Pastoral communique from the Bumiputera Church in Sabah and Sarawak
Greetings in the name of our precious Lord and Saviour, Christ Jesus.
We take counsel from the ancient preacher that there is a time for everything, “a time to keep silence and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes chapter 3 verse 7).
As the Body of Christ seeking to live out his purpose and mission, we are mindful that the Church is to be a blessing to the nation, to strive for what is true, honourable, just and commendable in the interest of all people (Philippians 4:8).
But in the midst of this, issues affecting the church and the use of our Holy Scriptures have arisen. We, the native Christians of Sabah and Sarawak have kept silent for a considerable length of time. Some have taken our silence to mean something else. Therefore, the time has now come for us to speak.
When the caretaker Prime Minister first mooted the Global Movement of Moderates, we were enthusiastic in extending our support for the initiative. But ironically, the movement is being incessantly and blatantly distracted by unscrupulous elements from within its own ranks, whose strange proclivity is leaning more towards racism and extremism.
It is a grave mistake to condone extremism even for a minor political exigency because to do so is to expose our society to something so inherently base and so evil.
It is like opening ourselves to a kind of vile pervasion which could do untold, even irreparable harm. Extremism feeds on human weakness and insecurity. If left unchecked it could rob us of our true identity and eventually our soul.
A manifestation of such extremism is the extent to which fringe groups within our midst would go to advance their racism and religious bigotry over the controversy of the use of the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God by non-Muslims. They have even suggested an open season for burning Bibles (pesta membakar Alkitab). Nothing can be more seditious and incendiary. Yet they were tolerated by the authorities.
Let us be clear that the ‘Allah’ controversy is more than just about a word. Indeed, various States have passed legislation prohibiting more than three dozen words from being used by non-Muslims. This legislation is applicable and is indeed expressly directed at non-Muslims.
For instance, a fatwa which has the force of law was gazetted on 1 June 2003 in Sabah under the Enakmen Pentadbiran Undang-Undang Islam 1992 whereby the use of 32 words is prohibited to non-Muslims. These included “Allah” (God), “Ibadah” (Worship), “Iman” (Faith), “Rasul” (Apostle), “Injil” (Gospel), “Nabi” (Prophet], “Wahyu” (Revelation) and much more. This is done notwithstanding that Islamic syariah law do not apply to non-Muslims.
The first of such state legislation was introduced by the Terengganu state government in 1980. The following year, the use of the Alkitab or the Malay language bible was prohibited on grounds that it is a threat to national security. The ban has since been modified to a restriction but the Alkitab is still considered a threat to national security. In December 1986 the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a circular prohibiting the use of the word Allah’ on the purported grounds that such action was necessary for the purpose of maintaining public order and to avoid misunderstanding between followers of Muslims and Christians. This administrative decision was enforced using the draconian Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.
In 2003, the Bup Kudus or the Iban language Bible was banned as it contains the word ‘Allah’. The ban was subsequently lifted following protests by Christians.
In Sarawak and Sabah, the word ‘Allah’ has been used or spoken by the native communities of the state for generations and long before the formation of Malaysia and is part of their native language. Native Bumiputeras have always been using the term “Allah” in all aspects of the profession and practice of their Christian faith from baptism to final rites and these include in services, prayers, praise, liturgy, worship, and religious education. The term “Allah” is also used in Christian publications and multi-media resources. The right of the native Bumiputeras to use or speak their own language and to practice their religion in the state is safeguarded by the Federal Constitution.
The ‘Allah’ controversy is not really about religion as such but about unreasonable government policies and laws. In the face of such unreasonableness we cannot and should not remain silent. The time for us to speak has come.
Two thirds of the Church in Malaysia is made up of Bumiputera Christians in Sabah and Sarawak. In this respect, we speak with pastoral and moral responsibility and authority against religious bigotry, racism and extremism in any form. But we are not alone as our non-Bumiputera brothers and sisters in Christ have also expressed similar concern over the ‘Allah’ issue on other occasions. We, therefore, speak as one voice.
We need more than just a display ad hoc benevolence. We need a tangible commitment from the authorities to respect and uphold the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Federal Constitution – the supreme law of the nation. We believe non-Christians, including Muslims, also share our concern.
We also acknowledge and uphold that according to Article 3 of the Federal Constitution that Islam is the religion of the Federation. By the same token people of other faiths are also accorded the constitutional guarantee of freedom to profess, to practise and to propagate their respective religions in peace and harmony in any part of the country. We are not asking for what is not already our constitutional right.
