In Allah We Trust

In Allah We Trust
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sabah Christians band together to stop conversions to Islam

A Christian group, representing various denominations in Sabah, is embarking on a major religious revival campaign following dubious attempts to convert some of their flock to Islam.
Perpaduan Anak Negeri Sabah (PAN) will go on a six-month campaign to gather indigenous Christians to unite and urge Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to speak up on the “Allah” issue for Christian Bumiputeras.
“We want the PM to say something. He is not a PM for the Malays only but a PM for everyone,” PAN chairperson Esther Golingi told The Malaysian Insider.
PAN is reviving the spirit of an old Kadazan Dusun Murut war cry “mamangkis” which was a used by their ancestors to rally warrior troops for battle.
However, Golingi said the calls now are being “contextualised as a Christian clarion call for revival.”
PAN will hold a mamangkis event in Ranau tomorrow as part of its statewide programme. It expects several hundred Christians to turn up.
PAN’s mobilisation effort comes amid reports of a group of about 64 people, including children, from three villages in the remote Pitas district – Kampung Layung Maliau, Dowokon and Sosop – being tricked into converting to Islam.
They claimed a neighbour told them “some people from Kuala Lumpur” were offering them “financial assistance” of RM800 but only if they went to Pitas to collect it.
On New Year's Day, they did. Instead of receiving the financial assistance at the Pitas town hall, they claimed they were made to go to a nearby mosque instead.
There the villagers were given RM100 and asked to put their thumbprint on a document. They were then told to stand in a line and recite some "foreign words".
The villagers claimed they only realised they were converted when some of them brought home the document and showed it to their church leaders.
Upset over broken promises by Putrajaya to Sabah when Malaysia was first formed, PAN said that it is worried that the religious freedom guaranteed in the Federal Constitution was no longer being upheld.
“We hold nothing against Islam if it was embraced with free choice. But we condemn such conversions as they were done through deceit, intimidation or bribery,” she said.

“We want to worship God. We want to be united as Christians. With more than 30,000 Sabahans working in the peninsula, what happened to our religious freedom?” said Golingi, adding that Sabahan Christians can no longer carry their Malay language Bibles, Alkitab, with them when in the peninsula.
Groups in Sabah and Sarawak are growing restless over the “Allah” issue as most indigenous tribes, who are Christians, are feeling the religious tension as the issue boils over from the peninsula to the two states.
“Today, we have lost our God-given freedom in every sense of the word. We are not even allowed to refer to God as ‘Allah’ in our liturgical language. Worse, we are not even allowed to teach our children and their children about God, whom they know as ‘Allah’, the almighty creator of the universe and all that is in it.”
Golingi said that religion was now used as a political tool and that Malaysia should go back to basics.
“We need to uphold the Constitution of our land and it says we have our freedom of religion. Freedom of religion means freedom of religion.”
Religious tension between Muslims and Christians in the country heightened after the Selangor Religious Affairs Department (Jais) seized some 300 copies of the Bible in Malay and Iban.
The raiding party also detained BSM chairman Lee Min Choon and manager Sinclair Wong.
Following that, Muslim groups had protested near a church in Klang against the right of Malay-speaking Christians to worship in Bahasa Malaysia using the word “Allah”.
Prior to the 2011 Sarawak elections, Putrajaya had endorsed a 10-point solution to allow Christians in Sabah and Sarawak to use “Allah” in the Malay version of the Bible, which was negotiated by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala.
The editor of Catholic weekly Herald Rev Father Lawrence Andrew is being investigated for sedition after he had been reported by The Malaysian Insider as saying that churches in Selangor would continue using the word “Allah” during their Bahasa Malaysia services.
His statement was in response to Jais's announcement that it would write to all churches in Selangor and tell them not to use the word "Allah" in their worship and publication.
Last week, church leaders of various denominations had come out to say that they were united with the Catholic church on the stand that Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christians should be allowed to use the word "Allah" in their worship.
Throughout this, Putrajaya has kept silent on the issue even as Christians looked to Idris Jala for an explanation.
Christians form about 9% of Malaysia's 29 million population. Almost two-thirds of Christians in Malaysia are Bumiputera and are largely based in Sabah and Sarawak, where they routinely use Bahasa Malaysia and indigenous languages in their religious practices, including describing God as “Allah” in their prayers and holy book.
Besides the Bumiputera Christians from Sabah and Sarawak, some of whom have moved to the peninsula to live and work, Orang Asli Christians in the peninsula also typically use Bahasa Malaysia in their worship. – January 23, 2014.

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