Mahathir bin Mohamed, the outspoken Muslim prime minister of Malaysia, called on an international gathering of evangelical Christians meeting in Kuala Lumpur to promote dialogue and tolerance among religions.

"It is the nature of some religious denominations that propagation of their faith is obligatory," Mahatir said in a speech. "But we should be careful that we don't propagate religions at the cost of conflicts and violence. Such conflicts can only bring about an environment where religions cannot survive. We must be careful when undertaking matters involving religion. The sensitivity of others of different religious perceptions must be given due considerations."

Mahatir presented his remarks at the 11th General Assembly of the World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF) in the Malaysian capital in early May and received a standing ovation from the 600 Christian leaders present from 82 nations. Malaysian delegates, noting that Christianity is a minority in the developed island nation of 21 million people, said it was a rare privilege to be welcomed by the prime minister.

Prince Guneratnam, director of the Assemblies of God fellowship of Malaysia, said Mahatir's presence gives Christians credibility and "a better standing with government when we need to negotiate and get government approval; this has given encouragement to the churches and made them stronger and bolder."

In his speech, Mahatir noted that once interreligious strife begins, violence can continue for generations. "Today we see such intractable interreligious wars in Northern Ireland, between Jews and Muslims and Christians in Palestine, Hindus and Muslims in South Asia, and in many other places," he said. "Attempts to bring about peace have failed again and again. Always ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.