Sabah Christians unite to stop conversions to Islam

A group of about 64 people from three villages in the remote Pitas district were being tricked into converting to Islam on New Year's Day.

Malaysia
Jan 24 2014, 5:41 PM
Sabah Christians unite to stop conversions to Islam
Christians in a church in Sarawak.

A Christian group representing various denominations in Sabah, Perpaduan Anak Negeri Sabah (PAN), will hold a six-month campaign to unite indigenous Christians and urge the Prime Minister to speak up on the “Allah” issue for Christian Bumiputeras.

PAN embarked on a major religious revival campaign following dubious attempts to convert some Christians to Islam. A group of about 64 people from three villages in the remote Pitas district were being tricked into converting to Islam on New Year's Day. The illiterate villagers claimed that they realised the conversion only when some of them showed the documents to their church leaders.

“We hold nothing against Islam if it was embraced with free choice. But we condemn such conversions as they were done through deceit, intimidation or bribery,” Chairperson Esther Golingi said.

The row over the right of non-Muslims to use the word 'Allah' has created tensions in Sabah and Sarawak despite the 10-point solution of 2011, allowing the right to Christians in the two states.

“We want the PM to say something. He is not a PM for the Malays only but a PM for everyone,” PAN Golingi said.

PAN is upset that national government has broken its promises to Sabah when Malaysia was first formed and said that the religious freedom guaranteed in the Federal Constitution was no longer being upheld. Golingi said that 30,000 Sabahan Christians working in the peninsula can no longer carry their Alkitab (Malay language Bible).

Golingi said that religion was now used as a political tool and Malaysia should go back to basics. “We need to uphold the Constitution of our land and it says we have our freedom of religion.”

Sabah and Sarawak are growing restless over the “Allah” issue as most indigenous tribes are Christians; religious tension is rising as the issue boils over from the peninsula to the two states. Last week, church leaders of various denominations unitedly asserted their right to use the word.

Almost two-thirds of Christians, who form about 9% of the 29 million people in Malaysia, are Bumiputera largely based in Sabah and Sarawak. They routinely use Bahasa Malaysia and indigenous languages in their religious practices, including describing God as “Allah” in their prayers and holy book. Besides them, Orang Asli Christians also use Bahasa Malaysia in their worship.

Source: Malaysian Insider