Academic challenges bishop’s claim church is non-partisan

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PETALING JAYA: An academician with Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), Kamarul Zaman Yusoff, has challenged a claim by Sabah Council of Churches (SCC) president Bishop Melter Jiki Tais that the church is non-partisan.

“If the church is non-partisan, why did the church and its senior leaders involve themselves directly in the launching of books by top leaders of PKR and DAP?” Kamarul asked in a statement today.

He said he was referring to the launching of PKR Sarawak chairman Baru Bian’s book entitled “The Long Awakening” and DAP Selangor vice chairman Hannah Yeoh’s “Becoming Hannah”.

Besides the two book launches, he said a discourse on the topic “Christians and Nation-Building” was held at the City Discipleship Presbyterian Church in Subang Jaya, Selangor, on Aug 24.

He claimed Baru and Hannah were staunch Christian evangelists and their books touched on efforts at christianisation through politics.

Kamarul alleged the church began to play an active role in politics during the general elections of 2008 and 2013.

“It’s pointless to deny the church’s support for PH (sic) in GE12 and GE13. That happened despite the church’s vacillation over the presence of PAS in the opposition coalition.

“Now that PAS is no longer in PH, support by the church for PH will increase and widen,” he said.

According to him, many efforts had been made by Christian activists in Malaysia to step up the involvement of the church in politics after GE12.

He referred to a book, “The Gospel, Sociopolity and Malaysian Society”, edited by Joshua Woo which he said contained this quote: “Since GE 2008, evangelicals in Malaysia have embraced involvement in politics as a key part of their mission while remaining committed to their traditional emphasis on prayers and evangelism.

“For the first time in Malaysia’s history, all church denominations in Malaysia are now committed to involvement in politics.”

Kamarul claimed Joshua was a member of DAP.

He also quoted from a book entitled “The Bible and the Ballot: Reflections on Christian Political Engagement in Malaysia”, written by several Christian activists, including Joshua, Alwyn Lau, Christopher Chong, Tan Soo Inn, Rama Ramanathan and Sivin Kit.

“In another article, published on April 26, 2012, just before the 13th general election, Lau wrote that the priests in Malaysia showed clearly the party they support on Facebook. Although they did not openly state it from the pulpit, their conversations were indications of who the Christians should vote for.

“Lau, in the latest article on March 27, revealed that many priests in Malaysia were doing that (supporting a party).”

Kamarul said that Kit, on the other hand, was seen to be close to Hannah and promoted the book launch by the Subang Jaya assemblywoman.

He claimed Kit also openly admitted on Aug 2, 2012 that he and many other church leaders were actively involved in GE12.

“As well, Kit agreed that Christians, especially those in Peninsular Malaysia, were anti-Barisan Nasional and voted for PH in GE13, and a large number of them took part in the Bersih rallies,” he said.

Yesterday, Melter refuted allegations that the church was pro-opposition.

Melter was quoted by the Borneo Post as saying that he had recently been told of “unfounded” and “unjust” remarks that the church was pro-opposition.

“As a religious body, the church is non-partisan and will continue to exist as non-partisan. I wish to assure (Sabah) Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Haji Aman, and the Sabah state government that the church is not anti-government or pro-opposition,” he was quoted as saying.

He acknowledged, however, that some church members might belong to opposition parties or the ruling coalition.