Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Parents angry over bid to convert children to Islam

Seven angry Christian parents from Balai Ringin in Serian District have complained to Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) over attempts by a Muslim non-governmental organisation to convert their secondary school children to Islam under the pretext of an “anak angkat” (child adoption) programme.

Accompanied by Balai Ringin assemblyperson Snowdan Lawan, the parents told PRS president James Masing (right) that they were angry and concerned over the attempts to convert their children, students at the Balai Ringin Secondary School, to Islam.

Four students who are studying at Balai Ringin Secondary School and are involved in the “anak angkat” programme were also present during the meeting.

“At first we allowed our children to attend a seminar and the ‘anak angkat’ programme, as we thought that it was part of the curriculum activities of the school.

“When our children told us that they were taught about Islamic values and teachings, we are very angry because we are Christians of the Roman Catholic Church,” the parents told Masing and members of the media.

Some 100 students attended the programme

Some 100 students, about 40 of them from the Balai Ringin Secondary School and the rest from Serian Secondary School, attended two sessions under the programme, with the second session held in Serian last Saturday.

The third session will be held at the Balai Ringin Secondary School.

According to Snowdan, the majority of the children are Christians and the programme organisers took down their names and identity card numbers, which they said would be sent to Kuala Lumpur.

“This creates curiosity among the parents,” he said, and he went on to add that two of the Balai Ringin teachers, who are from Peninsular Malaysia, are involved in the programme.

Snowdan believes that the programme was carried out without the knowledge of the school authorities.

“We are very concerned with this subtle attempt to convert them, especially when Balai Ringin is within the constituency and a stronghold of PRS,” said Snowdan, pointing out that this was the reason he took the parents and students to meet Masing.

On his part, Masing said: “I am a bit worried, as of late as there seems to be an aggressive manner in which religious people come in from outside Sarawak, trying to convert others to their religions.

“You don’t come into Sarawak and create religious problems by trying to convert people into Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or Christianity. We will not allow it.

“We must respect one another’s religion. You respect my religion, I respect your religion. It must work both ways.”

‘I will fight for freedom of religion’

Describing Sarawak as the bastion of religious harmony, Masing said it could also be the bastion for the whole federation.

“As long as I am still around, I will fight for the freedom of religion and make sure that Sarawak has that religious freedom as agreed upon in the Malaysia Agreement,” he said.

Masing then related a happening at the Rumah Along Longhouse in Mujong in his constituency of Baleh, where people in 19 of the 31 doors of the longhouse had embraced Islam since January this year.

“When I was asked about it, I told them this is religious freedom. Anybody can preach to anybody, but the problem is that most of these people are certified Methodist Christians.

“To me, I am not comfortable with that. However, if they want to embrace Islam, we cannot stop them. But they must understand the Iban mentality and thinking about religion, which is very much different from that of people of other races.

“The Iban are more concerned with what they have now, not what happens after death. If you promise the Iban a better today, they will go with you. But if the promises are not fulfilled, you will have problems with them and there will be repercussions later.”

Last month, Masing was told about two Iban students who were quizzed on Islamic values and teachings when they applied for Mara scholarships - and this caused a big row in Sarawak.
~ Malaysiakini

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