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Christian group in Malaysia condemns raid on church

KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian Christian group on Thursday condemned a raid by Islamic officials on a church compound as a threat to the mostly Muslim country's already delicate religious relations.

The raid occurred Wednesday night during a dinner at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church in Petaling Jaya, just west of the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Around 30 Islamic religious and police officials entered the church compound in Selangor state without a warrant and began taking videos and photographs, Daniel Ho, senior pastor for the church, said in a statement.

They subjected guests to “undue harassment” and took down the details of the Muslims present before leaving, he said.

Officials said they had “received a complaint” about the church but otherwise gave no reason for the raid. AFP could not immediately reach authorities for comment.

However, some Muslims were present at the church gathering, and Malaysian Islamic officials have previously expressed concern about Muslims being converted to other religions — especially Christianity.

Converting from Islam is illegal in the country.

The raid sets “a dangerous precedent and makes a mockery of the sanctity of religious places,” said Hermen Shastri, general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia.

It also caused “undue trauma to all guests of the different ethnic communities,” Shastri said in a statement.

Ho said the dinner was held for people involved in the church's welfare programs, including single mothers and HIV/AIDS victims.

Relations between Malaysian authorities and Christians in the country have been strained in recent years, with some minorities in the multi-ethnic nation warning of a rising tide of Islamization.

Around 60 percent of Malaysians are Muslims, most of them members of the dominant ethnic Malay population. Just nine percent of the country's citizens are Christian, including 850,000 Catholics, many of them ethnic Chinese.

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