Christians want Putrajaya to prove sincerity over Alkitab

By Debra Chong
The Malaysian Insider
Apr 03, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — In Sarawak and peninsular Malaysia, Christian clerics greeted with caution Putrajaya’s latest 10-point formula to resolve the bible impasse, saying action alone — and not words — can convince the community the pledges will be honoured.

Kuching-based Anglican bishop, Bolly Lapok, said he was surprised by the apparent generosity and sensitivity of the federal government’s latest overture to the Christian community’s 30-year-old-dilemma.

“The Christian community here welcomes it even though it is just an ointment for a symptom,” he told The Malaysian Insider today.

In its 10-point resolution released last night, the Cabinet through its minister Datuk Seri Idris Jala, assured the huge Bumiputera Christian population in Sarawak and Sabah they are free to bring in and use their bibles in Malay as well as in indigenous languages; and that no restriction will be applied.

Jala also said that the bible can now be printed locally in any language, including in Iban, Kadazan-Dusun and Lun Bawang.

Lapok said he was heartened to see the federal government showing commitment to resolve long-standing interfaith disputes.

“It’s an assurance, but we have been given such assurances before,” he said, and noted with concern another set of rules for believers in peninsular Malaysia, requiring the holy books here to be stamped with the words “Christian Publication” and a cross on the cover.

According to Jala, this is because Muslims are the majority community on the peninsula, unlike in Borneo where they are the minority.

“We share the sentiments of our West Malaysian colleagues. There should be one law, not two,” he said.

“If this is negotiable, we stand by what we had said earlier and call on the government to repeal the relevant laws,” he added, referring to legislation that continued to bar Christians from using the word “Allah” for God beyond the Muslim context.

Lapok said Christians are praying the level of understanding and harmony among adherents of the different faiths in Malaysia will rise above the root-cause that ignited the dispute.

The Bible Society of Malaysia’s (BSM) general-secretary, Rev Simon Wong, remained doubtful that the federal government would honour its pledges.

“Datuk Seri Idris Jala may be sincere, but how trustworthy is the BN government?” Wong asked, referring to the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) administration which has stayed in power since Independence.

He said the Home Ministry already has a record of breaking its word, which includes “harassing” local printers for printing the bibles and detaining bibles even after an agreement was reached.

“KDN has harassed local printers before. Same condition in 2005, but KDN never honoured — March 20, 2009, KDN detained BM Bibles printed with the same words ‘Penerbitan Kristian’ and a cross,” Wong said, calling the Home Ministry by its Malay initials.

Part of what provoked Christian anger has been blamed on the home ministry’s unilateral decision to seize the BSM’s cargo of 5,000 bibles from Indonesia, locking them up for two years and then hastily stamping the books with serial numbers and the Home Ministry’s official seal before they were released to the importers.

The Petaling Jaya-based BSM is one of the two affected bible importers in the present row.

The other importer is the Sarawak branch of global Christian group, The Gideons.

“They’ve made life hard for us for two years. Even before releasing the bibles, they stamped and serialised them unilaterally. This defacement of holy bibles has caused us great distress and loss of RM70,000,” Wong related.

“After the Sarawak state election or GE, we fear the government would revert to its old ways despite the directives,” he said, voicing the general view among Christians that the latest olive branch was a ruse to pacify the community and prevent a possible backlash at the ballot box when Sarawak goes to the polls in two weeks.

Wong echoed Lapok’s call for the federal government to adopt only one policy to prove its commitment to upholding the Federal Constitution’s guarantees on freedom to worship, in line with Prime Minister’s “1 Malaysia” slogan to nation building.

“Better to adopt only one policy for 1 Malaysia. No restriction, no proscription,” he said.

Rev Thomas Phillips of the Mar Thoma church here said Jala’s statement was “encouraging” but questioned the timing of the 10-point formula.

“Why, after all these years?” asked the cleric who is also an executive councillor in the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM).

