KUALA LUMPUR, March 30 — The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) rejected today the federal government’s overture in the Alkitab row, saying it did not resolve the core issue which is the erosion of basic human rights protected by the Federal Constitution.
The umbrella body representing over 90 per cent of churches here was referring specifically to Putrajaya’s offer to mask the Home Ministry’s stamp and serial numbering of 35,100 copies of the Malay bibles shipped in from Indonesia last week, as laid down last week by its Christian minister, Datuk Seri Idris Jala, who is in charge of government and economic transformation.
Jala, in his statement on March 22, also said that certain Christian donors had also offered to fully replace, free of charge, the two marked cargoes at Port Klang and Kuching, which had been seized and detained by home ministry officials.
The CFM did not seem mollified by Jala’s attempts to placate the community, maintaining that the act — which had been carried out quietly and without the bible importers’ consent — amounted to a desecration of the Christian holy book and an outright show of disrespect, breaching the guarantees of this country’s highest law.
“Our position is that there should be no restrictions, proscriptions or prohibitions whatsoever on the bible or the use of the language of our choice in the practice of our religion, as it was in the days before and after the formation of Malaysia,” CFM said in a statement here today, adding that the Alkitab issue was not the only restriction.
It noted that there has been a “systematic and progressive pushing back” of Christian rights dating back to the 1980s — dating back to the 1980s — namely the right to practise, profess and express their faith.
It pointed to a series of restrictions imposed on Christians, such as the freedom to wear and openly display religious symbols, like the cross; the building of churches; and even what words can be used in a Christian religious context.
The Catholic Church and other Christian groups and individuals on both sides of the South China Sea have challenged the home minister for imposing those restrictions, which centre on the use of the Arabic word for God, “Allah”, but their cases have been stuck in queue in the courts since 2008 with no end in sight.
“In order to move forward, we call on the Government to commit itself once and for all to remove every impediment, whether legal or administrative, to the importation, publication, distribution and use of the Alkitab and indeed to protect and defend our right to use the Alkitab,” it said.
It demanded the federal government start by cancelling all orders made under the Internal Security Act (ISA) 1960, as well as the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984, which categorised the Alkitab as a threat to national security and public order.
“Christians, like any other Malaysian, are not demanding for anything beyond our constitutional and fundamental human rights as enshrined in Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said the group, led by its chairman, Anglican Bishop Ng Moon Hing.
CFM also said that it would leave the decision of what to do with the marked cargo to the affected importers, the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) and the Sarawak branch of global Christian group, The Gideons.
“We have left it to the two importers to decide whether or not to collect the Alkitab, based on their different specific circumstances and level of trust in the authorities and the processes in their local context,” it said.
With polls set to be called in Sarawak in just over two weeks, the controversy is expected to weigh on the minds of Christians who make up nearly close to half of the hornbill state’s total population.