KOTA KINABALU, Sept 15 — The Sabah Council of Churches has urged national leaders to uphold unity and tolerance as the country faces the challenge of divisiveness amidst an unprecedented political storm and pandemic.
Its president Reverend Datuk Jerry Dusing said that Malaysians in the last one-and-a-half years have been showing their “family spirit” in the face of tough challenges in a true show of resilience and harmony, and that this spirit must continue.
“On the eve of this challenging Malaysia Day, we urge our national leaders to continue to cherish our common destiny, not to emphasise our differences; to bring hope and to guide Malaysia out of the pandemic, not to plant the seeds of division and hatred, and to direct significant focus and importance to address the many issues causing the suffering of the rakyat, for the sake of the wellbeing of all Malaysians and the future of the Federation,” he said.
He said the country had already been facing a weakening of its fundamental liberties, but in the past year and a half, suffered even more through unprecedented political turmoil and the global Covid-19 pandemic.
“Yet, by the grace of God, we have been spared from any ethnic or religious strife and civil unrest in Malaysia. This is a shining testimony to the resilience and harmony of the ‘Malaysian Family’, built on the foundation of mutual respect, tolerance and kinship,” he said in his Malaysia Day message.
He said that in reality, Malaysians are witnessing extreme religious actors and religious bureaucracy pushing for the erosion of the secularity of Malaysia and severely weakening the protection of Malaysians fundamental liberty of complete religious freedom.
“The erosion of fundamental religious liberty towards a more fundamentalist religious ideology compromising the constitutional supremacy is a grave concern. This direction is in complete contravention of the Malaysia Agreement 1963,” he said.
He said that the council was aghast by the proposal from deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of religious affairs that the government is planning to draft various new laws, including one to restrict the development of non-Muslim religions.
“The Sabah Council of Churches is deeply saddened by such a statement which was ironically released before Malaysians celebrate Malaysia Day 2021. We view such development with grave concern,” he said.
He reiterated that the Federal Constitution guarantees the complete freedom of religion for all. Any restrictions, in whatever form, to limit the propagation of any faiths would be in total contradiction of the spirit of religious freedom.
“Religious freedom means all persons can freely exercise their right to freedom of religion and belief without interference by the state including the right to change one’s religion. Any form of control by the state whether overtly or through backdoor means would fall short of the religious freedom guaranteed to the people of Sabah and Sarawak at the formation of Malaysia.
“We are immensely grateful to the various leaders of Sabah, including the Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, for expressing their strong objections to such a plan, and their commitment to defending the religious freedom and ethnic harmony in Sabah,” he said.