The Community of Praise Petaling Jaya church, which removed its cross from outside its building after a protest by a group of Muslim residents, has finally broken its silence over the incident that took place a week ago.
Paul Packianathan, the senior pastor of the church, said the church has chosen to "forgive" the protesters for what they did last week.
“If they are here, I would hug them now,” he said.
He explained that forgiveness was the lesson taught by Jesus Christ when he was crucified.
“On the cross, Jesus clearly said, ‘Forgive them father, for they do not know what they are doing’.
“So the message across is forgiveness, and that's what we have been taught by our Lord Jesus Christ, and that is a message we want to convey to you today.
“We do not hold any grudge, we forgive and move on and pray that this faith of forgiveness will be manifested in all of us in this country,” said Paul, who choked back tears as he thanked Malaysians for showing their solidarity with them.
However, he stopped short of saying when the church will restore the red coloured cross to its place, saying that they are awaiting instruction “from God”.
"We are waiting the Lord to direct us on what to do," Paul told the press after meeting the Malaysians for Malaysia group at the church at Taman Medan, Petaling Jaya today.
The civil society group led by Muslims gathered at the church this morning to show solidarity in the face of last week's protest that had elicited national outrage.
The Selangor government has already said the state has no issue with the church being located at the shop lot, purportedly in a Muslim majority area, and that there is no need for a permit or any official letter from the state for the church to return the cross to its original place.
Among those at the protest were former Petaling Jaya Selatan Umno Wanita chief Munaliza Hamzah and Taman Lindungan Jaya Umno branch chief Abdullah Abu Bakar, who is also the brother of inspector-general of police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar.
The police last week called Abdullah to record his statement over the incident.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has ticked off the protesters and has ordered for an investigation over this issue.
The incident has however not deterred the church from conducting its regular services.
Removing cross ‘wise decision’
Paul also praised his wife Victoria Packianathan, who is also a pastor at the church for making the “wise decision” to take down the cross under the intimidating circumstances of the protest.
He said it was to ensure the safety of the members and to make sure the church service would not be interrupted.
“Taking all these into account, and the intimidating circumstance she was facing as stated in the police report, I fully support her decision for agreeing to take down the cross at that point in time,” he said.
The senior pastor also denied that the church had authorised any person to make any public statements prior to this, adding that reports made by certain press regarding the church were incorrect.
Earlier today, the Malaysians for Malaysia group showed their support for the church by distributing flowers to the Malay Muslim community at Desa Mentari 2, the low-cost flats immediately behind the church, in an effort to counter the negative message last week's protest had sown.
The group's organiser Azrul Mohd Khalid said this is to promote peace and harmony among religions in this country.
Council of Churches Malaysia general-secretary reverend Herman Shastri also participated in the event.
Flowers get mixed reception
While some of the residents received the flowers with open hearts, the efforts did not go down well with some of the workers in the shops on the ground floor.
Some of them rejected the gesture saying the group was interrupting their business.
When met, some of the recipients told Malaysiakini they did not know what the significance of the flowers were and had not even heard about the protest last week.
It did not help that some of the group members merely told the residents that the flowers were for “peace and harmony”, without explaining the issue.
Grocery shop owner Ratna Dewi said she was “happy” to receive the flowers but didn’t know what the purpose of the group was, and had no knowledge of the incident.
Meanwhile, a Malay Muslim from Kajang who participated in the goodwill event also took the opportunity to offer his apologies to Paul on behalf of his community.
He said all the Malay Muslims in the country actually want peace in this country.