KUCHING: The Court of Appeal’s decision to bar the use of the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God in the Catholic weekly publication ‘ The Herald’ has caused much concern among Christians in Sarawak.
Anglican Diocese of Kuching Assistant Bishop Rt Revd Aeries Sumping Jingan, when contacted yesterday, said: “I am most disappointed with the court’s ruling. It is a very sad day for our nation,”
“I cannot buy the argument that the word ‘Allah’ is not an integral part of Christianity, especially when we have been using the word ‘Allah Taala’ since 1848 in Sarawak, long before Malaysia was even conceived.”
Aeries said the word Allah predates even Islam, and had been used by Arab Christians for over 2,000 years, adding that even in the Holy Quran (Surah al-Ankabut verse 46), it was mentioned that the Christians and Jews believe in the same Allah.
“That, I think, explains why PAS had also said that Christians can use the word.”
Aeries said he could not understand the ‘public order or national security’ argument because Christians in Sabah and Sarawak had been using the word for 165 years in peace.
“Our Muslim brothers here have no problem at all with us using it.
“If after using the word Allah in our worship and prayers freely for the last 165 years and suddenly are now told that we can’t use it in case we might confuse our Muslim friends, then, if this is not an infringement of the constitutional rights of Christians, I don’t know which is!”
According to Aeries, the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Revd Justin Welby, said the ban “is abhorrent, wholly unacceptable and a flagrant betrayal of the Malaysia Agreement, which guarantees the inalienable rights of non-Muslims in Sarawak and Sabah to religious freedom.”
Meanwhile, The Sarawak Ministers’ Fellowship, together with its believer brethren in the Roman Catholic Church, will await and study the reasons for the court’s judgment before deciding what to do next.
Deeply shocked and disappointed by the ruling, its chairman Revd Daron Tan said the Sarawak Ministers Fellowship, which comprises, pastors and faith-based ministry leaders from the Christian community which professes its faith in a diversity of languages, held that the decision of the court was erroneous and in breach of the constitutional guarantees of freedom to practise, preach and propagate their faith in accordance with biblical mandate. He, however, was quick to state that tolerance and acceptance must remain the hallmark of Malaysians’ conduct and that everyone must exercise restraint in order to enjoy the desired harmony.
He urged all Christians to remain calm and not to resort to rash statements or acts in reaction to the court’s decision.
“The Church in Sarawak understands and appreciates the reality of the intricacy of maintaining social harmony in our multi-faith society.
“It has always been our hope that our tolerance and acceptance of diverse religious world views would result in better understanding of the Christian community as a peace-loving people who are prepared to go the extra mile to secure the kind of life every Malaysian aspires to have under the constitution of our country.”
However, Tan pointed out the concerns in which the Christian community at large in Sarawak would be facing.
“Every Bumiputera Christian is under potential threat of being deemed a law breaker and facing arrest.
“Their offence would be committed by merely addressing God in their own language; a practice they have adhered to for hundreds of years.” - theborneopost