I was born on the prairies, where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures. [GERONIMO]
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Nationwide prayer rallies for Sarawak begin
KUCHING: Four church networks across East and West Malaysia began a 12-day prayer rally for religious freedom in Sarawak on the eve of nomination day in the state’s 10th election.
The rallies will continue at different churches each night until Sarawakians go to the polls on April 16.
Last night, some 1,000-odd Christians filled the halls of three churches here as the rallies were carried out in English, Bahasa Melayu (BM) and Mandarin respectively.
Dayaks and a smattering of Indians packed the Good News Fellowship (GNF) where the rally was held in BM, while foreigners joined the predominantly Chinese crowd at the English language rally in Calvary Church. The Blessed Church also drew in a big crowd with the prayers conducted in Mandarin.
“The Sarawak network alone has 100 churches,” Pastor Jeff Wei of GNF told FMT.
“We’re not sure how many churches the other three networks have but the numbers are big. And we’re all praying together for a singular purpose.”
Just last month nearly 3,000 Christians came together in Sarawak’s biggest and first prayer rally to focus on religious freedom.
The massive turnout was sparked by the home ministry’s previous insistence that the Al-Kitab (Malay language bibles) be stamped with the words “For Christians Only” and marked with a serial number.
Over the weekend, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Idris Jala, announced a new 10-point formula that dropped all conditions on the use and distribution of the Al-Kitab in Sabah and Sarawak.
NOT OVER YET
The next day, however, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein stated that the 10 points were still open to debate.
“The battle isn’t over yet,” Wei said.
“But many Christians in Sarawak are rejoicing because they are not aware of Hishammuddin’s statement. So we will be updating them during the rallies.”
The chairman of the Kuching Ministers Fellowship (KMF), Daron Tan, agreed: “The Sarawakians Christians see the matter as already resolved without realising that certain key problems were not addressed.”
“One of those is the word ‘Allah’ which is the crux of this matter. So until today we have yet to see a united front from the government where this matter is concerned.”
Despite their impassioned stand both pastors led the rallies in prayer rather than political propaganda.
They focused the sessions on five prayer points – Sarawak, the state election, the incoming government, the people of Sarawak and religious freedom in Sarawak and Malaysia.
“There has been a great awakening among Sarawakians in the past few years and the Christians are no longer concerned only with the after-life,” said Tan.
“They now understand how the state has an impact on religion.”
TAIB NEVER 'HEAVY-HANDED'
Pastor Matthew Ling further explained that there has been such a rumbling among the Christians that the church risked becoming irrelevant if it chose to remain silent.
“Christians have begun to ask if the role of the church is to be concerned solely with spiritual issues,” he said.
“Sarawakians in general are a very tolerent society but circumstances have pushed us to speak up now.”
Tan attributed this tolerance to the fact that Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud had always upheld religious freedom in the state.
“Despite whatever that is said of Taib, he has never once been heavy-handed with the Christians,” he said.
“We have always appreciated the state government for that. Our disappointment in Taib is that he bowed to the federal government on this issue.”