by Desmond Davidson
The Malaysian Insider
October 20, 2013
Christian worshippers recited the word Allah as they fulfilled their Sunday obligation across churches in Sarawak today, shrugging off a court ruling that said the Arabic word for God was not central to their faith.
At the St Columbas Anglican church in Miri this morning, the native faithful intoned the words Allah Taala in Iban, God Almighty in English, as they have been doing all their life.
Parishioners who attended the 7am Iban service were reminded during sermon that there would be no change in the way prayers are said and that the church would continue using the word Allah.
The priest, referring to the statement made by Archbishop Datuk Bolly Lapok earlier this week, said the church would “continue to reverently worship their Allah until the Kingdom comes”.
In response to the Court of Appeal ruling to ban the use of the word Allah by the Catholic weekly, Herald, last Monday, Lapok, who is also chairman of the Association of Churches in Sarawak, had said that Sabah and Sarawak churches would continue calling their God Allah and would continue to reverently worship their Allah until the Kingdom comes.
George Bennett Francis, a parishioner of St Columbas, said there was no substitute for Allah Taala in the Iban native language.
“We have been calling God, Allah Taala for hundreds of years. How are we going to change that?” he asked.
The use of the word Allah in native language services at St Columbas, located in Jalan Brighton, was repeated in all similar services in churches in Sarawak today – a week after the Court of Appeal ruling banning Christians from using the word.
“There is no change in the service,” worshipper Dorothy Gregory said of the service at the little All Saints’ Church tucked in the Dayak village of Kampung Tabuan.
“We still use the same liturgy, the liturgy we used last week, last year and for the last few years, for our prayers,” she added.
The liturgy – the booklet that sets out the fixed set of Eucharistic (mass) rites and words to be used in worship – contained no fewer than 80 instances of the words “Allah Taala”.
The words were also used in the hymns and in the sermons.
At last week’s service, the 400 or so faithful that had packed this church said the word, Allah, no fewer than 100 times.
“It hasn’t changed a thing,” Gregory added.
Similarly, there were no changes in the way services were reportedly conducted in Catholic and Sidang Injil Borneo churches in the state.
Last Monday, a three-man Court of Appeal bench unanimously overturned the 2009 Kuala Lumpur High Court ruling that allowed the Catholic Church to use the word “Allah” in the Herald.
“It is our common finding that the usage of the name ‘Allah’ is not an integral part of the faith and practice of Christianity,” Justice Datuk Seri Mohamed Apandi Ali said in the ruling.
“Such usage, if allowed, will inevitably cause confusion within the community,” he added.
The ruling has since drawn much reaction and criticism from within Malaysia and across the world, with some commentators describing the decision as an attempt to guard Malay pride. – October 20, 2013.