KUCHING: The setting-up of the Unit for Other Religions (Unifor) has made Sarawak a one-of-a-kind state, in that no other state in the country has a unit dedicated to the needs of all non-Islamic religions.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah said since Unifor was established in April 2017, it has assisted 308 houses of worship through allocations totalling RM50 million.
“This is where the state government stands out and why Unifor was established – to ensure fairness to all religions. There is no other state in Malaysia with Unifor except Sarawak.
“It is a reflection of the chief minister’s (Datuk Patingg Abang Johari Tun Openg) policy of inclusiveness and he fully supports Unifor,” Uggah said during the earth-breaking ceremony for the new building of the House of Epiphany theological college, at the grounds of St Thomas’ Cathederal, Jalan McDougall here yesterday.
According to Uggah, who is also Unifor minister-in-charge, the unit assisted 77 homes of worship in 2017 followed by 231 in 2018.
“In 2018, the state government allocated RM20 million to Unifor and for 2019, it is RM30 million. So we hope to assist more houses of worship this year.”
On the redevelopment of House of Epiphany, he said Abang Johari had approved a grant of RM7 million towards the construction of a new building, and that more funds would be approved if the need arises.
He added the chief minister lent his support to the project after being informed about it during his Christmas visit last year to the Anglican Bishop of Sarawak and Brunei, the Right Reverend Danald Jute.
The project will see the old building of the House of Epiphany demolished by the middle of this year, with construction of the new building set to begin at year-end and completed by 2021.
Meanwhile, Danald said the Anglican community is extremely pleased that the Sarawak government shares the vision of rebuilding the House of Epiphany.
“The community would like to applaud all the good work and initiatives of the state government of Sarawak, in establishing Unifor and for supporting the freedom of religion as well as encouraging the development of all religious bodies,” he said.
The existing House of the Epiphany, which is the Anglican theological college for Sarawak and Brunei, was completed and dedicated on the Feast of the Epiphany in 1953.
Upon completion of the rebuilding process, it will be a four-storey block comprising a chapel, lecture and seminar rooms, library, museum, administrative offices, cafeteria and accommodation in the form of dormitories and individual rooms.
Among those present at the earth-breaking ceremony were Uggah’s wife Datin Amar Doreen Mayang, Unifor director Datu Dr Ngenang Janggu, Assistant Bishop of Kuching Rt Reverend Nelson Ugas Bulang, retired Bishop Datuk Bolly Lapok, and Association of Churches Sarawak secretary-general Ambrose Linang.