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Malaysian Churches Calls for Christian Participation in Critical Election

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12/16/2021 Malaysia (International Christian Concern) – The Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) issued a call to its followers on Wednesday to be active participants in the upcoming Sarawak state election taking place on December 18th.

A crucial state election in Malaysia is currently making regional headlines as it could develop a route toward greater Sarawak autonomy within Malaysia, after a season of political turmoil in the country. Sarawak is Malaysia’s state with its largest Christian population. While Christianity makes up less than 10% of the population of Malaysia, a self-proclaimed Islamic nation, Christians outnumber Muslims in the State of Sarawak representing 42% to of the state’s population, compared to 28%.

As analysts have identified this election as holding serious potential for greater Sarawak autonomy, Christians in the Malaysian state are becoming more empowered, as Malaysian citizens, as they have an opportunity to expand protections for religious minorities.

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As an Islamic nation, the country’s constitution defines a ‘Malay’ as born with roots to Malaya and is of the Muslim faith. While Malaysia’s constitution outlines the rights of all citizens to have the freedom of religion, the system classifies only Muslims as “true Malays.” To be a ‘Malay’ offers one certain extra privileges and rights in the country. This could include spaces in university, seats in public office, and has even been used as a justification for a reserved seat at a restaurant table. This system of affirmative action strips Malaysian citizens of their heritage, and often their opportunities if they convert away from Islam. This well-regulated system also represents the foundations for the nation’s Sharia (Syariah in Malay) courts, which have jurisdiction over Muslims.

Under the constitution, the states are empowered to establish Syariah courts to govern matters of family, domestic, and religious life for Muslims in the country. While they have no official jurisdiction over non-Muslims, there have been several instances of overlap based on the rules established at the state-level, typically in cases of apostasy. The limitations on jurisdiction has not fully prevented members of national and state governments to attempt to expand their reach – this was seen with legislative bill RUU355, which sought to limit the propagation of non-Islamic religions as a power of the Syariah courts. This has allowed for a sense of uneasiness for many of the nation’s Christian followers, as overrule by the Syariah courts require a lengthy and not guaranteed appeal to the countries secular legal system.

However, as this election nears, Christians make up the dominant religious group in Sarawak. As the power of the Syariah courts is rested in the states, active participation is critical to protect the continued freedom of religion enshrined in the Malaysian constitution. A greater autonomy could allow the state to scale back the reach of Syariah courts over non-Muslims and expand religious freedom to a higher-level than offered by the constitution’s fundamental liberties alone. While the ACS takes no political position in their call for participation, they encourage Christians to vote with their conscience.

Given the gravity of this election on Sarawak’s status, the federal government is acting with a welcome restraint as it allows the nations religious minorities vote and act according to faith and according to conscience. The freedom to encourage involvement in politics by religious groups is rarely seen across the region. While we can only speculate on the continued direction of Malaysia, we hope and pray that Sarawak demonstrates the strength of democracy when religious freedom is respected.

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For interviews, please contact Addison Parker: [email protected] 

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Strong support among young people for ban on abortions after heartbeat detected

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(Photo: Getty/iStock)

(CP) A new poll released ahead of the annual March for Life reveals that most young Americans support efforts to ban abortions after a baby’s heartbeat can be detected.

The poll, conducted on behalf of the pro-life organization Students for Life of America from Jan. 5–11, asked 834 young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 for their views on abortion and the United States Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide.

The poll’s release comes as pro-lifers are set to gather in Washington, D.C., Friday for the annual March for Life that’s held in the nation’s capital around the anniversary of the Roe decision.

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The survey informed respondents that “the human fetal heart begins to beat 21 days after conception, at 3 weeks gestation” before asking if they supported banning abortions after a heartbeat is detected. Fifty-two percent of those surveyed said they supported banning abortions after a heartbeat can be detected compared to 48% who opposed.

Denise Harle, an attorney with the religious liberty law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, reacted to the poll’s findings in an interview with The Christian Post. “I think that is fantastic news,” she said.

Harle told CP that she was “so encouraged” because “it means that … our younger generation understands what medical science shows us and what biology teaches us, which is that … life begins at conception, it’s a human right and it should be protected.”

