Sarawak Christmas unity programme falls apart over a carol

Desmond Davidson

There is no Christmas without Christ, says the Anglican bishop of Kuching. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 24, 2023.

A CHRISTMAS programme to showcase Sarawak’s religious diversity looks to be falling apart after the Association Of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) turned down an invitation to the event over the organiser’s refusal to change one carol.

Premier Abang Johari Openg is to be the guest-of-honour at the December 3 event, “A Christmas Carol, Sarawak In Diversity Programme” at Padang Merdeka in Kuching.

Anglican bishop of Kuching Danald Jute, who is the ACS president, in a letter to the organisers and Unifor director Jack Aman Luat said the association had asked that TV Sarawak replace one song, “Jingle Bells Rock” with “O Holy Night”. 

“We are only requesting to change one song. Since TVS is unable to fulfil this request, our ACS team feels that we cannot participate in the programme,” Jute stated, referring to the state-owned TV station by its acronym

Jute said TVS had explained that the traditional carol was “rejected due to the religious elements and also due to the protocol of Lembaga Penapisan Filem and MCMC (Malaysian Communication & Multimedia Commission).”

Jute said the explanation was unacceptable.

“Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas is about Christ.  There is no Christmas without Christ,” he said.

The ACS represents all the major Christian churches in the state. 

Parti Bumi Kenyalang president Voon Lee Shan organisers should not have invited the ACS to the event in the first place if they had wished to avoid all “religious elements”.

That’s because ACS is a religious body whose committee members are spiritual leaders of the various churches, he added.

“To turn away the request of ACS that represents more than one million Christians out of a population of 2.6 million in Sarawak is a grave insult to the Christian community in Sarawak.”

Voon said the organisers failed to understand that although Islam is the official religion of the federation, the Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of worship.

“When our rights to freedom of worship are affected, we shall stand up together to back our church leaders of any decisions our church leaders will take in accordance with the law and constitution,” Voon said.

Unifor is a unit in the Premier’s Department under the purview of Deputy Premier Douglas Uggah.

Aides to Uggah told reporters that the deputy premier would consult Abang Johari before making a statement. – November 24, 2023.


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  • Well done.

    Posted 6 months ago by Malaysia New hope · Reply