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Christians deprived of bibles in Sabah, Sarawak

KOTA KINABALU: Copies of the Malay version of the bible known as the ‘Al-kitab’ are needed by the thousands in East Malaysia where majority of the Christian populace is conversant in Malay.

An evangelist who declined to be named said: “Each Christian needs a personal Al-kitab for bible classes and church services and the majority of churches in Sabah and Sarawak conduct their bible classes using the Bahasa Melayu bible.

“Even if a bible class is conducted in a local Iban or Dusun dialect, the scriptures they normally use would still be the Malay-language version.

“That is why Christian adults and children need their own personal Al-kitab, though sharing is still a norm in many churces.”

He was responding to an informal FMT survey on the need for the holy book, a topic currently being hotly debated after Malaysian authorities continued to thwart the import of the bibles from neighbouring Indonesia.

Indonesia permits the printing of bible, both in English and Bahasa, unlike Malaysia.

While Sunni Muslims make up slightly more than half of Malaysia’s total population of about 28 million, the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak have a large Christian population.

Sabah, once a Christian-majority state, however, has seen a constant influx of Muslim illegal immigrants from the Southern Philippines and Indonesia’s Sulawesi.

They now number close to a million people and their large presence here has become a thorn in the flesh in the state-federal relationship.

The large number of Christian Indonesian Timorese in Sabah, is however another reason for the high demand of the Malay-language bible in Sabah.

No reason for label

Another Christian cleric told FMT that all those Malay language bibles being imported are meant for Christians and it was never meant for Muslims.

“There is absolutely no such necessity to put the words “for non-Muslim” on our Holy Bible or Al-kitab.

“This is tantamount to a universal insult not only to Christians but to Muslims too.

“The act of a Muslim holding or reading our Holy Bible or Al-kitab, say for his or her own study, would not make him or her a Christian.

FMT also learned that many church members in Sabah have opted to bring in small numbers of Al-kitab in order to meet their needs.

“They bring in a few bibles through friends coming from Indonesia for their personal use and pass one or two to other church members,” said a source.

The demand for their holy book has resulted in both clerics and politicians calling on the Malaysian government to act reasonably on the matter.

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