SOME 20,000 Christians attended the “Borneo Revival Healing Rally” in Telupid, Sandakan and Ranau, Sabah, this past week, with no reports of disturbances after similar rallies were banned and cancelled in Malacca and Sarawak, earlier this month.
Another Christian rally is planned next week in Keningau as organisers say they have the support of the Sabah state authorities.
“If we had cancelled the events here, the Christian community would have been upset as we had been planning them for a year. Furthermore, there is no ban here,” a spokesman from the organisers told The Malaysian Insight.
Earlier this month, protests from Malay groups over the “Jerusalem Jubilee” led to its banning in Malacca, while Sarawak church leaders cancelled a Christian event in Miri although it received the blessings of state leaders.
The Telupid, Sandakan and Ranau rallies were held on June 9, 14, and 15 respectively, while the Keningau event will be held on June 20.
The Malaysian Insight visited Keningau yesterday, a town about two hours’ drive from the the state capital of Kota Kinabalu, and met Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Ria Keningau Pastor Mic Azari, who said the event this Sunday was organised by the Keningau Council of Churches.
The gathering in Keningau is called the “All Borneo Revival Concert”, which will see praise and worship sessions, miracle healings and talks by invited evangelists.
“There is no publicity of the event. The invitation is shared among Christians privately, through our Interior Prayer Network (IPN) group.
“We have to be cautious as there could be others out there who will want to disrupt this event,” said Mic, adding they are aware of what happened to the planned gatherings in Malacca and Sarawak.
Keningau has a population of over 200,000, with more than 60% comprising non-Muslims.
“We here in Keningau still hold true to the guarantees of the Keningau oathstone that stipulates freedom of religion,” Mic said, referring to a monument that commemorates the terms to which Sabah agreed to join Malaya and Sarawak to form the federation of Malaysia.
“This is also included in the Rukun Negara. Islam is the religion of the country but others are free to practise their faith,” Mic said, adding that the organisers expect a huge turnout this Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra) CEO Azril Mohd Amin had proposed that the “dangerous movement that is evangelicalism” be kept in check as it “threatens religious harmony in Malaysia”.
Azril urged the government to consider introducing anti-evangelicalism laws to ensure that the attempts by evangelicals to dominate the Christian narrative does not occur.
At the earlier gatherings in Telupid, Sandakan and Ranau, a spokesman for the organising committee told The Malaysian Insight that almost 20,000 Christians attended the events.
The spokesman said the rallies went on uninterrupted in Sandakan. The event was officiated by Kamunting assemblyman Charles O. Pang from the Liberal Democratic Party, a Barisan Nasional component party.
The spokesman said local church leaders spoke at the rally, and the highlight of the event were the miracle healings.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also the home minister, had banned the “Jerusalem Jubilee” in Malacca, saying the event would hurt the sensitivities of Muslims, especially during Ramadan.
National Unity and Integration Minister Joseph Kurup had said the banning of the gathering in Malacca by the authorities was understandable but Church leaders in Sarawak should not have cancelled the event there because of the large presence of Christians, adding that the state government had no objections to the event being held there.
Sabah’s population of over 3 million is home to Malaysia’s second-largest Christian population, with 853,726 adherents.
The events in Sabah were organised by the Good News Ministry, Sandakan Inter Churches and the Telupid district churches.