Surely the way forward is no longer found in the status quo which expects the Bumiputera Church in Sabah and Sarawak to remain silent.
This year we celebrate the fiftieth year of the formation of Malaysia. It is also fortuitous that this is also the Year of Jubilee for Christians, a year where we wait in hope and prayer for God to intervene and restore what has been ordained as rightfully ours.
We have been praying for long time now to see the righting of wrongs done to indigenous peoples in the name of development and politics. We are also praying for full respect and adherence to the Sabah 20-point and Sarawak 18-point Agreements signed with Malaya upon the formation of Malaysia. The first of these is freedom of religion. Sabah and Sarawak consented to form the greater Malaysian nation in 1963 with Islam as the religion of the federation on the express condition that there will be complete freedom of religion without hindrance placed on other religions. Thus the Government Paper “Malaysia and Sarawak published by Authority of Government of Sarawak dated 4 Jan 1962 (and this is reflected in the corresponding Government of North Borneo Paper) states unequivocally as can be seen from the following text in the foundational constitutional documents:
“People have wondered whether the fact that Islam is the official religion of the Federation of Malaya would affect religious freedom in Sarawak as part of Malaysia. This has been clarified at the recent Consultative Committee Meeting. Although Malaysia would have Islam as the official religion of the enlarged Federation there would be no hindrance placed on the practice of other religions. Complete freedom of religion would be guaranteed in the Federal Constitution. Sarawak has at the present has no established religion and it would not be required to accept Islam as its State religions.”
There is an urgent need for the authorities to acknowledge our frustration and to commit to come up with a long term solution.
The time has come for us to speak but we do so in a manner of peace just as the Christ Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). We harbour neither ill will nor malice toward people of other faiths including our Muslim brothers and sisters.
Indeed, in speaking we are mindful to extend love to those who may not agree with us. The essence of God is love (1 John 4:8) thus we are compelled to love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
Therefore, it is incumbent on Malaysians of every faith to tolerate and embrace one another in love, in truth, and in humility.
Let us together seek to build this beloved nation for the good of all peoples so that all can enjoy the fruits of prosperity and goodness in this land the Almighty God has blessed us with.
May Almighty God bless you and keep you, may His face shine upon you and give you peace.
God bless Malaysia.
(This communiqué does not reflect the views of MySinchew)
‘Allah’ row about unreasonable laws, say east Malaysian churches
KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 — The “Allah” controversy is not about religion, but about “unreasonable government policies and laws”, Sabah and Sarawak churches said today ahead of polling day on Sunday.
The Bumiputera churches in Sabah and Sarawak released a pastoral communique yesterday that called on Christians to speak up amid threats to burn their holy scriptures and government policies that prevent the minority group from referring to their God as “Allah”.
“In the face of such unreasonableness, we cannot and should not remain silent,” said the Anglican Bishop of Kuching and Association of Churches in Sarawak chairman Rev Datuk Bolly Lapok in the communique.
“The time for us to speak has come…We need a tangible commitment from the authorities to respect and uphold the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Federal Constitution – the supreme law of the nation. We believe non-Christians, including Muslims, also share our concern,” said Lapok, who is also the Archbishop of the Anglican Province of Southeast Asia.
ACS’ strongly-worded statement comes just two days before the country’s closest election in history, where a sizeable chunk of voters in Sabah and Sarawak are Bumiputera Christians who read the Alkitab, or Malay-language bibles.
The Christian community forms about a quarter of Sabah’s population and almost half of Sarawak’s population, where they mainly worship in Bahasa Malaysia church services.
Christians protest ‘Allah house’ billboards, want EC action
By Debra Chong
Assistant News Editor
May 01, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR, May 1 ― Pictures of provocative election campaign billboards painting churches as usurpers of “Allah” have spread online and sparked a storm among Christians as political parties and their supporters appear to pull out all stops in their desperate sprint for Putrajaya with polls four days away.
The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) issued a strongly-worded statement today recording their outrage at what they call a “despicable and heinous” anti-Christian message on election campaign boards and demanded the Election Commission act swiftly to douse the sparks of such religious fear-mongering from catching fire once more.
“These fears are real given the recent history of Church burnings and threats to burn the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia.
“The message pits one community (Muslims) against Christians by spreading fear through scare tactics using the issue of ‘Allah’ which the High Court had allowed as a right to freedom of religion,” said Rev Eu Hong Seng, chairman of CFM, and its executive committee.
