The Significance Of Sabah And Sarawak For Malaysian Christians
THROUGH much prayer, some pastors and Christian leaders in Sabah and Sarawak have come to believe that there is spiritual significance in the history of these two states. This has prompted a cry for national transformation in their homelands and a call for greater partnership with west Malaysian churches.
Following the Alkitab and "Allah" episodes in 2010 and 2011, Christian leaders in East Malaysia revisited the Sabah 20-point and Sarawak 18-point agreements which both states issued as conditions to Malaya as part of their pact to form Malaysia together. This led to greater understanding and appreciation of God's hand in nationhood development. For instance, what might be God's kingdom perspective on the legacy of the British Brooke family which ruled Sarawak for 105 years? Understanding the Christian influence on the land at that time as a heritage is part of understanding God's plan for Malaysia.
History shows that Sabah and Sarawak formed Malaysia as autonomous entities. Sabah, then known as North Borneo, was a British crown colony after World War II till it attained self-governance on 31 August 1963. Sarawak obtained its independence from Britain on 22 July the same year. When the two states formed Malaysia with Malaya and Singapore, they came to the table as independent entities.
The agreements guarantee Sabah and Sarawak's inherent rights to self-determination and governance. They cover a wide scope of issues to ensure that Sabah and Sarawak have full authority to protect and determine their interests with regards to religion, language, education, immigration, economy and finance, governance and more.
Some Christian leaders see these rights as blessings and responsibilities given by God to Malaysia for His glory. But are these rights still intact? Recent years have seen a growing awareness about corruption which has caused unequal development and wealth inequity among the native tribes, and the extreme poverty that many continue to live in.
With regards to religion, neither Sabah nor Sarawak have a state religion under the agreements. This supposedly ensures their religious freedom. However, more careful research will reveal the erosion of rights under the agreements in religion and several other areas. If we are discerning, we should be able to grasp the implications of the current scenarios:
- The majority of Malaysia's Christian population come from these two states. What kind of impact will poverty and marginalisation have on the rural native churches there?
- The freedom of religion in Sabah and Sarawak, as provided under the 18- and 20-point agreements which Malaya's leaders signed, is essential to the survival and growth of the native church in these states. Are Christians there aware of their right to freedom of religion?
- The strength and future of the Malaysian Church as a whole rests on the shoulders of the native church in Sabah and Sarawak. How will Peninsula Malaysia Christians respond?
It is for these reasons that Jubilee 2012 is important. Community and national revival must first begin with unity of the body of Christ between East and West Malaysia.