The Press Statement of Sarawak Evangelical Christian Association (SECA)

The Sarawak Evangelical Christian Association (SECA), an alliance of evangelical churches and organisations in Sarawak, is gravely disappointed that t

Mar 07, 2018

The Sarawak Evangelical Christian Association (SECA), an alliance of evangelical churches and organisations in Sarawak, is gravely disappointed that the Federal Court decided last Tuesday that persons seeking to officially opt out of their Muslim faith must do so through the Syariah Court system.

We stand together with the Association of Churches in Sarawak in the following:

--We are greatly troubled by the Federal Court’s decision delivered on 27th February, 2018 concerning religious conversion.
-- We see the unfair and unjust treatments of the four appellants in their studious attempts to exercise their right to the freedom of religion in the State where this is highly regarded.
--Though respecting the Federal Court’s decision, we see the roadblocks to conversion tantamount to violation of the unique nature of freedom of religion, granted to the people of Sarawak as a condition for us to form the Federation, as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
-- We are alarmed by the threat to the fabric of peace-loving relationships that we have fostered among Sarawakians over centuries; and a real fear of it being destroyed by inappropriate management of emotions.

We want to take up this last point and elaborate on it as this has much greater and serious ramifications on our life in Sarawak in the long run.

We strongly believe that our main focus of what took place at the Kuching Courthouse on 27th February should not just be on the incident itself. To do so, we will miss a golden opportunity to take constructive steps to continue building Sarawak’s unique way of life that we all greatly cherish.

We all acknowledge that diligent and sustained efforts by all races in Sarawak to understand one another and make space for cultural diversity have established an exceptional culture of peaceful acceptance and co-existence in our State.

Religious harmony is a key building block of this culture. We recognise the sensitive nature of religion and how it could become cause for discord in Sarawak.

Parties to the negotiation for the formation of Malaysia took careful considerations of the diverse cultures of the peoples in the four territories (Sabah, Sarawak, Malaya, and Singapore). Religion was high on the agenda throughout the negotiation process. The kind of religious freedom (described as ‘complete freedom of religion’), deemed vital for the continuity of the ways of life in Sabah and Sarawak at that time, was purposefully granted and enshrined in the Federal Constitution to ensure safeguard of such continuity in the two territories.

Our forefathers of all races and religions fought hard for and were in agreement in securing this right for Sarawak. The harmonious life that the multiracial and multi-religious communities of our State have been enjoying since the Federation formation is a great testimony to their wisdom for this.

It would be too easy just to blame the event of 27th February 2018 on one religious group, one race, or a particular group of people. On that day, unknown persons attempted to attack the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuching Archdiocese Most Reverend Simon Poh as he left the premises of the Federal Court. The big question we need to answer is how could we, the people of Sarawak (in all segments of our society — religious, civil, and Government) who have been zealously guarding our way of life, allow the religious tension to escalate to such a boiling point that expressed itself in the incident in question.

We all care greatly about keeping the Sarawak way of life; the life that we have all contributed in shaping over many generations. We certainly should not let one or two incidents to derail our dream of Sarawak for our future generations.

No single race and/or religious group can realise this dream on its own in the multiracial society of Sarawak. Pursuing a course that overtly benefits one race and/or religious group over the others or at the expense of others will not bring about the harmonious life desired in our State. We need all the people of all races and religions to come together to work towards this dream.

What the people of Sarawak do next in response to the courthouse incident is vital as it will determine how we and our future generations will live with one another. If we need to revisit the Malaysia Agreement and consider other factors relevant to keeping our way of life, let us do so together.

Therefore, we use this occasion to make a strong appeal to all the people of Sarawak of all races and religions to come together at this critical time of our State to dialogue and find a path forward as one people. We hope religious leaders and the Government will lead the way. The Sarawak Evangelical Christian Association is committed to play an active role to preserve the unique peace and harmony in our beloved Sarawak.

Sarawak Evangelical
Christian Association Kuching
5th March, 2018

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