Sabah Council of Churches grateful for Christmas Eve holiday
Published on: Saturday, December 14, 2019
By: Anthea Peter
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KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Council of Churches (SCC) officially expressed gratitude to Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal for declaring Dec. 24 a public holiday effective this year.

“This is unprecedented. Firstly, this extra holiday on Christmas Eve is a recognition of the importance of the time of the year for the Christian community and, secondly, will greatly facilitate preparations for yearly gatherings with family and friends.

“Sabah is the only State which has been given such profound recognition to one of the most significant times in our calendar. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank our Chief Minister,” said SCC President Bishop Dr James Wong.

He also said declaring a Public Holiday in Sabah – the first in the nation to enjoy this privilege on Christmas eve – was “politically correct” as ultimately it promotes unity and harmony among the people.

“It is okay to do something that is politically correct…where you promote mutual respect, mutual acceptance, leading towards harmonious living. I think that is important,” he told a press conference at Wisma BCCM, Friday.

He was asked to comment on some non-governmental organisations in Sabah describing the move as politically motivated in order to win votes in the coming Kimanis by-election. 

“Anything can be turned into politics, but I think in the long term people can read whether there is sincerity or not.

“We think the Government has been very open-minded in recognising the needs of different religious groups. Not only the Christians. 

“Extra allocation has been given to other religious groups as well. I think that really promotes a sense of harmony,” he said. 

Sidang Injil Borneo President Rev Datuk Jerry Dusing said SCC views it as a considerate move that recognises the needs of Christians, especially in the interior.

“We want to read the CM’s gesture as a recognition for Christians who live in the interior. Giving an extra holiday means they can leave (for KK earlier) on 23rd and commute the distance.

“The extra day also means they have more time to spend with their family. It is actually from that aspect we should see. 

“We don’t want to look at it negatively and although we can read a lot of things, we are not politicians and we are people that want to see the best for the overall community,” Jerry said. 

Meanwhile, SCC also noted an increment of RM50,000 from the Government towards the annual KK Christmas Celebration. 

“Also the budget next year is going to increase, over RM40 million. It’s quite substantive. It’s not only for the Christians, but all other religions as well,” he said. 

On forced conversions and the issue of Christians carrying “bin” or “binti” in their registered names, SCC explained it was a complicated matter and not easy to resolve.

“Firstly, registration is a Federal matter, we must have a (State to Federal) dialogue for a resolution. It’s not a straightforward issue in the State, there are many levels that need to be considered.

“And of course some in the past have embraced Islam unknown to the family and this issue we have discussed with the State Government on ways to resolve and also at the Federal level. These are ongoing, it’s a very complicated,” Jerry explained.

Regarding claims of forced conversions, SCC suggests the Government be more sensitive towards religious propaganda and for communities to have a more open dialogue.

“Sometimes misunderstandings happen not because there is a group deliberately trying to convert…although we must admit some people are overzealous in their means of expressing their faith.

“There should be religious freedom, as provided in the constitution. But how do we actually express our faith? That’s a very sensitive issue. 

“And so every community must have a dialogue,” said Jerry, adding that removing suspicion through such means within various races and religions is key.


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