The four-day annual gathering, called the Gempuru Besai Kristian Jaku Iban Malaysia (meeting of Iban-speaking Christians in Malaysia), will see more than double the number of faithful who attended last year's event in Bintulu.
One of the organisers of the event, Pastor James Ganie, from the Gospel Baptist Church in Kuching, said although the large gathering had nothing to do with the Allah case which is currently in court, the participants will be making a declaration linked to the issue."But we will be making our stand again on religious freedom. The meeting will again ask the government to respect the Malaysia Agreement and the assurance of religious freedom," he added.
“The large gathering has more to do with faith rather than the legal matter that is before the court, or even politics,” Ganie told The Malaysian Insider in Sarawak capital city Kuching.
The Federal Constitution says Islam is the official religion of the federation but other faiths can be practised too, subject to non-proselytization of Muslims. Muslims form nearly 60% of the 29-million Malaysian population.
Ganie pointed out that very first point in the 18-point agreement for Sarawak and 20-point for Sabah states that “while there was no objection to Islam being the national religion of Malaysia, there should be no State religion in North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak, and the provisions relating to Islam in the present Constitution of Malaya should not apply to North Borneo".
"We are still standing for the freedom of religion,” Ganie added.
East Malaysians were also shaken when the Court of Appeal, in its October 14 ruling, said the word Allah is banned from non-Muslim publications, including the Catholic weekly, Herald.
The Catholic Church is appealing that ruling at the Federal Court.
The four-day religious gathering, which will be held at the Borneo Convention Centre, returns to Kuching after 16 years.
The gathering, which has its roots in Sibu when it started off as the Pan-Borneo convention in 1996, is aimed at uniting the leaders and members of the various Iban-speaking churches in Sarawak, the country's largest state.
Ganie said some 20 churches and denominations have confirmed participation in this year's event.
Three internationally renowned lay speakers, Pastor Dr David Demian, a Canadian of the Watchmen of the Nations, Pastor Jeromer Ocampo, of the Jesus Revolution Now! Movement from the Philippines, and Malaysia's Pastor Dr Chew Weng Chee, a senior pastor of Sidang Injil Borneo Kuala Lumpur (SIBKL), have been invited to speak at the meeting.
“Their speeches will be instantly translated into Iban,” Ganie said, referring to the largest tribe in Sarawak. – December 10, 2013.
~ The Malaysian Insider