- Published on Sunday, 12 January 2014 13:03
KUALA LUMPUR: The fallout from bible seizures by Selangor Islamic authorities has spread across the South China Sea, with Iban Christians decrying the raid against the Bible Society Malaysia (BSM) ― their primary supplier ― as a deliberate bid to limit their worship.
The Gempuru Besai Sarawak, which represents 6,000 Iban-speaking congregations in the East Malaysian state, also said that the Selangor Islamic Religious Department’s (Jais) confiscation on January 2 of over 300 copies of the Al-Kitab and Bup Kudus ― which are Christian holy scriptures in the Malay and Iban languages respectively ― was a “serious and intolerable” violation of their constitutional right to practise, preach and propagate their faith.
“Being the exclusive holder of the rights to import and print the Alkitab Berita Baik (BM language Bible) and the Bup Kudus (Iban language Bible), the [BSM] is the main source of Bibles to our community who are largely BM and Iban speaking,” said Gempuru Besai Sarawak chairman Pastor Greman Ujang in a statement yesterday.
“If one copy had been taken, it would have been understood to be for inspection. But seizing multiple copies is a clear attempt to restrict the Iban-speaking Christians from accessing the Bible in our own language,” he added.
After it was raided, the BSM had pointed out that its customers are not just limited to churches in Sabah and Sarawak, but also include Sabahan and Sarawakian Christians, Orang Asli churches and other Malay-speaking Christians in the peninsula.
The Al-Kitab and the Bup Kudus refer to God as “Allah” and “Allah Taala” respectively.
Ujang urged Putrajaya to immediately order the release of the bibles and to reassure Iban Christians that their holy scriptures and other Christian education materials in the Iban language may be freely distributed.
“This is the guarantee that was promised to our forefathers at the inception of Malaysia,” he said.
The pastor also expressed worry over the protest held by Muslim group Klang Muslims Solidarity Secretariat near the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Klang last Sunday against the Christian use of “Allah”.
“The Gempuru Besai Sarawak is also gravely concerned by the intimidation tactics mounted by Umno-sponsored NGOs who protest outside or near places of worship, and thereby put fear into the hearts and minds of thousands of ordinary Iban Christians working or studying in West Malaysia,” he said.
“We fear for our people and our children’s physical and legal safety, and are anxious that they will be persecuted and prosecuted for practicing, preaching and propagating their faith,” he added.
Despite such attacks, Ujang said that Iban Christians would continue referring to God as “Allah Taala”.
“We shall continue to address our Creator God, maker of heaven and earth and all that is in it, as Allah Taala because we have done so for hundreds of years and there is no other form that has ever been used by us Iban-speaking Christians to correctly describe the God of the Bible,” he said.
Iban Christians make up some 52.6 per cent of Sarawak’s Christian community.
According to a 2010 census, Muslims are Malaysia’s largest religious group, followed by Buddhists. Christians are the third largest at 2.6 million, which comes up to about 10 per cent of the entire Malaysian population.
Bumiputera Christians, who form about 64 per cent or close to two-thirds of the Christian community in Malaysia, have referred to God as “Allah” when praying and speaking in the national language and their native tongues for centuries.
-The Malay Mail Online