Violation of religious freedom — Pastors

KUCHING: The Kuching Pastors Federation (KPF) has described the impounding of the 30,000 Bibles on Jan 12 by the Home Ministry as an infringement of Sarawakians’ right to religious freedom.

ALL FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Tan (seated third left), together with officials from the Sarawak Minister’s Fellowship consisting of Miri Pastor’s Fellowship, Sibu Pastor’s Fellowship, Bintulu Pastor’s Fellowship and Gempuru Besai Raban Jaku Iban Malaysia during the press conference yesterday.

KPF said they were ‘amazed’ at the latest episode because the same thing happened in December last year. In the previous incident, 10,000 copies of the Holy Book in Bahasa Malaysia were also impounded, but it was released a few days later.

“We are deeply disappointed and we want to register our strong protest as these continuing problems have impeded our right to practise our faith,” KPF chairman Daron Tan told a press conference here yesterday.

He claimed that the RM78,000 worth of Bibles, which was impounded at Kuching Port, were now stored at the Home Ministry’s premises at Jalan Haji Taha.

Imported from Indonesia by Gideon Malaysia for its Kuching Camp, the Bibles are meant to be distributed to its 14 camps across the state such as Kuching, Sri Aman, Betong, Sarikei, Sibu, Bintulu, Miri, Limbang, Lawas, Marudi and Kapit.

“We view the detention of the 30,000 copies of New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs at Kuching Port by the Home Ministry as another blunt violation and unconstitutional curtailment of the religious liberty of Christians in our nation and Sarawak. They certainly have created tension in our state,” said Tan.

“But we do acknowledge the biblical teaching to accord respect to the government and to hold dialogues with the authority to uphold peace and harmony in our land,” said Tan, who lauded the state government’s support to release the Bibles.

In a related development, Minister of Land Development Dato Sri Dr James Masing said in dealing with religious issues in Malaysia, one must always be mindful of the Federal Constitution’s stand on religious freedom.

“They are two issues close to the hearts of Sarawakian voters – religion and NCR land. These two issues must be handled with care and sensitivity,” cautioned Masing.

Meanwhile, Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said the federal government is ‘duty bound’ to let Malaysians have free access to Bibles written in Bahasa Malaysia.

“Our stand is very clear … we have in the past asked that Bibles written in Bahasa Malaysia be allowed in the country. As such, its entry into Sarawak should not be stopped,” he said when met at Kampung Tuavon’s village security and development committee (JKKK) election in Penampang, Sabah, over the weekend.

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