‘Church leaders must be non-partisan or risk dividing people’


KOTA KINABALU: The Catholic Church has always been non-partisan when it comes to politics but this does not mean the leaders cannot talk about current developments, said a Catholic prelate.

Keningau Diocese Bishop Cornelius Piong told FMT the church’s clergymen act as the leaders who unite the faithful under their guardianship.

“This is why, in my opinion, a priest cannot afford to side with any political party.

“If he does that, if he supports one particular party, what about the parishioners who are not supporters of that party?”

He was commenting on the statement by UUM political analyst Kamarul Zaman Yusoff who said Christian leaders in the country are throwing their support behind the opposition pact Pakatan Harapan.

Piong admitted that even though the clergy is free to discuss politics, in the end, when it comes to voting, such decisions lie with each individual person.

At the same time, Piong said the church is always supportive of any movement, especially civil societies or NGOs, that strive to serve the public, regardless of religion, race or political leaning.

As example, he mentioned the Bersih movement, which claims to be apolitical and are supposed to act only for the good of society and country as a whole.

“I think most NGOs are non-partisan. For that reason, the church will support them,” he said.

Last year, the Sabah Bersih steering committee (B5KK) made a courtesy call on Kota Kinabalu Archbishop John Wong, seeking his blessings and prayers and also his presence in its rally.

As a result, several Catholic priests and religious women turned up for the Bersih 5 rally to show support for the cause.

On Wednesday, Sabah Council of Churches president Melter Jiki Tais said the church, as a religious body, is non-partisan and will continue to be one.

He also assured Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman and the Sabah government that the church is not anti-government or pro-opposition.

However, in a statement today, Kamarul claimed Melter’s statement was not entirely correct because during the past two general elections, there was evidence of churches in the country actively advocating support for opposition parties.

Kamarul said given that PAS had left the opposition coalition, he believed the churches’ support towards Pakatan Harapan will be stronger this time around.