Banning BM Bibles destroys Sarawak Christians’ goodwill, says bishop

By Debra Chong, The Malaysian Insider

KUCHING, March 15 — Banning the Malay-speaking natives of Sarawak from using the word “Allah” is the best way to destroy goodwill and peace with its majority Christian population, Anglican Bishop Bolly Lapok said last night.

He said the word “Allah”, which has been used in their holy book for centuries, has become part of a Sarawak Christian’s racial DNA. The issue is expected to be a hot topic in the coming state elections widely expected to be held next month.

The newly-elected chairman of the Associated Churches of Sarawak (ACS) is the first east Malaysian Christian cleric to weigh in on the ongoing uproar over the Home Ministry’s seizure of 35,000 Malay Bibles — or Al-Kitab as they are locally called — imported from Indonesia and meant for the Bumiputera Christian market here.

“Even such issues as fundamental to our faith — as the Holy Bible, the Bahasa/Iban Bible; and the use of the word ‘Allah’, which we have been using for centuries and is already in the DNA of our vernacular — are being banned for the exclusive possession of a certain race,” Lapok said in his speech at the first ACS biennial meeting here last night.

A copy of his speech was emailed to The Malaysian Insider.

“It is restrictions such as these that provide a perfect recipe for murdering the spirit of goodwill and peace among neighbours,” he added, noting that Sarawak is also the state with the biggest Christian population.

Lapok told the congregation of Catholic and Protestant church leaders that, he said, represented nearly half the state’s total population that religious tension has been on the rise, “which had tested the very fabric of our society and resulted in the stoning of a church and a desecration of a mosque”.

He said that he was recently told that a church’s building plan had been rejected, ostensibly because the cross — the symbol of Christianity — on its rooftop was “too showy”.

Lapok described the present situation as a “crossroad” for Christians in Malaysia.

“I call it a crossroad because never before have the churches ever encountered, [been] rattled and stunned by the events that occurred during our tenure of office,” he said.

The Anglican bishop remarked that while the churches have received government aid, “it is a fact that they were given in a rather ad hoc manner and come far in between”.