New chapel blessed in Miri

Around 250 parishioners, mainly from the Melanau community, participated in the Blessing of Saints Peter and Paul Chapel and Mass, followed by a dinner on July 30.

Aug 12, 2017

MIRI: Around 250 parishioners, mainly from the Melanau community, participated in the Blessing of Saints Peter and Paul Chapel and Mass, followed by a dinner on July 30.

The Melanaus are thought to be amongst the original settlers of Sarawak, also know as the Land of the Hornbills. They make up some 6 percent of the population in Sarawak. Today, the population of Sarawak stands at 2.63 million (2015).

Originally from Mukah (the 10th Administrative Division as launched in March 2002), the Melanaus traditionally lived in tall houses. Nowadays, they have adopted a Malay lifestyle, living in kampong-type settlements. Traditionally, Melanaus are fishermen and till today, they are reputed to be some of the finest boat-builders and craftsmen.

While the Melanaus are ethnically different from the Malays, their lifestyles and practices are quite similar. This is especially the case in the larger towns and cities. The Melanaus were believed to originally summon spirits in a practice verging on paganism. Today, most of the Melanaus are Muslims whilst some converted to Christianity (especially around Mukah and Dalat areas). However, they still celebrate traditional animist festivals such as the annual Kaul Festival in Mukah District.

In 1980, the population of Sarawak was 1,233,103. The Melanau numbered 69,578, of whom 53,689 were Muslims, 8,486 were Christians, 1,749 were tribal and 5,328 were registered as having no religion which, in practice, means they adhered to tribal religion (but were probably all tribal) and 326 were listed as miscellaneous.

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