KUCHING, Sept 11: The Sarawak government is all for religious freedom and this is proven by the allocation and other form of assistance it has been giving to the Unit for Other Religions (Unifor) since its inception in May last year under the Chief Minister’s Office.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said Unifor was given RM15 million last year for the building and repair of 77 houses of worship. This year, the allocation increased to RM20 million, benefiting more than 200 houses of worship.
Furthermore, the state government has also approved three acres of state land for the contruction of a Unifor office complex. In addition, the state government has also approved the setting up of the Sarawak Unit for Other Religions Charitable Trust in March this year.
“We will continue to help non-Islamic religious bodies to ease their financial burdens in their construction and repair of their houses of worship and to ensure worshippers have decent houses of worship,” said Uggah at the launching of Sarawak Evangelical Christian Association (Seca) here last night. His text-of-speech was read out by Unifor director Datu Dr Ngenang Janggu.
Uggah added that the state had always taken the initiative to enhance religious freedom and harmony in the state, and Unifor’s primary function was to look after the needs and affairs of non-Islamic religious bodies belonging to Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Bahais, Taoists and others.
“Sarawak is the only state in Malaysia to have a formal government agency looking after the needs of non-Muslims.
“Unifor is the brainchild of our former chief minister, the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem, and it continues to get strong support and commitment from our Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg,” Uggah told those present.
Thus far, he noted that Unifor had performed important roles in promoting religious freedom and harmony, including acting as an avenue for religious bodies to liaise and also interacting and coordinating with government agencies for tasks such as applications for sites and funding for the construction and repair of houses of worship.
“This unit also studies and acts as an intermediary or as an advisory body to resolve conflicts that are religious in nature and which affects inter-religious relationship,” he said.
On Seca, Uggah believed it could assist the state government to liaise and coordinate efforts between local churches and the government. — DayakDaily