Malaysian Christian leaders are calling on their government to lift a recent ban on pilgrimages to Israel.
“Travel groups have been calling on the authorities to lift the suspension as many are being denied a pilgrimage. It is hoped that the PM (Prime Minister Najib Razak) will act on this matter as soon as possible,” said Hermen Shastri, the general-secretary of the Council of Churches in Malaysia, Malaysia Insider reported.
The Malaysian government recently banned all travel to Israel over security concerns arising from last summer’s Gaza conflict and the threat posed by the Islamic State terror group, according to government officials.
“We are concerned about all threats to security there,” Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said.
“We decided to freeze travel to Israel and Jerusalem for the sake of the safety of Malaysians who want to go there. This is because of the war and the unpredictable situation there that could jeopardize the safety of travelers,” he added.
Malaysia is a Muslim-majority nation, with Christians comprising roughly 9 percent of the population. While Malaysia has long banned travel to Israel, the government had previously permitted Christians to make pilgrimages to the Jewish state on the condition that they applied for a permit.