The umbrella body representing over 90 per cent of churches here had earlier snubbed the Cabinet’s initial overture to resolve the row, saying it failed to address the core problem of religious discrimination.

“There’s a lot the government has to do to win the trust of the people. It should be 1 Malaysia, one policy. Everybody should have the freedom to worship according to their own religion,” said Phillips, who is also president of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST).

The priest told The Malaysian Insider the CFM exco will have to hold another meeting to discuss this latest overture before it responds.

“But we are in no hurry,” Phillips told The Malaysian Insider.

Yesterday, the Cabinet initiated a new list of suggestions to put an end to the month-long standoff, in a bid to head off a possible backlash against BN in Malaysia’s biggest and most Christian-dominant state on April 16.

Nearly half the state’s one million population is Christian.

In his media statement, Jala spelled out the government’s 10-point formula to pacify the minority Christians without incurring the anger of the majority Muslims over the religious controversy.

However, he made no mention of the word “Allah”, which both Christians and Muslims view as being the crux of the Alkitab row.

He added that the federal government would reimburse the two bible importers over the markings carried out by Home Ministry officials, which the Christian community regard as a desecration of their holy book.

Jala said that the Cabinet’s decision will be gazetted through the Home Ministry’s secretary-general to ensure the order is carried out and that action will be taken against civil officials who breach these directives.

He said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will meet the CFM to look for a way forward on outstanding religious issues beyond the bible row.

He added that Christian ministers in the Cabinet will also hold regular meetings with Christian groups to discuss religious issues.

“I hope this 10-point solution will be received positively by the Christian groups as being fair and reasonable,” Jala said in his statement, adding that the government was committed to a peaceful way out of the impasse.

  1. #1 by monsterball on Sunday, 3 April 2011 - 9:45 pm

    First they use the word “Allah” to trap Muslims to vote for them.
    Then found the Christains is a force to be reckoned with in Sarawak whose votes cannot be ignored.
    After 30 years…the cabinet in Sabah and Sarawak spoke out…..’Allah” word…free for Christain to use in their Bibles.
    It is good news to Sarawakians….but why near State election?
    Christain leaders from East and West Malaysia are not impress.
    When God loving and peaceful men of the Cloth…have doubts and suspicions..this clearly shows they suspect it has politics written all over the decisions.
    They can easily break their promise and start all over again their dirty race and religion politics….if 13th GE favours them.
    Therefore..Sarawak State Election ….Sarawkians must unite to vote this corrupted two timer government out to praise God with the power of TRUTHS lies in voters hands to serve God and country truthfully and sincerely.

  2. #2 by monsterball on Sunday, 3 April 2011 - 9:48 pm

    It is one to get Christain votes in Sarawak..and not out of love for other religions to be recognised as equals.

  3. #3 by habis on Sunday, 3 April 2011 - 10:02 pm

    Just to show the Christian Bumiputras that the BN govt is sensitive to the hurt feelings felt by the rakyat in Sabah and Sarawak But this is only possible temporary solution in view of the Sarawak State election to pacify the anger and win over their hearts to get the votes.But lets us not celebrate the sudden change of heart by the Federal Govt for Jala is only acting to please the the East Malaysians at the beckoning of his master NAJIS THE GREAT PRETENDER who is now busy dishing out $$$$$ crumbs hoping win over their votes when all should have been extended to the East Malaysians decades ago.

  4. #4 by yhsiew on Sunday, 3 April 2011 - 10:12 pm

    ///In its 10-point resolution released last night, the Cabinet through its minister Datuk Seri Idris Jala, assured the huge Bumiputera Christian population in Sarawak and Sabah they are free to bring in and use their bibles in Malay as well as in indigenous languages; and that no restriction will be applied.///

    The biggest question is: Would the previous restrictions be reinstated AFTER the elections?

  5. #5 by gofortruth on Sunday, 3 April 2011 - 10:55 pm

    Make no mistake all Christians, the issue at hand is never about the Bible, the issue is how you as children of a righteous God help to put an end to a corrupted federal government and let the opposition a time to help clean up the mess.Period!

