Uproar over Palestinian Solidarity Week in Sarawak schools

Desmond Davidson

Bishop of the Anglican Church for Sarawak and Brunei Reverend Danald Jute (left) believes children must be taught to respect one another irrespective of their religious and ethnic backgrounds. – Facebook pic, October 26, 2023.

THE president of the Anglican mission schools in Sarawak, Danald Jute, has expressed his indignation over Palestinian Solidarity Week in schools but said the church would not be barring its learning institutions from participating.

In a memo to the heads of the mission schools, Jute however, told The Malaysian Insight whatever materials that would be shared with the school children during the solidarity week would be vetted for biased and “unsubstantiated story line”.

He was pointing to a particular video prepared by the Sarawak Education Department in which the director stated that the Al Ahli hospital in Gaza City was bombed by Israel.

The Hamas-controlled Palestinian authorities in Gaza blames Israel for the bombing, claiming it was a deliberate air strike. Israel has denied involvement.

Jute said the church cannot allow “this sort of videos to be shown in our schools”.

Jute said while the church was outraged by the atrocities committed by both sides in the renewed armed conflict in the Gaza Strip, it was also of the mind the ministry and the Sarawak Education Department “should not waste their time, energy and resources in organising such an event and to expect teachers and students to participate in it”.

Jute said it’s just not appropriate to involve schools and school children in international conflict they have no understanding of.

“The ministry needs only to focus on its core business and not drag our young children into this complex conflict and sullied their young minds by drumming in upon them a one sided narrative,” he said.

He said while the church and the schools stand in solidarity with all the innocent victims on both sides of the war, “we believe that children must be taught to respect one another irrespective of one’s religious and ethnic backgrounds”.

“Children must be reminded that in all wars, there are no winners – only death and suffering.”

The Sarawak premier’s political aide Kho Teck Wan and a coalition of 17 civil society groups want the government to keep schools free of the “politics of war in foreign countries”.

Kho, who is also the Sarawak United Peoples’ Party central women chairman, said she was shocked to learn that all government schools have been instructed to take part in the solidarity week from Sunday to November 3.

She said Sarawak is made up of people from multiracial and multi religious backgrounds and getting schoolchildren involved in international conflicts could create friction among the communities.

She urged the unity government not to set a precedent in getting schools mixed up with war politics.

“I am of the opinion that one has the freedom to express sympathy and show support toward a certain country or race, especially when it involves human rights.

“However, schools, especially primary and secondary schools should not get involved in matters related to war involving other countries.”

Seventeen civil society groups said in a joint statement that are deeply concerned over this “controversial event”.

In the statement released late yesterday, their spokesman, Global Human Rights Federation deputy president Peter John Jaban, said  the ministry’s ruling was unilaterally enforced without the approval of the Dewan Rakyat and the parents of the  schoolchildren

Jaban said schoolchildren should not be part of the grown-up world of protests.,

“We caution that the six propositions can go wrong and be a cause for concern and with far-reaching repercussions,” he said, referring to the week’s agenda. 

The events that will be held during the week are the launching of Palestinian Solidarity Week at the morning assembly; fund-raising for the Palestinian cause; video screening of songs; prayers for Muslim pupils; and apecial curriculum on humanitarian issues in Palestine.

“We have seen before how a particular school in Malaysia, very recently, had made its young students to stomp on an Israeli flag,” Jaban said of Malaysia’s biased narrative of the Middle East conflict.

He said the action of the students, which was posted on the various social media platforms, had caused alarm among citizens with many criticising the school for “sowing hatred in these young, impressionable minds”.

“We fear the misalignment of sentiments, condemnation, hatred and prejudices being championed by zealous teachers who are led to believe this is a religious war and that antisemitism is therefore justified. We cannot poison our young children’s minds.”

The civil society groups that signed the media statement were Persatuan Bekas Pelajar Sekolah Tamil Malaysia; Borneo’s Plight in Malaysia Foundation; Independent Coalition Of Natives, Sarawak; Gindol Initiative for Civil Society Borneo; Pertubuhan Kebajikan Rumpun Dayak Sabah; Persatuan Pembangunan Sosial Komunity Sabah; Parti Bumi Kenyalang Sarawak; Sarawak Association for People’s Aspirations; Persatuan Kebajikan Persaudaraan Sahabat Miri, Sarawak; Persatuan Etnik Dayak Asal Sarawak; Gerempung Raban Dayak Kuching; Malaysia Chinese Educated Students Association; Centre for Education Excellence - Hindu Agamam Ani Msia; Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity Foundation (Maju); Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan and Persatuan Veteran Tentera Kor Renjer. – October 26, 2023.

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  • BBC Verify is a programme specially to investigate events to establish the truth. They came to the conclusion the hospital was not bombed by Istael because an Al Jazeera camera caught the moment a rocket fired in Gaza towards to Israel disintegrated in the air and part filled with fuel fell on the hospital. So yes, the Church is right. However, the collateral damage to the war on Hamas is unacceptable. Gazas Palestinians are now just as much Hamass victims as those Hamas massacred in their homes in Israel.

    Posted 8 months ago by Malaysia New hope · Reply