Alongside the statement, the umbrella body representing 90 per cent of churches nationwide sent pictures of two billboards with the message asking in Malay: “Do you want to see your grandchildren praying in Allah’s house” and lower down the boards, “If we allow Allah to be used by churches”.
Pictures of churches were pasted on the billboards.
THE EVIL THAT MEN DO: WHAT DR MAHATHIR DID
In 1981, the Alkitab or the Malay language Bible on grounds that it is a threat to national security. The ban has since been modified to a restricted ban but the Alkitab is still considered a threat to national security.
Sin Chew Jit Poh
Allah’ is more than just a word
By BOB TEOH
With the Perkasa duo, Ibrahim Ali and Zul Noordin, entering the fray as Umno sponsored parliamentary candidates, racism and religious bigotry is set to rear its ugly head again especially over the ‘Allah’ controversy.
A manifestation of such extremism is the extent to which fringe Malay groups like Perkasa would go to advance their agenda. Cause for concern is their incendiary speeches over the controversy of the use of the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God by non-Muslims. Ibrahim even suggested recently an open season for burning Bibles (pesta membakar Alkitab). Nothing can be more seditious and incendiary. Yet this was tolerated by the authorities.
Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali is seeking re-election as Pasir Mas MP in Kelantan as an Umno-friendly candidate against PAS. The Umno candidate has withdrawn by not submitting his nomination papers to make way for Ibrahim. Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is not only patron of Perkasa but it was he who suggested that Ibrahim be fielded as an Umno/Barisan candidate in this general elections.
Perkasa’s vice president, Zulkifli Noordin, has moved from his Kulim Bandar Baru MP seat in the north to challenge Khalid Samad of PAS in Shah Alam, Selangor, on the Umno/Barisan ticket. Like Ibrahim, he was previously elected on the opposition ticket but later crossed over to be Barisan-friendly independent MP.
On the surface, the controversy is deceptively simple. It boils down to one thing; can non-Muslims use the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God. Perkasa, Barisan and the Muslim establishment maintain that the word is exclusive to Muslims. Their opponents in the Pakatan Rakyat coalition say they have no problem with the issue as the word existed even before the arrival of Islam. But in the battle for the Malay heartland, PAS, the Islamic party within the opposition coalition was forced to back away under the onslaught by Umno and Perkasa.
But the truth is that the ‘Allah’ controversy is more than just a word. Indeed, all States and Federal Territories have not only passed fatwas covering more than three dozen words that non-Muslims are prohibited from using. These fatwas which are seemingly applicable only to Muslims have been gazetted by the respective state authorities. This in effect makes them applicable even to non-Muslims.
For instance, a fatwa was passed in Sabah under the Enakmen Pentadbiran Undang-Undang Islam 1992 and was gazetted on 1 June 2003 where 32 words are prohibited to non-Muslims. These included Allah (God), Ibadah (Worship), Iman (Faith) Rasul (Apostle or messenger), Injil (Gospel), Nabi (Prophet], Wahyu (Revelation) and much more.
The ‘Allah’ controversy is more than just a word. It is about freedom of religion and about unreasonable government policies and laws that seek to place non-Muslims under the scope of Islamic enactments and jurisdiction.
Two thirds of the church in Malaysia is made up of Bumiputera Christians in Sabah and Sarawak who use the Alkitab which contains the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God. They view the prohibition on the use of the ‘Allah’ word and restricted use of the Alkitab as infringing on their freedom of religion.
Some of their leaders have pointed out that as Bumiputera Christians they are also accorded a special position by Article 153 the Federal Constitution in much the same manner as Malays and other Bumiputeras.
They also point to the Sabah 20-point and Sarawak 18-point Agreements signed with Malaya upon the formation of Malaysia. The first of these is freedom of religion.
The ‘Allah’ controversy attracted attention at the recent Association of Churches of Sarawak biennial general meeting in Kuching. In his address, ACS chairman the Anglican Bishop Rev Bolly Lapok, who is also the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Southeast Asia, pointed out that, “It is a grave mistake to cuddle extremism even for a minor political exigency because to do so is to expose Malaysians to something so base and so evil.”
He said the time has come for the church to speak up and the “way forward is no longer found in the status quo which expects the church to remain keeping her mouth shut.”
