DNC to hold ‘Religious Freedom and Nation Building’ seminar on Nov 9

Patrick (seated centre) together with DNC members at the press conference. Also are John (third left) and Paul (third right).

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By Wilfred Pilo

KUCHING, Oct 12: Dayak National Congress (DNC) will be holding a seminar on ‘Religious Freedom and Nation Building’ at Dayak Bidayuh National Association (DBNA) Hall in Jalan Ong Tiang Swee here on Nov 9.

Organising chairman Patrick Sibak Sujang emphasised that DNC wanted to play a role in contributing to nation-building in which religious freedom was an important foundation of the country.

“DNC has been monitoring the situation (social stability in the country) and we are a bit concern. But it is not only us who are concern about the growing religious intolerance in the country,” he told a press conference after a meeting with DNC members on the forthcoming seminar today.

They noted that the Association of Churches Sarawak and the Council of Churches in Sabah have called for the restoration of religious freedom in Malaysia in accordance to Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) while a few non-governmental organisations (NGOs) including Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) have also expressed similar concern.

Observing that there was manifestation of religious intolerance at the Malay Dignity Congress held in Shah Alam a week ago, Patrick said DNC was very concern as Malaysia is a peace loving and harmonious country.

He shared that in March 2019, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in collaboration with the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB) published a new report scrutinising the protection and the enjoyment of the right of freedom of religion or belief in Malaysia.

“The report validates our concern. It identifies several challenges to religious freedom in the country,” he said, emphasising the reasons why the seminar is being organised.

“Themed ‘Religion Without Compulsion’, the objectives of the seminar are to educate and create awareness among citizens that the Federal Constitution provides several legal protections with regards to freedom or belief in the country,” he explained.

“Secondly, (it is) to highlight the main challenges about the rights of freedom of religion or belief in Malaysia that are closely related to the special status of Islam,” he said.

“We have key issues here concerning the implementation and the practices of constitutional provisions on the federal laws and the Islamic laws in the context of religious freedom or belief,” he added.

The third objective, he continued, was to make recommendations in addressing these challenges and assist the Malaysian government to ensure its legal framework is implemented following the international human rights principles.

“We urged all citizens to continue to nurture the spirit of tolerance and unity in a multiracial, multicultural and multi-religious country like Malaysia,” he called on.

The seminar will see the presentations of four papers covering topics of ‘MA63 – One Nation, Three Territories and Many Religions’; ‘Religions in the State – Secular or Theocratic State’; ‘Religious Freedom in the Federal Constitution – From the Age of Innocent to Intolerance’; and ‘Religion and Religious Freedom – Restoration of Our Nation Foundation Palace’. The speakers will be introduced later.

DNC advisor Datuk John Tenewi and president Paul Raja were present.— DayakDaily