Pastor: I would hug protesters

Pastor: I would hug protesters
Pastor Paul Packianathan (centre) with his congregation together in front of Community of Praise Church at Taman Medan in Petaling Jaya.

PETALING JAYA - The church in Taman Medan that was forced to remove a cross held its first Sunday worship service following the disruption last week.

The main message that Com¬munity of Praise Church senior pastor Paul Packianathan repeatedly stressed was that of forgiveness.

The service yesterday went smoothly with several groups turning up to show their support.

Speaking for the first time since the incident on April 19 when a group of 50 people staged a protest outside the church demanding the removal of a cross installed on the building facade, Paul said the church had chosen to forgive the protesters.

The teary-eyed pastor choked on his words slightly as he thanked all Malaysians for their outpouring of support, on behalf of the Taman Medan church community.

"We would like to thank all Malaysians for the support they have given us over this past week which was totally unexpected.

"Jesus clearly said forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. That is the message we want to convey today.

"We forgive them, no problem. If they were here, I'd hug them," said Paul.

On the decision whether to put up the cross that was taken down, Paul said they would wait for direction from God, although the Selangor government had given the green light to the church to put back the cross on the shoplot facade.

He also voiced full support for Pastor Victoria Packianathan, who was in charge of the worship service on April 19, for her decision to agree to take down the cross when the protest was staged.

He added she did so under intimidating circumstances.

Paul also condemned the circulation of pictures of Datuk Abdullah Abu Bakar, brother of the Inspector-General of Police, showing him in a casino.

"What has that got to do with anything? That is purely character assassination. I think that's very, very wrong," said Paul, adding that Abdullah was never described in the police report as being angry at the protest.

Abdullah had previously said he had acted as an intermediary between the protesters and the church.

He thanked Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for making a stand and Selangor Mentri Besar Azmin Ali for his assurances of support.

Several groups which turned up to show support for the church included a congregation from Beacon of Hope Church in Taman Sri Manja as well as social activist Azrul Mohd Khalid and Council of Churches of Malaysia general-secretary Rev Dr Hermen Shastri.

Others were 15 members of Malaysians for Malaysia, who presented flowers to the pastors and the church congregation in a show of solidarity and support for the community.

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