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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Samuel Radang

Is Sidang Injil Baru (SIB) a registered body? It will be good and not confusing if they would use (New Evangelical Church) after SIB. The recent move my SIB Sarawak (Sidang Injil Borneo) to use BEM (Borneo Evangelical Mission) to change the former Didang Injil Borneo is timely in order to avoid misrepresentation in the future. I hope that Sidang Injil Baru is not part of SIB or anything representing it. While I agree with the content of the letter I believe this should be done above politics. There should be a proper channel to discuss this matter. Discontentment with current government must be translated via elections. propagating political changes by manipulating religious agendas could turn out to be an unwise move. While other political parties in Malaya practices this, it would better be emulated by the East Malaysians, as it may result in religious polarization, animosity, and division along the religious line as already happened in Malaya. Change the government if you may, but let the racial and religious harmony that exist now in our land remains. United we stand.

Noraline Uvat

DOAKAN UNTUK SAYA ..

STEVENSON
STEVENSON

DearFriends in Christ,
Greetings from Rev.Stevenson,pastor, Grace Baptist Church, INDIA. We as pastors,ministers,evangelists,missionaries etc must face persecutions from the world. That’s what God said.But I encourage you to BE BOLD AND BE STRONG.Our God will not leave us orphans and He knows the right time to deliver us.
We ,as your co-workers in Christ,will uphold you everyday in our daily prayers.
May our good God give you peace and deliverance!
With Prayer,
Rev.Stevenson,pastor, INDIA,
GRACE BAPTIST CHURCH,
A.P, INDIA.

John
John

keep on praying.

Lee Soo Choo
Lee Soo Choo

I think you go the 2 SIBs mixed up, and you are not the only one. Sidang Injil Borneo (which you mentioned in your first line) and Sidang Injil Baru, Sarawak are 2 separate entities. http://uppercaise.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/vote-for-religious-freedom-says-sib/

admin
admin

We apologise for the error in the introduction. The correct attribution was made at the end of the piece.

Parochial Sarawakian
Parochial Sarawakian

I hope you realise the note was letter was not written by SIB! It says Sidang Injil Baru! Real Sarawakians and Christians would know that is NOT what SIB stands for. Very disappointed with Aliran for spreading lies and using the name of the Lord in vain!

jery
jery

while I like the content of the letter SIB stand for Sidang Injil Borneo and not Sidang Injil Baru. Is this a different SIB?

freedom of conscience
freedom of conscience

As Martin Luther King said,”What is worse than wrong being done is when good people see and do nothing.”

When Christians stand up for freedom of conscience/religion, they are standing not just for themselves but for the whole country.

Let good people everywhere fast and pray and choose rightly Saturday that justice and freedom will be upheld.

nik
nik

Dear country men of this lovely land of hornbill, be awake. vote wisely with sense and faith

Poh Lerk Shih
Poh Lerk Shih

Sidang Injil Baru is a different organisation from Sidang Injil Borneo.

see
http://www.malaysiantalk.com/sarawaktalk2/messages/5018.html

and
http://www.themicahmandate.org/2011/03/kebebasan-beragama/

admin
admin

Thanks for the clarification.