Sibu result reflects growing Christian vote

Malaysian Insider
By Debra Chong
May 28, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR, May 28 — DAP’s surprise win in the recent Sibu by-election was the latest message being sent to the Najib administration that it needs to buckle down and deal with the “Allah” issue sooner rather than later.

The party made a special appeal to the Christian voters, citing the need to prevent Putrajaya from regulating the ways and language of worship for non-Muslims, after a landmark court ruling on Dec 31 that allowed the word “Allah” to be used by all.

The rise in a conscious Christian vote came after churches in Muslim-majority Malaysia reported a growth spurt, and leading the pack was the 82-year-old Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB), an evangelical movement that worships mainly in Bahasa Malaysia, the national language.

Its sphere of influence is growing fast, particularly among the Orang Asli tribes in the Malay peninsula, said the Christian Fellowship of Malaysia (CFM), an umbrella body that represents voices from both the orthodox churches and evangelical groups.

CFM general secretary Tan Kong Beng credits SIB’s growing appeal to “cultural affinities” between the local indigenous community and those from the Borneo interior.

First set up in Sarawak in 1928 and regarded as a relatively young church, the SIB has been making inroads into Peninsular Malaysia in the last two decades.

Some 30 SIB congregations have been set up in the peninsula to date, with more on the way.

Tan sees the SIB evangelists from Sabah and Sarawak to be more empathetic with the Orang Asli groups and so better able to build a closer rapport with the locals.

“Urban West Malaysians are very different from the Orang Asli,” Tan told The Malaysian Insider.

He explained that English — commonly used in the city and town churches — proved a challenge to those living in the rural areas.

The Bumiputera generally speak in their own native tongues, or the national language with outsiders, he said.

The SIB community in neighbouring Shah Alam have been making regular visits to a remote Orang Asli village the next state over for the past few months, its pastor Richard Samporoh told The Malaysian Insider.

The church has a dedicated Orang Asli ministry, made up mainly of young working adults and university students who visit the tribespeople and provide a range of social-welfare services, such as basic health checks and free tuition classes, making the indigenous more receptive towards the church.

But even as the church expands, so have its problems.

SIB church leaders from both sides of the South China Sea complained of the home ministry’s increasingly heavy-handed treatment towards the church and its members, prompting them to file several lawsuits against the government.

Earlier this year, a group of Orang Asli Christians in Pahang sued the government for refusing to supply water and electricity to their village church.

The Jahut from Kampung Kubang Pasu lost the case at the Temerloh High Court but were appealing the decision.

Next week, the High Court here will attend to a suit filed by Sarawakian SIB member, Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill, who sued the home ministry for seizing her personal religious books and CDs, allegedly because they contained the word “Allah”, which may “confuse” Muslims.

Pastor Jerry Dusing, who heads the Sabah SIB, said the confiscation of Christian books remains a problem in Malaysia.

He, too, has filed a similar suit against the government for confiscating an imported shipment of Malay Bibles three years ago. The court will hear his case later next month.

Pastor Danil Raut, president of SIB Semenanjung, related that the indigenous tribes in Sabah and Sarawak have been using the controversial “A” word in their worship since before Independence.

His fellow SIB member, Alfred Tais, who also sits on the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) committee, explained that the Bumiputera Christians were upset because they perceived the government’s restrictive policies as a violation of the Federal Constitution and the terms laid out in the agreements for the Borneo states to join the peninsula to form Malaysia.

The ruling Barisan Nasional government had tried to play down the issue, only to have it backfire on them, as seen by the way Sibu — where over half the electorate were Christian — voted earlier this month.

The secular DAP, which had been placed as the underdog in that by-election, had mounted an aggressive campaign, arguing the right of non-Muslims to use the “A” word.

“We’re not creating it to be a hot topic but… we can’t control public sentiment,” Dusing told The Malaysian Insider just before the polls, highlighting Sibu’s extraordinarily large Christian voter population.

“To us it is a hindrance to be able to practise our religion freely. The Christian community is concerned that our Bible is placed under internal security. Books that teach positive religious values placed under restrictions.

“We hope the government will take a sensible attitude towards this problem,” he said.

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Friday, 28 May 2010 - 8:06 am

    Let the bible speak for itself: I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

  2. #2 by HJ Angus on Friday, 28 May 2010 - 8:14 am

    Even in Mulu the locals are angry over the treatment of religious matters.
    There is a case of the church being ordered to be pulled down after the government built an immigration station on their land.
    The SIB church is very prominent in Miri, sited on Canada Hill – I noticed that when I attended the Catholic Cathedral in town below the hill.

  3. #3 by Bunch of Suckers on Friday, 28 May 2010 - 9:04 am


    In Bodonland, BN is a damn shameful & loser Party with rip-offs, cheats, rapes, manipulations, distortions, intimidations & etc…

    Its main component parties consist of UMNO, MCA, MIC, Gerakan, SUPP, Peraksa, SOB (SonsOfBitch), BOS (BunchOfSuckers), MMT (MamaToppers), BMP (BigMouthUMNOputra like sucky Changehole & hoggy Ali) & etc…

    With suck big family, it cannot lead and govern well the Bodohland led to ranking 105 position out of 152 nations in the world. Many of them are PhD degree holders awarded freely & monetarily from our Bodohland Universities.

