As a Christian, I view the recent “Bible Issue” as a Godsend.
Although it may have been caused by the oversight or overzealousness of a few to block the holy books, the impact will be felt by the many…for many years to come.
What looked like an act of religious repression now appears to have caused the spark to ignite greater dialogue between the Government and Christian groups in the country.
It’s all good!
For Christians in Sarawak though, I think the real “bible issue” is getting more Christians to read the bible more often.
Who knows, maybe it would have been a good thing if the bibles were kept quarantined at the ports, because there’s nothing more appealing to read…than something you’re NOT supposed to read.
For Christian groups, that last statement wasn’t meant to justify keeping the bibles at the ports, it’s just me looking at it from a purely marketing angle to promote bible-reading.
When you ban something, someone somewhere will probably go all out to get their hands at it and no amount of bans or quarantines at ports will stop them from attaining their goal.
I was glad though when the issue was not politicised as much as I thought it would be. Not much.
As some of you may know, Sarawak’s going to have an election this year.
As far back as I can remember, religion has never been an issue debated in Sarawak politics, and rarely ever during elections.
Our Chief Minister probably plays a major role in this, as he absolutely refuses to play the religious or even the race card in campaigning.
Sarawak’s peace and harmony is just not something he’s willing to gamble with.
It’s also probably not an issue worth campaigning because respect for each other’s religion has always been a given in Sarawak.
It’s not easy to get upset with people from other religions, when your own family may be made up of members of different faiths.
I could see that Sarawak BN was more than a bit “inconvenienced” by the actions that probably originated from Malaya, in this election season.
But I have to give a big thumbs up to our State and Federal BN leaders who created a positive outcome from the episode.
However, for the Malaya-based opposition in Sarawak, that was sadly not the case.
In their hunger for power, the race card and the religious card have always been kept on the table.
Besides, they’ve been successful with this tactic in Malaya and I think they believe they’re justified in using any means necessary to win in Sarawak.
And that is just one of the reasons why I think the opposition we have now will never have a mandate to rule in Sarawak.
By the way, it would have been interesting to hear how Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) – the ultimate mix of politics and religion in the country (hence the party’s name) – would have handled the issue of distributing Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia bibles.
How The Borneo Post viewed the impact of Datuk Seri Idris’ statement:
Association of Churches lauds 10-point solution
Posted on April 4, 2011, Monday
KUCHING: The Right Reverend Datuk Bolly Lapok, chairman of the Association of Churches in Sarawak and Anglican Bishop of Sarawak and Brunei describes the 10- point solution in the bible issue as “surprisingly exuding in generosity and sensitivity that characterises the Sarawakian culture”.
In a press statement yesterday, Bolly added that the Christian community here welcomed it even though it was “just an ointment for a symptom”.
“Our prayer is that the level of understanding and harmony amongst adherents of the different faiths in Malaysia would rise above the root-cause that ignited the dispute.
“Even more heartening is the government’s commitment to work with the churches to address inter-religious issues,” added Bolly.
The consignee and importer of the bibles, James Redas, thanked Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala and the government for their understanding in settling the issue.
“We are also grateful to the media especially The Borneo Post for assisting us in highlighting the matter and getting the message through to the government,” added Redas.
He said it has been a challenging time for the Gideon community in Sarawak as it was very uncertain about the fate of the 30,000 bibles which it has imported from Indonesia.
“It has been sleepless nights for us and finally we are able to collect the bibles for our work among the local people who need them most,” he said.
They were commenting on the government’s 10-point solution which was released by Idris on Saturday and published by major newspapers yesterday.
With the 10-point solution, Bibles in all languages can be imported into the country, including Bahasa Malaysia.
Bibles can also be printed locally in Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak and Sabah.
Besides, the solution also provides for printing and import of bibles in the indigenous languages of Sabah and Sarawak such as Iban, Kadazan-Dusun and Lun Bawang.
In Sarawak and Sabah, there would be no conditions attached to the importation and local printing of the bibles in all languages.
Gideon, the importer can collect all the 30,000 bibles free of charge.
The Christian ministers in the cabinet will meet on a regular basis with representatives of the various Christian groups to discuss their issues and work with the relevant Ministries and Prime Minister in order to resolve them.
Idris had hoped that the 10-point solution will be received positively by the Christian groups as being fair and reasonable.
He also asked for reconciliation and forgiveness in the spirit of Lent.