Sarawakians free to practise chosen faith
KUCHING — Let religious freedom continue to prevail and be strengthened in Sarawak, said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas.
The Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development said Sarawakians are all free to follow and practise their chosen faith.
“This is the beauty of our lovely state. Let this religious freedom continue to prevail and to be strengthened. I believe the constant holdings of inter-faith gatherings, celebrations or prayer sessions will allow this to be achieved,” he said at the Wesak Day Celebration 2019 held at the Sarawak Buddhist Association (SBA) here on Sunday 19 May.
The text of his speech was read out by Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian during the celebration themed ‘Collective Wisdom Brings Everflowing Blessings’.
Uggah pointed out that Sarawakians would continue to enjoy unity and stability if they strove to uphold religious harmony, understanding and tolerance, which they should not take for granted.
Failing so, he feared that there might be individuals or organisations out there preaching religious bigotry and extremism.
During the last Easter celebration, he said the world was shocked when suicide bombers blew themselves up in three churches crowded with Easter Mass celebrants and three hotels packed with tourists in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He recalled that the incident killed 257 people and wounded almost 500 others.
He said on March 15 this year, a demented follower of the so-called white supremacy group gunned down 51 Muslims and wounded 50 others in shooting attacks at two separate mosques in Central Christchurch, New Zealand.
“These are the very recent examples of how deadly religious extremism and bigotry can be.”
Uggah, who is the minister in charge of Unit For Other Religions (Unifor), asserted that Sarawakians “are most fortunate” to have foresighted, fair and wise leaders in the persons of former chief minister the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem, and his successor Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
He said these leaders had created Unifor, which was established in April 2017.
According to him, Unifor is primarily known to provide the much-needed fund to construct, renovate, expand and repair non-Islamic houses of worship.
“It also assists in identifying the site for new churches, temples and chapels, and to obtain government approval for such site when necessary and in identifying and approving requests for new burial grounds.”
Uggah said he would appreciate it if those wanting to build any new house of worship take the initiative in fund-raising as well.
“The role of Unifor is to chip in as fund is limited while requests are in their thousands,” he added.
This year, he said the Sarawak government had set aside RM30 million for Unifor to carry out its responsibilities.
He noted that RM20 million was allocated last year and had enabled 231 approved projects to be carried out. He also lauded the Malaysia Buddhist Association (MBA) Sarawak branch for its contributions to the society.
“I understand it has helped victims of disasters and unfortunate accidents. It is also actively promoting a culture of academic excellence among the young generation by offering suitable incentives. These are very praiseworthy gestures in the process of nation building. I hope the association will continue with these fine services,” added Uggah.
Among those present were Batu Kitang assemblyman Lo Khere Chiang, political secretary to the chief minister Tan Kai, MBA Sarawak branch chairman Dato Sri Dr Tay Chin Kin, Archbishop of Kuching Rev Simon Poh and representative of MBA Dharma Master Ven Wu Ci.
Lim How Pim BP