Hornbill Unleashed

November 30, 2013

Honour our right to freedom of religion’

Filed under: Human rights,Politics,religion — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
Tags: , , ,

Mkini

In recent years, Putrajaya and the Church have been at loggerheads over several issues, the most contentious of this being the right to use the term ‘Allah’.

The issue, which saw the fire-bombing of several churches, was later brought before the court, which eventually decided in favour of the government.

In a statement released today, Sabah Council of Churches president Bishop Thomas Tsen urged Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to urgently rein in extremism.

Tsen warned that religious intolerance has reached a dangerous level.

“It must be remembered that the usage of the Al-Kitab and the word ‘Allah’ are matters under the constitution and federal laws, whereas Islam is a state matter under the respective sultans.

“State laws and gazette orders made by the respective state Islamic Religious Councils apply only to Muslims in these states and not on federal laws or to non-Muslims,” he said.

Tsen pointed out that Sabah is unlike the nine Malay states.

“We have repeatedly said under the terms of the 20-Points to the Malaysia Agreement, Sabah is to continue enjoying complete freedom of religion after the formation of Malaysia in 1963. The Church in East Malaysia is much, much, older than Malaysia itself.

“Therefore, we expect others will honour our fundamental right to complete freedom of religion regarding the practice and expression of our faith and ministering of our fundamental sacraments of our religion as well as our liturgy, worship and teaching of our holy scriptures to our children,” Tsen added.

This is Bishop Tsen’s statement in full:

We urge Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to urgently rein in extremism in our midst as religious intolerance has reached a dangerous level.

We are reminded that it was the prime minister himself who first mooted the noble idea for building a “Global Movement of Moderates” from all faiths to reclaim the agenda for peace and pragmatism, and to marginalise the extremists in his maiden speech at the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2010.

NONE

We are also reminded that he repeated this call nearly two years later at the inaugural International Conference on the Global Movement of Moderates organised by the alumni of the International Islamic University of Malaysia.

We were encouraged by his assurance then that, “the time has come for moderates of all countries, of all religions to take back the centre, to reclaim the agenda for peace and pragmatism, and to marginalise the extremists.”

The world has taken note of Malaysia’s message of reclaiming the middle ground from extremists.

It was only last month that British Prime Minister David Cameron praised Najib for uniting moderates in the fight against extremism at the 9th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) in London and for inspiring people across the world in the fight against extremism.

However, back in own backyard, we are experiencing extreme action against the Church in Malaysia.

We find the recent judgment by the Court of Appeal wholly unreasonable, irrational and repugnant and hence we reject it. It is up to the Federal Court now to do the right thing.

‘Judges overstepped their boundaries’

We concur with our brother churches in Sarawak in their recent statement that, “It is our view that the judges overstepped their boundaries in determining that using the word ‘Allah’ is not integral to the Christian faith. In deciding thus, the judges arrogated to themselves a right that does not belong to any human court of law – the right to determine religion.”

Article 11 (1) of the federal constitution spells out the constitutional guarantee that every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and to propagate it, and among other things, the right to manage its own religious affairs.

NONEThis right includes the right of Christians to decide for themselves questions about Bible translations, including rendering the word ‘God’ as ‘Allah’ in the Al-Kitab, our Malay language Bible. No state or federal authority has any power or right over the exclusive ecclesiastical authority that lies solely with the Church in Malaysia, as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution and mandated by Holy Scriptures.

With due respect, the recent statement by Selangor Royal Council secretary Hanafisah Jais that the use of the word ‘Allah’ in the Al-Kitab and in the Bahasa Malaysia edition of the Catholic Herald be stopped immediately needs urgent clarification as it raises concern over the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion.

It must be remembered that the usage of the Al-Kitab and the word ‘Allah’ are matters under the constitution and federal laws whereas Islam is a state matter under the respective sultans.

State laws and gazette orders made by the respective state Islamic Religious Councils apply only to Muslims in these states and not on federal laws or to non-Muslims.

Sabah is unlike the nine Malay states. We have repeatedly said under the terms of the 20-Points to the Malaysia Agreement, Sabah is to continue enjoying complete freedom of religion after the formation of Malaysia in 1963. The Church in East Malaysia is much, much, older than Malaysia itself.

Therefore, we expect others will honour our fundamental right to complete freedom of religion regarding the practice and expression of our faith and ministering of our fundamental sacraments of our religion as well as our liturgy, worship and teaching of our Holy Scriptures to our children.

We conclude by giving our assurance that we will resolutely join the prime minister’s efforts to build a Global Movement of Moderates. We too reject religious extremism. We, therefore, urge him to restore the middle ground for religious tolerance and to respect the constitutional rights of non-Muslims to freedom of religion and the right to manage their own affairs.

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: