Thursday, November 14, 2013

Right to use “Allah” among Sarawak churches’ three requests to Putrajaya

NOVEMBER 13, 2013
Members of a church congregation. Lawyers have warned that the October 14 ruling by the Court of Appeal applies to Christians nationwide. - The Malaysian Insider file pic, November 13, 2013.Members of a church congregation. Lawyers have warned that the October 14 ruling by the Court of Appeal applies to Christians nationwide. - The Malaysian Insider file pic, November 13, 2013.Sarawak churches have urged Putrajaya to show more commitment to religious freedom in Sabah and Sarawak in a three-point request unveiled at a forum in Kuching today.
According to the three-point request, read by Association of Churches Sarawak chairman Archbishop Datuk Bolly Lapok to more than 1,000 people at the forum, Putrajaya should:
  • recognise that the word "Allah" is inherent to the practice of the Christian faith by Bahasa Malaysia-speaking and other native language speaking churches in Sarawak and Sabah;
  • honour the guarantee of religious freedom in the federal constitution; and
  • reaffirm and recognise the 10-point agreement by Putrajaya in April 2011.
The 10-point solution among others allowed the printing, import and distribution of the Bahasa Malaysia bible, Al-Kitab, which uses the word Allah, as well as allowing the word to be used in churches using Malay as their medium. The agreement contrasts with an October 14 Court of Appeal decision upholding the Home Ministry's ban on the use of the word Allah in Catholic weekly, Herald.

Lapok claimed that Putrajaya has only displayed "ad hoc benevolence" whenever the issue of religious freedom came up.

“We need tangible commitment from the authorities to respect and uphold the freedom of religion guaranteed," said Lapok at the public forum titled, "Standing together for religious freedom".
The audience comprised of Sarawak grassroots leaders, housewives, pensioners and representatives from the Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist temples. Also among them was the Sarawak state assembly's sole Independent assemblyman, George Lagong.
Lapok, who is also the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in South East Asia, said Christians in East Malaysia would not remain silent on unreasonable government policies and laws infringing on their rights to practise their religion.
“The Allah controversy is about unreasonable government policies and laws that infringe on the rights of non-Muslim Malaysians to practice their religion of choice.
“In the face of such unreasonable action, we cannot and should not remain silent,” Lapok added.
Lapok referred to clauses on religious freedom in Sarawak's 18-point and Sabah's 20-point agreements with Malaya on the formation of Malaysia.
"It was not a coincidence. It was intentional that the first point in both these agreements concerned the freedom of religion," he said.
Besides Lapok, other speakers at the forum were lawyer Lim Heng Seng from Kuala Lumpur, University Putra Malaysia's Professor Dr Jayum Jawan and theologian Dr Ng Kam Weng.
Jayum said if Putrajaya does not show greater commitment towards recognising religious freedom in Sabah and Sarawak, the people should decide if they should continue supporting the Barisan Nasional government.
Lim meanwhile pointed out that although the Federal Constitution guarantees the civil rights and liberties of non-Muslims and their religious freedom, “creeping Islamic values” introduced by the government are violating the rights of non-Muslims.
He also noted that “extremists" in the government are “pushing Putrajaya along Islamic lines”. - November 13, 2013.

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