[Letter to the Editor] Sarawak’s call for unity amidst religious sensitivity surrounding Christmas carols

Letter to the editor. —DayakDaily.com file pic. // Photo by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Letter to the Editor

By Lating Minggang

Recently, the Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) did something unprecedented by withdrawing from a Christmas event as the organizer turned down its request to change the song ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ to ‘O Holy Night’.

This turn of events does not augur well among the Christian majority community in the State, and to some, they can’t help but wonder, lingers in their minds was the question whether this could be the beginning of our State being contaminated by the race and religious relation virus that if not being handled with care could have a detrimental impact with regard to the unity and harmony in the State in the near future.

If the tolerance with regard to the freedom of practising religion also becomes an issue in our State, then it does seem that business with regard to tolerance in the practise of one’s religion will be no longer like what it was before anymore.

From a layman perspective, it does look like our State is slowly regressing towards intolerance towards one’s religion rather than progressing towards tolerance and respect with one’s another religions.

This type of incident is something new in the State, and it did not occur to my mind that it could reach this level, unlike before.

Isn’t it about time for the Christians in the State to unite together towards a common purpose i.e. to make their stand and be counted for? This is to ensure that their voice will be heard louder and clearer so that it would resonate with one another throughout the State.

In the early days, for instance in the early 60s, we can still see the church service being telecast “live” every Sunday on the national TV station. There was no “hoo-ha” about the Christian practicing their religion being telecast on the national network Station at that time.

It’s never too late to make and mend and to focus more on unity in diversity and to eliminate whatever the suspicious thoughts and the invincible barrier created that one has in their mind.

The spirit of accommodation, of tolerance, of give and take, compromise, and compassion was what our forefathers had agreed to during the establishment of the federation in 1963, and that was what had become the pillar of strengths of the multi-cultural, multi-religious population in the State, to live in harmony, which has made the formation of the federation become a reality.

However, lest we forget, from the late 70s onward it seems that this honeymoon period then started to slowly fade away dimly as time changes.

This dilemma reminded us about the cautionary words that were triggered by our visionary forefather, the late Tun Jugah, who had quoted during the federation formation year, “Perjanjian tu ila, “Anang baka tebu, manis di pon, tang tabar di ujung”.

When we live together in a multi-cultural and multi-religious State, why do we choose to be bogged down with these sensitive religious issues, whereby there are many more important matters that need urgent attention like the socio-economic needs of the rural poor.

This religious issues need not have surfaced because it has the potential to incur us with unnecessary cost, time, and resources that are needed to tackle this sensitive issue. We need not have to think of how to repair the bridges of friendship nor do we need to tear down the wall of separation and suspicion because the impact might become too costly and not favoring us all in the long run.

Last August, we have just celebrated the 60th. years after the formation of the federation; however, why do we still need to talk about the need to restore our State back to the spirit of 1963, i.e. the formation of Malaysia day?

This 1963 spirit was the pillar of our strengths with regard to unity, to which everyone should get something and no one should get everything.

It was the understanding of our forefathers that unity does not mean uniformity, and hence, they have smartly crafted and institutionalized some very significant compromise with regard to ethnic, cultural, religious, and language matters.

However, at the same time, they also knew that upholding the values of constitutionalism, rule of law, and democracy are of utmost importance, and therefore, still needed to be embraced in our constitution.

We must bear in mind that Christmas Day is approaching near, and like any other years, most of the Christians in the State are already in the Christmas celebration mood and spirit.

Thus, as a State that comprises various races, cultural, and religious backgrounds, it’s good for us as Sarawakians to take stock of how far our State has achieved after 60 years of the formation of Malaysia. Among the areas of main interest to most of us is the achievement we had made with respect to unity in diversity, inclusiveness as well as equitable opportunity for every race, whether it’s with respect to employment or in the opportunity in the placement in universities, i.e. since the country’s formation in 1963.

When people from diversified backgrounds are living together in harmony, their unity will become their pillar of strengths, and hence, will give a sense of belonging togetherness among one another, and this will benefit the State in the long run.

Unity in diversity is a representation that must also include equity and inclusiveness to ensure that no one of us is being left out.

Undoubtedly, living in a multi-cultural and multi-religious State has its challenges too.

However, by recognizing and respecting the differences in one another’s cultures and religious beliefs, we can increase the understanding and empathy between ourselves as Sarawakians from different backgrounds. We have nothing to lose but more to gain.

This has been the key and the ingredient in promoting unity through communication, to which, that our forefathers have envisioned and subscribed to, that had made Sarawak, today, become the State of choice, that inculcates unity in diversity and freedom in religion.

Bottom line, Sarawak, the land of ‘unity in diversity’, should not be allowed to be sucked into this messy and sensitive whirlpool of race and religion issues. — DayakDaily

Lating Minggang is the Walikota for Kapit District Council.

This is the personal opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of DayakDaily. Letters to the Editor may be lightly edited for clarity.