By Tania Lam
KUCHING — With the Unit for Other Religions’ (Unifor) direct contribution towards religious harmony including providing financial assistance to various houses of worship, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuching, Most Reverend Simon Poh, believes that it is indeed a timely decision for the state government to invest in a permanent building for Unifor.
“This Unifor Complex is to be a symbol of the permanent commitment of the state to religious freedom, racial harmony, as well as mutual acceptance and respect for all the religions in Sarawak,” he said when contacted by New Sarawak Tribune.
He recalled that when Unifor was newly formed as a unit in the Chief Minister’s Department in 2017, its meetings were held at an office shared with another government department at the Baitul Makmur Building. Even currently, he added, Unifor was located in a rental premise in Wisma Satok.
He believed that once the Unifor Complex was completed, it would serve to further the unit’s cause with the hosting of inter-faith events to build harmony and unity among the people of Sarawak.
“Together with the Islamic Information Centre built by the state, it is indeed appropriate that along the same road (Ong Tiang Swee Road), a complementary Unifor Complex be built by the state to benefit all other religions in Sarawak,” he said.
Meanwhile, as Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) chairman, Archbishop Poh said that after these few years of collaborating on common matters through Unifor meetings, he had experienced that there was now greater friendship, trust, and relationship among the various religious leaders.
He said that at meetings called by Unifor, matters and issues pertaining to all non-Muslim houses of worship, lands for churches and temples, burial plots and cemeteries were discussed together by the various religious leaders.
“Recently, this cooperation has also enabled us to respond together to contain Covid-19. We were able to work out common policy and safety standard operating procedures (SOPs) to be adhered to, as well as common time frame in preparing for reopening of our respective houses of worship for religious gatherings,” he said.
He pointed out that in the entire country, only the Sarawak government had set up Unifor, where the voices of various non-Islamic religions could be channelled to the Chief Minister’s Office.
Archbishop Poh said that Sarawak was already widely accepted as the model of harmony in Malaysia.
“May this Unifor Complex truly be a symbol of our desire and commitment to racial and religious harmony. As anak-anak Sarawak, may we be blessed now and especially for future generations,” he said.