Najib defends ‘Allah’ ban, rules out election debate
UPDATED @ 10:03:36 AM 26-04-2013
KUALA LUMPUR, April 26 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak has expressed support for the appeal to overturn a High Court ruling which allows the use of the Arabic term “Allah” for God by non-Muslim groups in Malaysia, according to an interview with global news station Al Jazeera.
The caretaker prime minister also told Al Jazeera English’s Veronica Pedrosa in the interview, to be aired tomorrow, that he did not intend to have a public election debate with Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim before the May 5 polls.
“The concept of Allah is different in the Muslim sense than in the Christian sense, we should not upset the Muslims and Muslims should not upset the Christians, we are living in harmony for years and it should continue,” he was quoted as saying in an excerpt distributed by Al Jazeera English.
The Court of Appeal has fixed May 30 for another case management on the government and Home Ministry’s appeal against the 2009 High Court decision that the word “Allah” can be used by the Catholic weekly newspaper Herald.
Corruption a core electoral issue for Christians, say church leaders
KUALA LUMPUR, April 26 — Christians will vote against corruption and social injustice in Election 2013, besides calling for religious freedom in multi-racial Malaysia, church leaders said today.
They also said that Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s support for the appeal to reverse a High Court ruling allowing Christians to use the Arabic word “Allah” contradicted his 2011 resolution granting east Malaysian Christians the freedom to do so.
“The question that begs to be answered is whether the 10-point solution decided by him and the Cabinet is still valid?” Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) chairman Rev Dr Eu Hong Seng told The Malaysian Insider today, referring to the caretaker prime minister.
“Before the GE, the Church is looking at a broad spectrum of issues — corruption, improvement to the economic well-being of people, freedom of religion, men of integrity to be our future MPs. I think Christians at large in Malaysia, whether east or west, we share the same strong sentiments about corruption,” added the head of the ecumenical umbrella body that represents 90 per cent of Malaysia’s roughly two million Christians.
CHRISTIAN GROUPS IN ACTION
Prayer United is a prayer network which consists of nine Christian fellowships.
The National Envangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) – which is also a part of the prayer network – has produced a booklet to guide its followers in their vote.
The Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) – in collaboration with the Catholic Research Centre – has produced a video, which Chin said has gone “viral” on Youtube and Facebook to help Christians in deciding who to vote for.
As the nation braces for what is expected to be the hardest fought election yet, Christians all over Malaysia are taking turns to bow their heads in prayer.
If things go as planned, every minute of the day from dissolution day on April 3 until polling day, at least one Christian will be praying for “truth, justice and righteousness” to prevail in the 13th general election.
“We may even extend it to until after polling day, to pray for peace after the results have been announced,” Prayer United secretariat member Chrisanne Chin told Malaysiakini.
“The response has been very good so far. We even have people praying in the wee hours, but we do have trouble getting sign ups for the afternoons.”
She said the idea for the prayer network, which consists of nine Christian fellowships, was first mooted two months ago as Malaysia has been undergoing a “critical period in history”.
“It is also the 50th year – the jubilee anniversary – of the formation of Malaysia, and to us, this has a very important and spiritual meaning,” she said, although noting that the prayer drive had not been conducted in the previous polls general.
This effort is one of many that the Christian community has undertaken in preparation for the polls.
In Sabah, where there is a larger Christian population, several BN leaders had last month handed over RM4.5 million worth of goods to heads of churches.
Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) president Joseph Pairin Kitingan, Upko president Bernard Dompok and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) president Joseph Kurup had done so together – a rare sight among the three BN parties which represent the mostly Christian Kadazandusun Murut community.
CFM Letter to the Malaysian Churches and Christians on the forthcoming 13th GE.
GE13 Malaysia: Who to Vote for? (A Christian Contribution)
Churches urge Christians to vote wisely in GE13
By Ida Lim
April 06, 2013
File photo of Christians at a service in a Catholic church in Petaling Jaya. Christians have been encouraged to pray for the general election.
KUALA LUMPUR, April 6 — Churches have joined in the drive to educate voters, urging Christians to come out and vote with wisdom in Election 2013, which is expected to be Malaysia’s most intense polls.
In a video uploaded on YouTube yesterday, Christians were reminded of their moral duty to vote.
“We vote because we have a moral obligation to participate in the life of the nation,” said a narration in the video jointly produced by the Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) — an umbrella body of Protestant churches — and the Catholic Research Centre.
