The Malaysian government has called off a plan to put serial numbers on bibles printed in the Malay language following a threatened protest by Christians throughout the country.
Sudhagaran Standley, a Church worker based in Penang, had initiated a mass simultaneous lodging of police reports to protest against the government’s planned requirement.
In return for releasing some 35,100 impounded bibles, the home ministry wanted to stamp each one with a serial number to control its circulation and a message saying it is for Christian use only.
There was an outcry from Christian leaders when media reported some of the bibles were already stamped, saying they were “defaced”. They refused to collect the books, which were imported from Indonesia and had been detained for around two years in two Malaysian ports until the government decided on their conditional release on March 15.
A coordinated simultaneous lodging of police reports by Christians throughout planned for March 23 was called off after the government backed down on the issue.
“The government has agreed to change their position in the issue and release all the bibles without the serial number. We have decided to cancel the plan to make the police reports against the government,” said Standley.
On March 22 Idris Jala, minister in the prime minister’s department, announced that the government came to a compromise after discussions with Christian leaders over the last few days.
He said the bibles will be released with the words “For Christianity” stamped clearly in font type Arial/size 16 in bold, but no other words or serial numbers will be stamped on the Bibles. In addition, the government has also assured that future bibles in Malay can be imported and released with the words “For Christianity.”
Standley said the latest development comes in light of state elections to be held soon in Sarawak, a Christian-majority East Malaysian territory, where most of the bibles were impounded.