Some of the young Americans who participated in the poll changed their views on abortion once they received more details about Roe v. Wade. Initially, 60% of respondents expressed some level of support for Roe, with 21% saying that they very strongly supported the decision, 26% reporting that they strongly supported the decision, and 12% telling the pollster that they did “not strongly support” it.

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The share of respondents who expressed some level of support for Roe decreased after they learned that Roe allows abortions to take place throughout all nine months of pregnancy, right up until the moment of birth and allows women to abort their children if they do not like the sex of their baby, fear it has an abnormality like Down syndrome or believe that the baby might be same-sex attracted or one day identify as transgender.

Additionally, the poll informed respondents that Roe has “been used to justify sending U.S. taxpayer dollars to perform abortions or off-set other expenses of abortion vendors/providers,” allows women to use abortion as contraception and “ends a disproportionate number of minority lives.” At the end of the poll, support for Roe had dropped to 50% among those surveyed.

The share of participants who very strongly support Roe dipped slightly from 21% to 20%, the percentage who strongly support Roe dropped from 26% to 21%, while 9% indicated that they did “not very strongly support it.” Harle described this finding in the poll as consistent with previous polling revealing that “when you ask people about what Roe v. Wade really held, they don’t agree with it.”

When asked for their views about abortion in general, 25% agreed with the statement asserting that “I support an abortion at any time without exception.” Twenty percent expressed support for “abortion after a heartbeat is detected, up until the fetus can feel pain.” Twenty-eight percent opposed abortions after a heartbeat can be detected, while supporting exceptions to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.

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The nuclear threat is greater than ever

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Peace Park in Hiroshima where a flame will continue to burn until there are no more nuclear weapons in the world.(Photo: Unsplash)

“How is it you cannot interpret this fateful hour?” In Luke 12:56 Jesus gives a glimpse of his frustration with our difficulty seeing, and acting on, the obvious. Two thousand years later, his words make an apt teaser for the recent film “Don’t Look Up”.

At the start of the movie, a young astronomer (Jennifer Lawrence) discovers a huge comet which is hurtling towards Planet Earth. She and her colleague (Leonardo DiCaprio) calculate that it will hit in about six months’ time, and they set off to alert humanity (starting, naturally, with the US president, an oddly Trumpesque character played by Meryl Streep) in the hope that the comet can be deflected and life on earth saved. No spoilers here: just watch the film.

The film is a brilliant satire on climate change. Faced with a planet-scale threat, will we take urgent action? Will we dither and cross our fingers? Will we go for full-blown denial? What are the vested interests seeking to influence us? What are our internal conflicts? What, as Christians, do we believe that the Bible and the Holy Spirit have to say about it?

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In a sense, this film is too generous to us. The comet is not of our making and although, in the story, we have a good chance of deflecting it, we didn’t start it. Climate change is worse, in the sense that it is a problem of our own making. And we have had decades, not six months, to do something about it.

With noble and notable exceptions, the church’s reaction to climate change could hardly be called prophetic. We are finally, belatedly, throwing our (still considerable) weight behind efforts to address it, but we cannot claim to have led the way. There’s much still to do, and much doublespeak, but addressing the climate crisis is now a mainstream concern, including for Christians.

But what if climate change isn’t the only existential threat facing us? As a part of the Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament I could not help feeling like the two astronomers in the film. There is a threat there which is not getting the seriousness, attention, and action which it deserves. Nobody wants a nuclear war, and most people would gladly be rid of the weapons, but our attention is elsewhere.

If climate change is ‘morally worse’ than a comet strike, then nuclear weapons are worse still. The use of fossil fuels was, at least at first, intended to do good and build a better, modern world. Nuclear weapons (like the “thief” in John 10:10) can only kill and destroy.

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Jesus offers us “life in all its fulness”. Ninety-five per cent of the world’s countries seem to believe they can have that without possessing nuclear weapons. Those of us in the other five per cent should be looking up, not down: at a world where this threat has been permanently removed – before it’s too late.

The risk’s greater than ever, with the Doomsday Clock set at just 100 seconds to midnight experts judge that humanity has never been closer to catastrophe. We know what to do: will we do it?

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