7 February 2014
Bumiputera Christians to fight dubious conversions
MASS conversions of native Christians to Islam in Sabah through dubious means has united the various Christian denominations in the state, and this is an important development for the Bahasa Malaysia-speaking church.
NECF Secretary-General Eugene Yapp said the BM and indigenous churches were banding together to make a stand for their communities and this was crucial for the survival of the Malaysian Church as a whole.
"We have always held that the strength of the Malaysian Church lies with the BM-speaking churches, as 60 per cent of Christians in Malaysia are BM-speaking and come from indigenous communities in East Malaysia," Yapp said.
The recent case of mass conversions of native Christians in Pitas, a remote district in Sabah, also highlights the needs for all churches to work together to support rural Bumiputra churches, whether in terms of spiritual growth, education, poverty eradication and economic development, Yapp added.
On 1 Jan 2014, 74 Dusun natives in Pitas were converted to Islam en masse and given RM100 each.
Of the group, 64 say they were tricked and have made Statutory Declarations that they remain Christians. They are from three villages in Pitas - Kampung Layun Maliau, Kampung Dowokon and Kampung Sosop, and include young children. A report of the incident can be found on The Malaysian Insider.
As a result, a Christian group called Perpaduan Anak Negeri Sabah (PAN) has been formed comprising members of various denominations. They are planning a spiritual revival campaign aimed indigenous Christians in the state. Political party, the United Pasokmomogun Kadazan Dusun Murut Organisation (Upko), a component member of the Barisan Nasional, has also stepped in to help the villagers with legal measures to reverse their conversions.
The mass conversion ceremony in Pitas was reported by the website of Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA) in an article titled 'Yayasan Ikhlas sambut 74 orang saudara baru di Pitas, Sabah' and dated 1 Jan 2014.
Both ISMA and Yayasan Ikhlas were named as the organisations that conducted the conversions in a police report lodged by a Dusun native, Makadan Masabu, at the Kota Marudu police headquarters on 6 Jan 2014 .
The villagers are members of the Protestant Church in Sabah (PCS), which is a member of the Council of Churches Malaysia, a component of the Christian Federation of Malaysia.
A Christian lawyer helped the 64 villagers make their Statutory Declarations in Kota Marudu on 17 Jan, said Alfred Tais, NECF's Executive Secretary of the Bahasa Malaysia Commission, who is following developments on the case.
| Makadan Masabu, the farmer who lodged the police report.
The police report filed by Makadan, 57, a farmer, was also lodged on behalf of 27 other Dusun natives. In the report, Makadan said that they were first told that each villager would be given RM800 as welfare aid by an organization from Kuala Lumpur. But upon meeting people from the organization, the villagers were taken to a mosque where their identity cards were collected. Each person was asked to sign or thumbprint a form. Makadan said they did not understand the form's contents as they were illiterate, and no one explained the purpose of the form.
Download a copy of the police report lodged by Makadan Masabu.
The group was then instructed to recite words in a different language after which they were told that they were now Muslims. Each person was then given an envelope containing RM100. Though shocked, they did not fully understand what had happened and only realized that they had been "converted" when a PCS church leader explained the matter to them two days later.
Some of the Dusun natives who are fighting their forced conversions.
The villagers mainly work as subsistence farmers. Kampung Layun Maliau, for example, is so remote that it is still without electricity and running water. Its location was described as a being first, a two-hour drive from Kota Kinabalu to Kota Marudu, then another two-hour drive to Sungai Penipak, and from there, a trek on foot for an hour more on an old logging road.
The villagers now want the Sabah Islamic religious authority (JHEAINS) to delete their names from convert registry and the police to investigate ISMA and Yayasan Ikhlas for the underhanded conversions.