  6. #6 by tak tahan on Sunday, 3 April 2011 - 11:28 pm

    Idris Jala as a christian should have an unyielding faith to convey the words of God as and if he pratices and not Umno’s divide and rule condition to further complicate the controversy.O..ya God can forgive him 77 times as he said so just let him be or act as he pleases within the confine of the counted numbers allowed.I hope by and before 77 times of clemency allowed by Jesus Christ for his mischief(bluff,steal,rape,sodomize n who cares),he’ll be by then been able to wallop tons of money for his retirement days.Ya,Idris,make sure you must make some allowance from the 77 times permited sins for your last remaining days to enjoy fully best known to yourself.May Lord be with you,Idris Jala.Amen,Amitaba and insya allah you will not commit crimes and blasphemy more than 77 times before you realized it.So keep track records to tally with the records flashed all over in the internet of your deeds especially the bad ones.

  7. #7 by hallo on Sunday, 3 April 2011 - 11:37 pm

    If there are proven corruption in BN.

    Any christian can not vote BN caused do so will mean you support/encourage devil continue against god in Malaysia.

  8. #8 by Jeffrey on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 1:01 am

    Idris Jala’s 1st problem – Implementation.
    2 principal importers of Alkitab are PJ based BSM and the other importer is Sarawak branch of global Christian group, The Gideons. How does Idris Jala implement his compromise formula? BSM’s bibles imported via Port Klang will be stamped “For Christians Only ” and a cross whilst Gideons through Kuching Port with no stamping? If that’s the case can Gideons import unstamped bibles through Port Kuching for onward supply to PJ’s BSM in circumvention of the dichotomous regulations? As there are no customs duties for travel between Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak, will Customs check the transfer of bibles from Sarawak to PJ ?

  9. #9 by Jeffrey on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 1:13 am

    Idris Jala’s 2nd problem of Religious Principle–Christians’ first objection to Alkitab being stamped is that it tantamount to desecration of the Holy Book. How does Idris expect the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) to agree (in principle) to a compromise/half way measure that entails the Holy Book (from CFM’s view point) being desecrated in Semenanjung’s use in exchange for non desecration if used in East Malaysia? Now for a Sarawakian working in KL – is his unstamped Alkitab that he acquired in Sarawak for personal use to be confiscated the moment he reaches Peninsular’s soil (that he hopes to bring to a KL church for service?) What will he think of th ntionl mntra “1 Malaysia” then? It erects more walls than build bridges.

  10. #10 by Jeffrey on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 1:19 am

    Idris Jala’s 3rd problem of showing Sincerity : If the stamping of Alkitab in East Malaysia may be waived, what is the rational basis for the restriction on use of Allah by Herald not to be equally waived? If the restriction on use of Allah in principle may equally be waived why is not the government withdrawing its current appeal against High Court (Lau Bee Lan)’s decision favouring the Herald?

  11. #11 by Jeffrey on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 1:25 am

    Idris Jala’s fourth problem – on Constitutionality : how is he to show Article 8 promising equality before the law is upheld when West Malaysian Christians are subject to a certian restriction on use of the Alkitab that East Malaysian Christians are not?
    (I shall not repeat what I have explained/discussed extensively in earlier blog thread). On preceding Idris Jala’s 3rd problem of showing Sincerity, it is still under moderation at this point of posting.

    It seems Idris compromise has created more problems than provide solutions.

  12. #12 by Jeffrey on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 1:34 am

    Idris Jala’s fifth problem – on political expediency also runs into problems. To accept and reject Idris’s compromise CFM has to canvass view points from various Christian groups and CFM exco has to meet to deliberate. “But we are in no hurry,” Rev Thomas Phillips of the Mar Thoma church told The Malaysian Insider. But time is something Idis does not have because Sarawak’s elections are just around the corner. What’s the point of a compromise if it is unlikely to be accepted by the time of the elections?

