaya church Pastor Paul Packianathan choked back tears as he thanked Malaysians for standing in solidarity with the congregation and said the church had forgiven protesters who demanded the removal of the cross displayed on the outside of the building.
Speaking after the Sunday service today, he said the church had forgiven the protestors who staged a demonstration outside the church last Sunday.
“That’s what my Jesus taught me. On the cross, Jesus said forgive them father for they do not know what they are doing. We do not hold any grudge.We pray for forgiveness for all. That is why we forgive them.
“If they are here I will hug them now,” he said.
Also present was his wife Victoria, who is also a pastor, members of the congregation, and other members of the public.
Victoria had been the pastor in charge last Sunday when a group of 50 Muslim residents from the Taman Medan community protested in front of the shoplot where the house of worship was located and demanded that the cross affixed to the building facade to be taken down.
They said the cross was a challenge to Islam and would sway the faith of youth in the area.
The church, however, has not decided if it will return the cross back to its place on the building.
“We are waiting the Lord to direct us what we should do next,” Paul said, when asked if the church’s leadership would put up the cross again.
Selangor Menteri Besar Mohamed Azmin Ali earlier this week said the church should put back the cross on the building’s facade, as there was nothing wrong in doing so as it was the symbol of Christianity.
Paul today thanked Azmin, and also Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, for speaking up to defend the church on the matter.
The pastor said removing the cross from the building had been the “right thing” to do at the time of the protest.
“Last week at this time she conducted the service. The worship cannot be stopped no matter what. But she also had to consider the safety of everybody,” he said, referring to Pastor Victoria.
“I fully support her decision to take down the cross at the time. Being a keyboard warrior is easy as you did not experience what happened,” Paul added, referring to those who had criticised the move to take off the cross last Sunday.
The pastor also defended one of the protestors, an Umno branch chief Datuk Abdullah Abu Bakar, and said news and photos circulating of him being in a casino was “wrong”.
“That is character assassination. It’s very, very wrong. What does it have to do with any of this?
“The news also said he was very ‘angry’ when he was here. There was no such thing. Pastor Victoria mentioned everything in a police report she lodged recently,” Paul said.
Abdullah, the elder brother of Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, had told the media subsequently that he had been at the protest to help keep the situation calm.
Police are now investigating the demonstration, and have interviewed several protestors, including Abdullah.
Khalid, who at first cleared the demonstrators of any wrong, has since said that he will not interfere if action is taken against his brother.
Najib in a statement on April 21, said the Cabinet had directed the police to investigate the protest and warned, that action could be taken under the Sedition Act or other existing laws.
The Selangor government has also clarified that churches do not need permits to hold worship services in shop lots or commercial properties, and that only a notification of their activities to the state’s Council on Non-Islam Affairs, was required.