Native Christians want action on ‘Islamisation’

Taking a cue from the Catholic Archbishop of Sabah Rev John Wong’s urging to Putrajaya to act against aggressive Islamisation in the state, another bumiputera church leader wants the National Registration Department (JPN) to immediately stop its ‘MyKad Islamisation’.

Rev. Jerry DusingIn a statement today, Rev Jerry Dusing (left), president of the indigenous denomination Sidang Injil Borneo Sabah, said, “As highlighted by Archbishop Wong, we urge JPN to immediately rectify the wrong classification of bumiputera Christians in Sabah as Muslims just because they have ‘bin’ and ‘binti’ in their names. The JPN must desist from this ‘MyKad Islamisation’ drive through changing the religious status in the MyKad of these Christians.”

He fully supports the urging for freedom of religion by Archbishop Wong and for the authorities to respect their rights to practise our faith as guaranteed by the constitution.

The archbishop urged this at the mamangkis gathering organised by the Perpaduan Anak Negeri (PAN) Sabah – the Native Solidarity of Sabah – in Papar on the west coast south of Kota Kinabalu last Saturday. The mamangkis is an old Kadazandusun war cry used by their pagan ancestors to rally warrior troops for battle. PAN has contextualised it as a Christian wake-up call for revival.

Dusing said the wrong classification of the MyKad belonging to native Christians in Sabah has brought untold misery to those affected.

“Christians wrongly classified as Muslims are unable to get married legally. Getting married in churches would not solve their problems as these marriages cannot be officially registered, “he said.

“Birth of their offspring also cannot be registered as their parent’s marriage is in the first place not recognised in law. This makes them illegitimate children. This presents a major in registering them in schools and in applying for their own identity cards and eventually they cannot even get married as Christians.”

Dusing said an official compliant for 162 such cases of Christians wrongly classified as Muslims has been lodged two years ago with JPN, only to be told that all the files have been lost in the department itself and no further action could be taken.

They have also been told by JPN that the department would only rectify their religious status if they went to the Syariah Court to get a declaration that they are not Muslims.

“It is most ludicrous to subject Christians to the dictates of the Syariah Court, “he said.

Dusing said, “We also wish to urge the authorities to rein in aggressive Islamisation in Sabah by overzealous dakwah elements from peninsular Malaysia through conversion by dubious means such as intimidation, inducement and deception. Even our children in taska and tadika pre-schools and those in residential schools and colleges are not safe from these extremist elements. They are even entering into Christian villages among the poorest areas in Sabah to convert the through such dubious means. Such deception must stop immediately. “

“As pointed out by the archbishop, our Christian faith is under attack. As we prepare to celebrate the 51st anniversary of the formation of Malaysia on Sept 16, we wish to remind the government that the cornerstone of Sabah’s 20-point conditions to the Malaysia Agreement is anchored on freedom of religion. We cherish this fundamental civil liberty and will defend it without fear or favour.”

‘Adverse impact on native communities’

Bumiputera Christians in Sabah have been incensed by what they see as ‘aggressive Islamisation’, the increasing erosion of freedom of religion in the state especially over the prohibition on the use of the word ‘Allah’, land and native rights issues, as well as the presence of foreigners who have identity cards and even citizenship. This has had an adverse impact on traditional native communities.

The formation of the two-year old PAN Sabah is a response to this. Led mainly by native lay leaders, it has been organising the mamangkis gathering in the past several months crisscrossing  Sabah.

It has received strong support from various bumiputera Christian leaders such as Rev Jerry Dusing, Anglican Bishop Rev Melter Tais, Catholic Bishop of Keningau, Rev Conerlius Piong and Rev Jensey Mojuin, president of the Protestant Church of Sabah. Archbishop John Wong is the most senior clergyman to throw his support behind the mamangkis movement.

Bumiputera Christians have been incensed by attempts to convert some members of their flock to Islam by dakwah elements from peninsular Malaysia according to PAN leaders.

One recent instance is the dubious conversions of 64 people, including children, from three villages in the remote parts of Pitas district – Kampung Layung Maliau, Dowokon and Sosop – who were alleged to be tricked into converting to Islam by “some people from Kuala Lumpur” were offering them “welfare assistance” of RM800 but only if they went to Pitas to collect it.

Speaking at the mamangkis gathering in Pitas four months ago, Rev Jensey said, “Religious extremists had used fraudulent means to deceive our innocent and illiterate (Rungus) brothers and sisters in Pitas” to unwittingly convert them to Islam.” He said despite police reports being made, no concrete action had so far been taken.

“This unjust and fraudulent action has threatened the peace and religious harmony which have been enjoyed for so long in Sabah,” he declared.

Speaking at another mamangkis gathering in Nabawan, Catholic Bishop Rev Cornelius Piong, said the silence of the leaders who are Christians was similar to that when the then-chief minister Mustapha Harun had announced his unity policy of “one language, one culture, one religion” on Aug 1,1972.

“Our elected political leaders, even though ‘Anak Negeri’ and Christians themselves, have so far been silent as if nothing is amiss,” Piong told the gathering of largely ethnic Murut Christians.A mass conversion to Islam had taken place in some villages in nearby Pensiangan.

The Sabah leaders he alluded to include cabinet ministers like Dr Maximus Ongkili, Joseph Kurup and Dr Ewon Ebin. The conversions have occurred in their parliamentary constituencies of Kota Marudu, Pensiangan and Ranau respectively.

These comprised mainly impoverished Christian majority villages. Ongkili, who holds a doctorate in agricultural economics from Australia’s Latrobe University, was at one time a senior leader of the SIB Sabah before he went into politics and has since distanced himself from the SIB leadership. He was detained under the old Internal Security Act for two months in 1991 for anti-federal politics.