    Never seen SUCK the big coalition parties in the world, only occur in our Bodohland. In fact, these coalition party politicians should commit hara-kiri in front of rakyat…

  4. #4 by limkamput on Friday, 28 May 2010 - 9:37 am

    If we are the followers of a particular religion (and its god) that will lead us to salvation, we should have complete faith in its potency and divinity. We should be able to convince ourselves that the God we believe in will keep the followers and embrace more brothers and sisters into our midst. The religion we believe in should have no fear of competition, in fact, it should welcome competition. After all, don’t we want to believe that our religion (and God) is enduring, logical, and empowering? A religion that needs human protection, or worse still, can only survive by suppressing other religions, is in fact telling all its followers and potential followers that its God needs protection.

    Christians, please don’t politicise our religion. We should have complete faith in the divinity and omnipotency of our God whatever the circumstance.

  5. #5 by yhsiew on Friday, 28 May 2010 - 11:31 am

    Thank goodness, the people of Sibu had not voted SUPP. BN just revealed yesterday that its government will go bankrupt by year 2019!!

  6. #6 by boh-liao on Friday, 28 May 2010 - 12:15 pm

    Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, free thinkers, etc – R also citizens n voters
    We CANNOT ignore politics n must DECIDE d future of our nation, kena bribed or not
    So, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, free thinkers, etc register as VOTERS n encourage your friends n relatives 2 do so
    All must vote in d coming 13th GE – hopefully, against d evil UmnoB/BN

  7. #7 by mycuntree on Friday, 28 May 2010 - 12:28 pm

    It shouldn’t be too long before the headhunters of Sarawak detach the head of Taib and all his henchmen for display in the longhouses. As with all the rest of the UMNO/BN state leaders, they have brought inevitable ruin to their states with their indulgence of rape and plunder of the state’s economic resources. This country just simply cannot afford to let them do it anymore. The life blood of the country are being bled dry by them.Time that they give up their pound of flesh and blood!

  8. #8 by sheriff singh on Friday, 28 May 2010 - 1:06 pm

    Why focus on the Christian votes alone? Sure, they are very significant in many areas and their votes therefore crucial and decisive.

    But how about the much, much larger Buddhist and Taoist vote?

    On this Wesak day, maybe we should give a thought that these votes too are very significant and have made it count in many constituencies.

    Happy Wesak Day.

    (How come no Wesak Day message?)

  9. #9 by chengho on Friday, 28 May 2010 - 1:10 pm

    1Malaysia , happy Wesak day..

  10. #10 by johnnypok on Friday, 28 May 2010 - 1:19 pm

    That guy who uttered “Don’t make me angry” should change his identity and join UMNO, and become the PM (Prostitute Miri).

  11. #11 by monsterball on Friday, 28 May 2010 - 1:53 pm

    Indeed Happy Wesak Day…to all sincere and truthful people of Malaysia who embraces a Malaysian Malaysia and sincerely respect all faiths and freedom to choose.
    To those that do not give freedom to human beings…or are supporting to divide and rule….forget Wesak Day…as Buddha teaches nothing but being truthful and be completely free.
    Does “1Malaysia” give us total freedom Chengjho?

  12. #12 by frankyapp on Friday, 28 May 2010 - 2:28 pm

    Though islam is the official religion in malaysia,I think the Umno led BN government is spending too much effort to protect it and many times even went over board,hence hurting other’s faith and those got hurt turned against BN. An example is the Allah case. Funny thing is despite being official,yet they are so pretty afraid to lose it. However I think religion is a personal matter,it’s a deal between the believer and GOD. Why the official religious people needed to poke their fingers into most if not all these believers’s and non believers’s faith and even issuing threats to stop this and that or else. Don’t they know that one can drag the horse to the river but one cannot force it to drink.Similarly you can force a person to embrace your faith but you can’t force him/her to believe it,right ? Hence what’s the fuss ? I think it’s best the Umno people talk less about their religion and talk more about the social and enconomy devlopment of all the people to bring/turn malaysia into a happy family,to a happy nation and ultimately make it a great country.

  13. #13 by HOHOHO on Friday, 28 May 2010 - 5:52 pm

    Ho Ho Ho
    Happy Wesak Day,Happy Buddha Day ( A Mi Toa Foa )
    Respected Sibuans think positive,work hard for their own money and votes wisely and CONGRATULATIONS to all of them.
    GOD bless you all.
    Ho Ho Ho

  14. #14 by HJ Angus on Saturday, 29 May 2010 - 8:50 am

    It is extremely difficult to separate religion from politics as politicians make use of every trick to stay in power and that includes making use of religion.
    In life one cannot separate religion from other matters. What we need are politicians who use universally accepted values to help us become better citizens.
    As for a religious policy, we need to support government policies that respect religious freedom and the right to choose one’s own religion.

  15. #15 by johnnypok on Saturday, 29 May 2010 - 3:17 pm

    Message from God:-

    “Christians will rule Sabah and Sarawak, and Christians will rule the world”

  16. #16 by monsterball on Saturday, 29 May 2010 - 10:36 pm

    hahahahahaha…Message from God and he chants Buddhist sutras ….to wish me dead.
    Johnnypok is a NUT!

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