Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sarawak Christians welcome Adenan’s anti-extremism stance

Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem's strong stance against extremism and religious polarisation is getting support from some Christian leaders in the state ahead of the coming election. Archbishop of Southeast Asia's Anglican Church, Datuk Bolly Lapok, said he believed Sarawak Christians from the various denominations were in favour of Adenan's announcements that the state government would give equal treatment to all religions to practise their faith. "A considerable gap has been created especially during the tenures of Adenan's two immediate predecessors. During the Brookes and the subsequent years before independence, the Church was favoured as a somewhat quasi-official religion of the state," Bolly said, referring to the time when Sarawak was ruled by the Brooke family before it was ceded to Britain. "With the birth of Malaysia, that status was gradually replaced by a marginalisation that makes Christians and all non-Muslim Sarawakians strangers in their own land," Bolly said in an interview with The Malaysian Insider. When Adenan took over as chief minister in Februay 2014, Bolly (pic, left) said he brought "a breath of fresh air" for Christians in the state. "His advocacy for greater autonomy for Sarawak, the issue over the 'Allah' word used by Bumiputera churches (and) other boldness unheard of before has gained much admiration from friends and foes alike. For the Church, we see a genuine attempt to narrow the gap. "This is what we want, after so many years being marginalised. Despite all the negative things that are happening today, I would still think he is genuinely reaching out to the voters." Adenan, who heads the Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN), has made several moves that have impressed analysts and even opposition politicians. Besides taking a strong stance against religious polarisation in Sarawak, he has also acted against illegal loggers, raised the status of the English language and is in the midst of negotiating for greater autonomy from Putrajaya over several matters for the state. The archbishop added, however, that non-Muslims and Christians in particular must not be silent and should remind the state government to make "tangible commitments" on the freedom of religion. "(Adenan) is the lone voice from among his colleagues of the other states in Malaysia. So it is very bold of him. In so doing, he is doing something unique and representing us well in Sarawak. "Because of his boldness, it is understandable that Adenan would upset many people including those within his own cabinet, who would perhaps say things differently," Bolly said. Political analyst Datuk Peter Minos said it was not only Christian voters in Sarawak who welcomed Adenan's stance against extremism, but his assurance was also well received by other groups. "From what I've heard and seen, it is not just the Christians who are feeling reassured with Adenan's words on religious freedom, but others too. Adenan does not see the need to disturb the status quo. What he is doing now, is make sure Sarawak remains peaceful and harmony," Minos said. Adenan's stance against bigotry and religious fanaticism come against a background of Muslim missionary groups from Peninsular Malaysia, which according to Minos, were suspiciously viewed by Sarawakians as operating quietly and "clandestinely". PKR's Baru Bian (pic, right), however, said that even though Adenan's popularity was undeniable and his stance against extremism welcomed, not everyone would fall for it. Baru, the Sarawak PKR chief and Ba'Kelalan assemblyman, said people should not forget that Adenan had yet to publicly affirm Sarawak's official religious status. "The simple-minded Christians would be persuaded and attracted to Adenan's stance against extremist. There are also those who felt it is mere rhetoric because he has failed to even reaffirm a simple thing like official religious status of Sarawak. "These are the people who are looking at the bigger picture," Baru said. Sarawak, under its 20-point agreement on its formation of Malaysia in 1963 together with Malaya and Sabah, has no official state religion, even though it recognised Islam as the national religion. In December last year, however, Islam was suddenly stated the official religion on the state government website, but was later removed without explanation after complaints. Baru has since held that Adenan should come clean on the matter. – February 17, 2016.]]>

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