In the video, Christian voters are asked to vote for a corruption-free country where all Malaysians are treated as equals and there is religious freedom, among other things.
But voters are warned against relying on a single source of information in deciding on their candidates.
REMINDER….. CFM LETTER TO THE MALAYSIAN CHURCHES & CHRISTIANS ON THE FORTHCOMING 13thGENERAL ELECTIONS.
PLEASE PASS IT ON TO OTHER MALAYSIAN CHRISTIANS YOU KNOW.
VOTE WISELY, VOTE FOR A BETTER MALAYSIA.
In the first two chapters of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, we read of two separate accounts of God giving to Adam rule and authority over the earth and all that live in it. In the first book of the New Testament, the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 5 and verses 13 to 15, Christians are told that they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
These two passages and the collective message of our Holy Scripture point to the inescapable conclusion that Christians have a duty to protect and safeguard the earth, and all that live in it. Christians have not only been granted rights of leadership, but also the responsibility of stewardship.
In the context of the nation state, Christians, like other citizens, have been granted certain rights, including the right to participate in the democratic process of a country. This right to participate must be balanced with the responsibility of exercising that right, and doing so wisely.
The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) therefore invites and encourages all Christians to be conscious of their political rights – to vote, and to use the power of the vote to elect a government that will ensure justice with equity and the well-being of our nation.
The CFM is not politically motivated nor is it endorsing any one political party. It is of fundamental importance in a democracy, that citizens actually exercise their right to vote. Having the right to vote without utilising it is of little use.
Voting ensures that every Malaysian citizen participates in bringing about a more just and equitable Malaysia for succeeding generations to come.
Therefore, it is important that as Christians, we undertake our duty as citizens and exercise our right to vote and express our preference for a political coalition that will best achieve our vision of a better Malaysia.
In terms of our vision for a better Malaysia, CFM encourages Malaysian Christians to think about the following priorities:
A nation guided by the ethics of respect for human dignity. This means a nation where its citizens are engaged fairly as equals, and their rights respected in accordance with the provisions as guaranteed under the Federal Constitution. Such a nation treats its citizens with understanding, honesty and mutual respect.
A nation where extremism of all kinds is rejected and quickly curtailed. Racial and religious bigotry, manipulation and lies that have now come to define the social sphere, the print media and political posturing must end immediately.
A nation free of corruption, putting in place strengthened state and public institutions whose members conduct themselves with integrity, transparency and accountability.
A nation that works towards the fair and equitable distribution of wealth and ensuring well-being for all, regardless of citizenship status, ethnicity or creed. Every citizen and every community should be empowered and enabled to pursue economic activity and achieve advancement duly and fairly supported by the government where needed and necessary without favour or discrimination and without being overly or unfairly supported by the state.
A nation where care for the environment is privileged over self-seeking capitalism and where its political leaders weigh all decisions with ecological interest and sustainability as an essential aspect of development.
A nation where language and education are de-linked from political expedience. A nation where elitism and inequality is not rampant and people are recognised and respected as human beings and not discriminated against due to social position, educational attainment, political beliefs, gender, race or religion.
A nation where religious freedom to profess, practice and propagate one’s religion is allowed to flourish without undue curtailment from the law, restrictions or even prohibition.
The CFM encourages Christians to pray that good leaders will emerge from the 13th general elections who will not only fulfil the above criteria, but who have the interest of our beloved nation and its people as their first and only priority.
Malaysians today are better educated, politically and socially more aware, and geographically more mobile than at any time in our history, and these have led to a citizenry that is more knowledgeable and experienced.
Churches have a responsibility to help guide their congregations to use their wisdom in the exercise of their right to vote in order to bring about a nation where all Malaysians, and those who choose to make their living in this country, can live in harmony and prosperity, peace and justice.
May the grace and the peace of God be with you.
Bishop Datuk Ng Moon Hing
Chairman and the Executive Committee
The Christian Federation of Malaysia
CFM Letter to the Malaysian Churches and Christians on the forthcoming 13th GE.pdf
(On a tip from Herbert Gomez)
The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) is an ecumenical umbrella body in Malaysia that comprises the Council of Churches of Malaysia (mainline Protestants and Oriental Orthodox), National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (Evangelicals) and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia (Roman Catholic). Formed in 1985, the CFM brought together the major expressions of Christianity in Malaysia in a broad-based ecumenical body and a unified voice in dealing with the government as well as other religious and secular bodies in the country.
Christian Federation of Malaysia
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia