The church leaders, who were attending a world assembly, voiced their concern and discontent over the situation in Malaysia where Christians were being denied their right to use the word Allah, said Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) general secretary Reverend Dr Herman Shastri.
Herman, who attended the 10th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Busan, said that a public statement issued by WCC following the assembly had noted that church leaders found that restrictions on the use of the word had worsened religious hatred and tension.
"Pro-government political parties have been responsible for intensifying the controversy,” said Herman, quoting the statement which called for the rights of religious minorities around the world to be respected and protected.
He added that church leaders from the Middle East and many other countries in the world had voiced their discontent over the situation in Malaysia at the assembly.
The church leaders also expressed deep concern on inteference by the state in the decision-making process of religious groups and the imposition of religious laws through state sanctions.
Herman said the statement also noted that "the rights of minority religious communities to live in peace and harmony with their neighbours who belong to majority religious communities is vital not only to the minority faith groups, but also for overall stability and democratic governance.
"This is so especially in countries that are liberated from past elements of authoritarianism.”
The statement, Herman said, also noted that while there were global efforts for Jews, Christians and Muslims to work together for peace based on their Abrahamic roots, the development in Malaysia was viewed as a direct assault on such efforts.
It was also noted by the WCC that the politicisation of religion and the regionalisation of politics were the reasons for the denial of rights of minority religious groups in various countries.
"The politicisation of religion and the rise of religious extremism in many societies mutually reinforce each other," the statement noted.
As such, Herman said, the WCC called on church leaders to engage actively in defending the rights of all religious minorities and their rights to freedom of religion, especially in opposing legislation or regulations that would limit religious freedom that go against international human rights standards.
Herman said that in line with the call, CCM will continue to create awareness in Malaysia that the word Allah was acceptable in many other context in other parts of the world.
"We will also keep telling the people that the Constitution guarantees each religious community the freedom to profess their faith without state intervention.
"We will continue to speak up, especially when statements are made in contrary to this," he added.
The WCC is the largest global church body that incorporates 349 member churches from around the world and its general assembly is held once every seven years.
Headquartered in Geneva, it works with the United Nations on many issues affecting the contemporary world and churches in the world.
In 2004, CCM hosted a WCC conference in Kuala Lumpur, where the then prime minister, Tun Abdullah Badawi, addressed the conference. - November 16, 2013.