  13. #13 by boh-liao on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 2:16 am

    Beware, Christians, today OK, 2moro after GE n back in power, NO NO (Bible n Al lah)
    Do U really want 2 believe in UmnoB/BN? Just VOTE PR lah, Just DO it

  14. #14 by Comrade on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 3:30 am

    Why the double standard?
    Reason is very straightforward
    To fish for votes from the Christians
    As BN was saved by the Sarawakians
    This makes 1Malaysia a mockery
    Exposing BN/Umno’s hypocrisy
    Wise up, my dear Sarawak friends
    Bring BN’s reign to an end
    Just as PR is Penang’s saviour
    Vote in PR for a better future

  15. #15 by burn on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 3:32 am

    sekali kena, nevermind!
    dua kali kena, kita close one eye!
    tiga kali kena, kita wak sabar!
    empat kali kena, kita tutup dua mata!
    lima kali kena, kita pandang atas!
    enam kali kena, kita geleng kepala!
    and it goes on and on.
    so now, can you trust them again?
    i will never ever!
    they never walk the talk!
    they can talk till the cow jump over the moon, but no action. semua tin kosong!
    best thing to do, vote them out!


  16. #16 by dagen on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 8:41 am

    No point debra chong. Want to prove sincerity? No problem. They will do it. Yes. For politics sake mah. Umno will surely do it. Except that soon after they will happily act in contradiction to the show of sincerity. That would then effectively amount to making a mickey of us.

  17. #17 by k1980 on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 8:51 am

    After sarawak victory, bn will unveil “made in 1malaysia” bible— where the holy trinity means the 3 Datuk Ts….

  18. #18 by Bigjoe on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 8:53 am

    Sincerity in politics? Malaysian politics? UMNO/BN politics? Where have this person been living??

    Christians or any minority group must understand that UMNO/BN original ideology Malay nationalism has been thrown out the door during Mahathir rule and will never come back on its own. The basic ideology of UMNO B is Malay hegemony and that include Islam and by definition, dishonest and cannot be trusted, even if its written in black and white.

  19. #19 by dagen on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 9:18 am

    Can all hornbill christians come together and show in one solitary vote you people’s dissapproval of umno’s disgusting and unlawful treatment of the christian religion?

    Remember this. Umno is totally deaf and blind. And umno has no qualms about making u-turns on its promises.

  20. #20 by Bunch of Suckers on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 9:23 am

    Never expect those suckers in Putrajava be sincere. They pretend to be sincere in election times! After which, they will suck you up like they suck on banana

    Only you can have progressive and happy nation, Malaysia, is to get rid off those suckers in the Putrajava!

  21. #21 by habis on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 10:26 am

    Mr Jala what impasse are you talking about and in the first place there shouldn’t be Any At All if only all those Christian ministers,Asst. ministers have any balls and guts to voice out their protest at such high handed action of the Home Minister officers involved in this fiaso.It just make a mockery of 1Malaysia slogan.How on earth can our nation move forward and Progress if our leaders continue to exploit racial and religious issue to further their political ambitions with utter disregard of the rakyat’s interest.Just look at the Dayaks living in the interior without basic necessities of electricity and water for decades and when election comes around only then they see and offer and extend financial aids which SHOULD be done ages ago if at all our present and past leaders have any sincerity to help them at all.I hope and pray that Hornbills young and old give the opposition a chance to administer our beloved country.God Bless Our Country.

  22. #22 by Peter on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 12:40 pm

    UMNO/BN never ever learn. As a matter of fact they DO NOT want to learn. How can you have two sets of rules – one for Sabah and Sarawak and the other for Peninsular Malaysia – with regard to the dissemination of the Malay Bible, Al-Kitab. They are just buying time because of the Sarawak general election. Once over, they will later say, if West Malaysia can “dudok diam diam” why not you East Malaysians. And here we go again back to square one. So we must stamp our foot to make sure we denied UMNO/BN the 2/3rd majority by supporting PKR and all other opposition parties in the coming elections.

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