Catholic leaders in Muslim-dominated Malaysia are rejoicing at the opening of their country’s first embassy at the Vatican – a move touted by their government as boosting closer bilateral ties with the Holy See and promoting religious moderation and tolerance.
Foreign Minister Anifah Aman this week presided over the inauguration of the Chancery of the Malaysian Embassy to the Holy See, much to the delight of clergy in the eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak – where the bulk of Malaysia’s Catholic and Christian communities is concentrated.
Richard Ng, the bishop of Miri district in Sarawak, said the diplomatic milestone represented a door to better mutual understanding and a way to bridge a gap between Malaysia and the Roman Catholic Church.
“We feel good to be close to Pope Francis, the Holy Father, even though we in Malaysia are just a small community,” he told BenarNews.
Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister James Masing described it as a good opportunity for Bernard Giluk Dompok, the ambassador to the Vatican, to highlight multi-ethnic and multi-religious Malaysia as an inclusive country.
“We are moderates and not extremists and Ambassador Bernard Dompok will set that straight,” he told BenarNews.
Dompok previously served as Sabah chief minister and a federal minister.
Of the country’s 31.7 million people, slightly more than 9 percent are Christians – and about half of them are Catholics. They mostly are from ethnic Chinese, Indian or indigenous backgrounds, according to 2016 statistics.
Full story: BenarNews
Kuala Lumpur. Laja Laing in Kuching, Sarawak, contributed to this report.
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