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Christians in M'sia hail Israel travel ban relaxation as Christmas gift
Publication Date : 20-12-2012
The Malaysian government's decision to lift restrictions on pilgrimages to Israel has been touted as an “early Christmas gift”.
Council of Churches Malaysia secretary-general Rev Hermen Shastri said it was grateful to the government for heeding the requests of the Christians.
“The prime minister has taken an interest in this matter and resolved it. We are grateful to him and the relevant government agencies,” he said, describing it as a “welcomed gift”.
The move, he said, would make it easier for Christians who wanted to make pilgrimages in organised groups.
Malaysian Chinese Association vice-president Dr Ng Yen Yen, who is a Christian, said it was a “great Christmas present” for the community.
“It also reflects the confidence that Malaysia has in the Christians. Going to Jerusalem does not make us less patriotic.”
The relaxation on the restrictions, said Dr Ng, showed that the prime minister was “walking the talk” by putting the needs of the people first and being inclusive.
The Star group chief editor Wong Chun Wai, who has been on a pilgrimage to Israel, hoped that the government would remain consistent with the new ruling.
He also welcomed the government's decision, describing it as a “good Christmas gift” to Christians.
“Christians go on such journeys to fulfil their spiritual needs,” he said.
“Most of the biblical sites are within the Palestinian areas and such trips have also opened the eyes of Malaysians to the struggles of the Palestinian people,” said Wong.
“My sympathies for the Palestinian cause grew after the pilgrimage.”
Welcoming the decision, National Evangelical Christian Fellowship chairman Rev Eu Hong Seng said the restrictions should have been lifted sooner.
Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism vice-president Rev Dr Thomas Philips said: “The decision is long overdue.”