Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Christian leaders harden stand on Allah, say Putrajaya misleading East Malaysians on court ruling
They also accused Putrajaya of trying to mislead Christians from East Malaysia into believing that the Court of Appeal ruling was only applicable to the Catholic weekly, Herald.
They said they will speak up on this issue as this is what their respective congregations expected them to do.
In Sarawak today, the Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) will hold a public forum to address the use of the word Allah as it "relates to religious freedom". The forum will address the legal implications of the Court of Appeal ruling, on whether the decision only affects the use of the word in the Herald in Peninsular Malaysia.
Catholic Bishop for the Keningau diocese in Sabah Datuk Cornelius Piong said Sabahans, especially the Kadazan, Dusun and Murut natives, have been using the word for generations and will continue doing so.
"Who is going to stop us? Even God allows us to use the word," he said, calling the move to restrict the use of the word illogical.
His conviction was supported by the Bishop for the Sandakan diocese, Datuk Julius Dusin Gitom, who said that whatever views the church leaders expressed reflected the congregation's feelings.
"We will continue to use the word until they prosecute us," he said.
Gitom also took to task government leaders for "hiding" the real extent of the ruling by saying that the Court of Appeal ruling was limited to the Herald.
"It is not the case and the people know that. It is a blanket ban which affects everyone."
He also accused political parties Umno and PAS of trying to outdo each other in being more Islamic, which he added was a contributor to the Allah problem.
Gitom said some Catholics in rural areas who had no access to information were being told by certain political leaders that there was nothing to worry about, and that it was only a problem for the Herald.
"These politicians are giving Catholics the wrong facts of what is really happening. That is when we step in to explain to them our rights as Christians," Gitom added.
Piong also lashed out at ministers from Sabah who were not speaking up on the issue.
"We are not too happy about it, they are supposed to represent us, they should speak out but they are too quiet."
Piong said that the congregation would continue to use the word, and added: "What can they do, they will have to sew our mouths to stop us."
Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Sabah president Reverend Datuk Jerry Dusing said its members felt cheated over the way in which the government was handling religious issues.
He said that although most of SIB's 300,000 members throughout the country were made up of natives of Sabah and Sarawak living in the interiors, they understood what was happening, even though they did not say much about it in public.
"They may not be able to articulate exactly how they feel, mostly due to lack of confidence, but I visit them in the interiors, and they know what is happening.
"They know the problems they face, in relation to their children being 'converted' to Islam in their identity cards and also losing their native lands. This, they said, is all linked to the government's handling of religious issues," said Dusing.
He claimed there were so many cases where Christian parents were surprised that their children were listed as Muslim in their identity cards.
Dusing also took to task politicians who were trying to play down the issue by saying the ruling was limited to the Herald and would not affect Sabah and Sarawak, pointing out instead that the Court of Appeal judgement had defined that the word Allah was not integral to the Christian faith.
"So let us not be fooled that this is only about Herald and Allah. The judgment is far reaching. How can it then not apply to Sabah and Sarawak? And that is why we are throwing our support behind the Catholic Church in its appeal,” Dusing added.
The Christian community in Sarawak said the forum today is being held to inform and educate Bumiputera Christians who are affected by the court ruling.
ACS secretary-general Ambrose Linang said the forum will discuss the historical context behind the formation of Malaysia and the promises leading to the Malaysia Agreement.
"We will also go into the history of the Malay bible translation, that Allah is an integral part of the Christian faith among the native Christians of Sarawak," said Linang.
"The forum will also discuss the use of Allah in the Malay language bible and Christian publications, and that the use of the word must extend to Christians in the peninsula, based on freedom of religion for all Malaysians.
"The premise is that Article 11 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion for everyone and that it does not say one set of freedom for Sabah and Sarawak and another set of freedom for West Malaysia," he said in a statement.
Speakers at the forum will include lawyer Lim Heng Seng, who will speak on the constitution and religious freedom, Dr Ng Kam Weng, who will address the theological and historical perspective of the use of the word Allah, and Professor Dr Jayum Jawan, on the role of churches in nation building.
On October 14, the Court of Appeal ruled that the word Allah was not an integral part of the Christian faith and practice, where the three-man bench saw no reason for the church to remain adamant in wanting to use the name Allah.
They also said that allowing Christians to use Allah would lead to confusion within the Muslim community.
The ruling drew the attention of Muslim scholars from the international arena who warned that the prohibition of the word could push a progressive country like Malaysia backward. – November 13, 2013.