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Labuan church group breaks silence
Published on: Monday, December 08, 2014
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KOTA KINABALU: The Labuan Inter-Church – a committee set up to look into, among other things, problems facing Christian students on the island – has broken its silence on a recent allegation that Labuan Matriculation College (KML) students are forced to conduct their prayer meetings in the open."Incidents of discrimination against Christian students and active conversion attempts are nothing new at the college. The infringement of Christian students' rights is a serious issue," Elder Micky Sia Pangiran, said in a statement, Sunday.

He was commenting on a Daily Express report recently that Christian students in the college were forced to pray under the trees due to being denied a proper facility.

"The Christian students have attested to the reality of the situation," he said.

Elder Micky said the Labuan Inter-Church strongly protests such infringement and called for an immediate enforcement of all that was requested by the Catholic Diocesan Centre (CDC Sabah) and promised by the Ministry's Director of Matriculation Division (Dr Sariah Abd Jalil) back in 2012.

"This is to ensure a positive change in the prevailing atmosphere to truly reflect the concept of 1Malaysia and practice of freedom of religion as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

"The KML Administration must execute fairness and justice towards Christian students who are within their jurisdiction and under their care and responsibility. The students must be allowed to exercise their rights," he stressed.

According to the Chairman, Labuan Inter-Church met with the College Director, Sawang Amit, in July 2012 pertaining to the incidence of a high number of Christian students' conversion to another faith and students' complaints about the Kolej lecturers' active involvement in attempts to convert students during course lectures.

Subsequently, the CDC forwarded a letter of complaint to Sawang Amit, which was extended to the Ministry. This resulted in a meeting between an eight-member delegation from the Ministry headed by Dr Sariah and a nine-member CDC delegation led by then Bishop John Wong (now Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu) on Dec. 13, 2012.

During the meeting, the CDC made six requests relating to the overall well-being of Christian students of the college from the educational, religious and protection of rights perspectives. These requests were incorporated into a letter dated Dec. 14, 2012, signed by Dr Sariah and addressed to the Secretary-General of the Ministry, Dato' Dr Rosli Mohamed, for further action.

A copy of the letter, which was extended to CDC, was also made available to the Daily Express.

Details of the requests were as follows:

O Right to Education: KML must ensure a safe and conducive learning environment which is free from threats, harassment and conversion pressure by Kolej staff and lecturers;

O Right to freedom of religion: KML cannot hold compulsory classes or activities on Saturdays and Sundays, knowing that Christian students have to attend church services on those days;

O Right to gather: Since Christian students make up 50pc of the total student population, they have the right to gather to have discussions, conduct prayer meetings and hold spiritual activities within the College grounds;

O Right to protection: KML must ensure that Christian students or lecturers who voice their concerns over religious rights are not victimised;

O Availability of facilities: Since Christian students make up 50pc of the student body, KML must provide the space or a room for their religious activities, given that there is even a surau within the College grounds for the convenience of Muslim students;

O Tutorials: KML must ensure that all classes are held in the lecture halls or tutorial rooms and not in the surau.

However, Micky claimed that until today not one of these requests to the Ministry had been considered.

"Consideration for these requests will go a long way towards strengthening the Prime Minister's belief in 1Malaysia. If Mission schools can readily make available space for suraus in their respective school premises, the committee fails to understand why the College's refusal to do the same for Christian students," said the Chairman.


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