SPOOKED by the outcry of Malay groups over the “Jerusalem Jubilee”, which was to be held in Malacca next week, Sarawak church leaders yesterday cancelled a similar Christian event in Miri scheduled for later this month.
The cancellation was made even as Sarawak leaders backed the event in the name of religious freedom as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
The “All Borneo Revival Convocation” was supposed to be held in Miri from June 22 to 25 but Sarawak church leaders decided to call it off after a meeting yesterday.
An organising committee member of the “All Borneo Revival Convocation” told The Malaysian Insight they decided to call off the event after Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also the home minister, banned the “Jerusalem Jubilee” in Malacca.
Zahid said the event in Malacca would hurt the sensitivities of Muslims if it was allowed to go on, especially during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Malacca police also said that they have received more than 30 police reports against the event.
“We will not be going ahead with the event after the incident in Malacca,” the spokesman for the organising committee said, referring to the police reports lodged against the event.
The gathering in Malacca was to be hosted by The Calvary Life Assembly (Chinese), a local Christian denomination and which would have featured several foreign evangelist speakers.
The same speakers were to give speeches in Miri.
“The speakers have been informed of the cancellation,” the spokesman told The Malaysian Insight.
Earlier, Sarawak leaders from both sides of the political divide gave their blessings to the Christian revival gathering in Miri.
Political secretary in the Chief Minister’s Department Michael Tiang said such gatherings would not threaten the peace.
“I completely understand his (Zahid’s) concern about the gathering being held during Ramadan. In Semenanjung (the peninsula), it’s definitely a Muslim majority area. Moreover, it is now the fasting month, so the Home Ministry having some concern is understandable.
“However, Muslims form the majority in Sarawak. Furthermore, Sarawakians are more liberal and accommodating,” Tiang told The Malaysian Insight.
Tiang, who is a leader with the Barisan Nasional component Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), said the “cultural structure” in Sarawak is “totally different” from the peninsula.
“I believe the gathering would not, in any way, cause any displeasure or unrest or anxiety among Sarawak’s communities. We are just not that way. Sarawak is okay.”
Sarawak PKR leader Baru Bian said revival gatherings are held almost every year, where thousands of men, women and children participate.
Commenting on the Home Ministry’s decision to ban the Malacca event, the Bakelalan assemblyman said authorities may not have understood the nature of a revival gathering.
“It’s all a misunderstanding… These people who raised the objections basically do not understand the spiritual aspect of the gathering.
“This is only a revival gathering which is basically in line with the spiritual beliefs of many Christians. A revival is to be spiritually transformed and revived in their faith towards their God. It has no political connotations and no political significance.
“I think the problem in Malacca is that they used the word ‘Jerusalem’ and the whole presentation was a bit provocative. Otherwise, this has nothing to do with politics,” Baru said.
More than 42% of Sarawakians are Christians.