After ‘Allah’ ban, Sabah Christians demand return of religious freedom

Continuing their “mamangkis” war cry against the threat to their Christian faith, they deemed the Allah ban an attack against the people’s constitutional right to practise their religion without hindrance.

At the launch of the mamangkis gathering in Papar today, Sabah Catholic archbishop John Wong said the nation was being confronted with an unprecedented threat to the Christian faith.

Mamangkis is an old Kadazandusun war cry used by their pagan ancestors to rally warrior troops for battle, which has been adopted by Perpaduan Anak Negeri (PAN) Sabah as a Christian clarion call for revival.

Wong said today that it was regretful that elected national leaders and the judiciary had failed to uphold the Constitution and defend it.

“It is sad that even the judiciary, to whom all the meek and downtrodden look towards for justice and protection, declined by a majority decision, to do justice.

“In this respect, we implore upon Putrajaya to do all and everything to return our religious freedom and the peace and harmony which we enjoyed and have been enjoying,” he said, adding that Putrajaya should also honour the Malaysia Agreement.

Wong said that all this was happening despite the fact that “Allah” is an Arabic term for God and was even used in the pre-Islamic period in Arabia.

“In Sabah, the term was used by our forefathers long before the formation of Malaysia.”

He added that despite Putrajaya’s assurance that the restriction on “Allah” only applied to the Herald, there were attempts by certain groups to apply a blanket ban.

For instance, the seizing of the Bibles in Malay and Iban from the Bible Society of Malaysia by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) in January this year.

“Cases like these do not augur well for the concept of “1 Malaysia” which the federal government is so ardently promoting.

“Neither do they promote goodwill, peace and harmony which all Malaysians, irrespective of race, religion or culture, long for.”

Another troubling development, Wong said, was the subtle conversion of underage children taking place in schools.

He added that about a year ago, the Sabah Catholic Church and the Sabah Council of Churches had made an official complaint to the Education Ministry of a conversion ploy at the Labuan Matriculation College.

“These young students are constantly subjected to various forms of harassment, ridicule and pressure to change their religion.”

He added that these incidents raised the question whether higher learning institutions in the country were conducive for studies.

Another threat Wong highlighted was that many Christians in Sabah had Muslim sounding names, some even with “bin” or “binti”, which led to some of them being wrongly categorised as Muslim in their identity cards.

He said that these mistakes occurred because officers at the National Registration Department were ignorant, adding that the authorities needed to address the problem and rectify it.

“It is the legitimate right of every citizen and more so the Anak Negeri of Sabah to have his or her identity card correctly issued by the JPN.”

He said that Malaysia was formed between four equal and independent states – Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah – with proper safeguards for the people in Sabah and Sarawak, particularly on the freedom of religion.

“Though Singapore left, Sarawak and Sabah stayed on in the Federation, with the sole desire to be allowed to live in peace and freedom to exercise our right to worship our God in the way we know how and the language of our own.

“The Batu Sumpah memorial stone in Keningau is testimony to that desire.”

He added that threats from external forces invading Sabah borders as well as the huge presence of illegal immigrations were a constant reminder of the vulnerability of the people of Sabah.

“However, all too often, the authorities do not heed our fears and cries.”

This is the fourth Mamangkis gathering spearheaded by PAN, following the earlier events in Penampang after Christmas last year, then in Ranau and Nabawan. – August 9, 2014.