Sabah's Catholic Archbishop Rev John Wong today weighs on the fast growing 'mamangkis' revival movement of bumiputera Christians in the state.
Reading from prepared text at the conclusion of the mamangkis gathering in Papar on the west coast south of Kota Kinabalu he said, "We implore upon Putrajaya to do all and everything to return our religious freedom and the peace and harmony."
Wong also asked Putrajaya to honour and respect the Malaysia Agreement and the Federal Constitution.
Only 46 years of age, he is the most senior clergyman in the state to support the native revival movement. Although he is officially the Metropolitan Archbishop of Kota Kinabalu, Wong is effectively the Catholic Archbishop of the whole of Sabah. He is also the youngest Catholic bishop in Malaysia.
His support comes in the wake of other Christian denominations in Sabah backing the mamangkis revival movement helmed solely by native leadership alarmed by the increasingly aggressive Islamisation, erosion of native rights and the massive entry of illegal Muslim emigrants particularly from southern Philippines.
Wong said, "Let us pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon this land of ours, especially upon our national leaders in making the right and courageous move of championing the rights of each and every community, irrespective of race, belief or social status. Let us pray that we will once again enjoy the harmony, peace and freedom among the peoples in this land."
In an apparent call to bumiputera Christians to redeem their heritage he said, "May the glory of God in our land to be restored!"
He went on to quote from the Bible, "You shall not remove your neighbour's landmark, which the men of old time have set, in your inheritance which you shall inherit in the land that the Lord your God gives you to possess it."
The eight-month-old mamangkis movement is contextualised from a pagan Kadazandusun war ritual into a clarion call to return to God and for a revival among natives.
The initiative is spearheaded by Perhimpunan Anak Negeri (Pan) Sabah or Native Solidarity of Sabah. The first mamangkis gathering was held in Penampang, the Kadazan heartland and has since moved to several towns.
Wong also took the judiciary to task over the 'Allah' issue by saying, "It is indeed sad that even the judiciary, to whom all the meek and downtrodden look towards for justice and protection, declined by a majority decision, to do justice."
"On June 23, 2014, the Federal Court rejected the Catholic Church's application for leave to appeal against the Court of Appeal judgment which banned the word 'Allah' in the weekly Herald. "
"We are deeply saddened that the Federal Court failed to recognise that there is serious infringement of the Constitution, and more particularly the blatant attack on the lawful entitlement of the citizens to practise their religion without let or hindrance.
“It saddens us to see that our elected national leaders and the judiciary have deliberately failed to uphold the constitution and above all defend it."
Wong did not spare Putrajaya either: "Despite Putrajaya's assurance that the restriction on the non-Muslims to use the word 'Allah' only applies to (Catholic weekly) The Herald, there have been attempts by certain groups to apply a blanket ban.
“The seizing of bibles by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) from the premises of the Bible Society of Malaysia is a typical example. Such action blatantly disregards the Putrajaya's assurance. Till now the seized bibles have yet to be returned."
He said, "The attack now on our rights to practice our faith is a direct attack on the nation's integrity and above all the Constitution."
Wong also said, "Aside from threats to religious freedom, we are aware that many Anak Negeri (native) Christians have Muslim sounding names and some even with "bin" or "binti" in their names.
“Some of these Anak Negeri Christians are wrongly categorised as Muslim in their identity cards. These mistakes may be due to ignorance of the JPN officers but the authorities must address these issues and take every effort to rectify them."
"It is the legitimate right of every citizen and more so the anak negeri of Sabah to have his or her identity card correctly issued by the JPN (registration department). Nobody can take that right away from him or her."
On aggressive Islamisation in the state, the archbishop pointed out, "We are also aware that subtle conversions of underage children are taking place in our schools.
“Just over a year ago the Catholic Church in Sabah together with the Sabah Council of Churches had made an official complaint to the Education Ministry of a conversion ploy at Labuan Matriculation College.
"We regret that these young students are constantly subjected to various forms of harassment, ridicule and pressure to change their religion.
“Should incidences like these prevail, we question whether the institutes of higher learning in our country are conducive for studies? We urge that religious freedom as enshrined in the constitution shall be upheld at all cost."
Wong also highlighted security issues. "Threats from external forces invading our borders and threats from the huge presence of illegal immigrants have constantly reminded us of our vulnerability. However, many a time, our fears and cries are not seriously taken heed of by those in authorities."
"Internally, our nation is confronted with unprecedented threat to our Christian faith. Attack on our religious beliefs and practices, even the language we use in our Bible, literatures and worship are under siege."