Home Civil Society Voices 2011 Civil Society Voices An open letter to Sarawak Christians

An open letter to Sarawak Christians

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A group calling itself ‘Sidang Injil Baru (Renewal Evangelical Mission of Sarawak)’ has issued an open letter to Christians in the state urging them to vote wisely in the 16 April polls.

Graphic courtesy of themalaysianinsider.com

Surat Jemaat

Freedom of Religion

Saudara-saudara jemaat di tanah air tercinta Sarawak, yang menjadi umat Allah Bapa dan Tuhan Yesus Kristus. Kami mengharap semoga Allah memberi berkat dan sejahtera kepada kalian.

We praise God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ that Sarawak is the only Christian majority state in Malaysia where half the population are Christians.

It is with our goodwill and blessings that we have allowed a Malay Muslim to be the Chief Minister of Sarawak since 1963 except for a brief period when a Christian held the position until he was unconstitutionally sacked in 1966 by the Federal government.

We also praise God that one in ten people in Malaysia are Christians.

In fact, two thirds of the Christians are Malay-speaking bumiputras in Sarawak and Sabah as well as Orang Asli in Malaya. We have been using the Malay Alkitab or the Iban Bup Kudus as our Holy Bible for generations.

Sarawak, together with Sabah, Singapore and Malaya formed Malaysia in 1963 under the Malaysia Agreement. Singapore left the federation two years later. Like the Malays, our special position as pribumis or natives is protected under Article 153 of the Federal Constitution.

Sarawak has made its position abundantly clear in what is known as the 18-points (20-points in for Sabah) in drafting the Malaysia Agreement. Point #1 was on freedom of religion:

“While there was no objection to Islam being the national religion of Malaysia, there should be no state religion In Borneo (Sarawak and Sabah), and the provisions relating to Islam in the present Constitution of Malaya should not apply to Borneo.”

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That was the spirit of the Malaysia Agreement even though this point was amended in the final draft.

East Malaysians were more than magnanimous in making this compromise to Umno. But recent events have forced us to come to the conclusion that there is a sinister anti-Christian agenda by Barisan Nasional especially by UMNO and its proxies in Sarawak.

This is unconstitutional.

Bishop Ng Moon Hing, chairman of the Christian Federation of Malaysia pointed out in a statement on 10 March 2011 over the illegal confiscation of 35,000 copies of the Alkitab:

“It would appear as if the authorities are waging a continuous, surreptitious and systematic programme against Christians in Malaysia to deny them access to the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia.”

We have shown great tolerance despite provocative actions against our faith by the ruling coalition. But when the government desecrated 35,000 copies of our Alkitab which were illegally confiscated, it is our wake up-call to defend our constitutional right to profess, practise and propagate our faith. We have been betrayed by Barisan Nasional.

The incumbent Chief Minster and his cabinet, who have remained in office by our grace for 30 years, have proven to be incapable of defending freedom of religion in Sarawak. They, therefore, cannot expect to enjoy our trust in the coming state elections.

Even Pas, the Islamic Party, is against the position taken by the ruling coalition against the Alkitab and to prohibit bumiputra Christians from using the word Allah to refer to God.

We wish to make it clear that we are not against Islam but only against Barisan Nasional ’anti-Christian’ agenda, particularly the recent desecration of 35,000 copies of our Alkitab. They were unconstitutionally impounded by the Home Ministry.

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Barisan’s anti-Christian agenda began when Dr Mahathir Mohamad became prime Minister in July1981 when he banned the Alkitab under a Gazette Order made under the Internal Security Act in 1982.

When Christians objected, he amended it to a “restricted ban” for use only in churches.

Despite this, various consignments of the Alkitab and Bahasa Christian publications were illegally confiscated by the Home Ministry by using the Publications and Printing Presses Act.

The Bup Kudus or Iban Bible was banned in 2003 by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi when he was acting Prime Minister and Internal Security Minister. He relented when faced with Iban anger.

Now under Prime Minister Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia, this harassment against the church and Christians continues unabated leading to the desecration of the 35,000 copies of the Alkitab by stamping it with serial numbers and the words “For Christianity Only.”

We can never agree to this because the Bible is meant for anyone interested. Only criminals are identified by serial numbers.

It is not that we have not compromised for the sake of peace.

We have even gone to the extent to imprint a large crucifix on the cover of Alkitab with the words “Penerbitan Kristian” or “Publication Christian” so that Muslims do not buy or receive the Alkitab by mistake.

The Alkitab and Bahasa Christian publications are now placed under the jurisdiction of the Quranic Text Division of the Home Ministry. The desecration of the Alkitab is done by this division.

The shortage of Alkitab in Sarawak, due to the ongoing illegal confiscation of our Holy Scriptures, has now reached a crisis.

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Our children and grandchildren have no access to them since birth.

The evidence before us is that Barisan Nasional is persisting in completely wiping out our Christian Heritage in Sarawak and Sabah by pursuing its unconstitutional and illegal anti-Christian agenda.

Sidang Injil Baru Sarawak, therefore, advises Christians to vote wisely in the coming state elections on 16 April 2011. You do not necessarily have to vote for the Opposition. Vote only for candidates, including those from Barisan Nasional, whom you feel can act with a clear conscience and integrity and a proven record of defending the freedom of religion.

Our Christian heritage is at stake. Act now. Vote wisely. Pray for divine intervention.… time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11 NLT).

Kasih karunia dan damai sejahtera menyertai kamu.

Sidang Injil Baru, Sarawak
Sri Aman
30 Mar 2011

We apologise for the error in the introduction that initially attributed this piece to ‘Sidang Injil Borneo’. The letter is actually written by ‘Sidang Injil Baru’, as noted at the end of the piece.

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