History was made when the Political and Social Awareness Ministry of BSC made the bold move to organise a political forum last Saturday.

The objective was to raise awareness and to educate and generate interest among the Catholic community on issues affecting Malaysia and Sarawak.

A first of its kind for the Catholic Church in Sarawak, the forum was made possible through the collaboration with elected representatives from the Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan coalitions.

The turnout for the “Malaysia, Sarawak and You” forum was encouraging. About 500 Catholics packed the ACCPC of St Joseph’s Cathedral to listen to, and to direct questions to the panelists.

Panelists with moderator Dr Helen Ting

They comprised Pelagus assemblyman Wilson Nyabong from Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS); Batu Kitang assemblyman Lo Khere Chiang from Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP); Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen from Democratic Action Party (DAP); and Ba Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian and Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How…both from Party Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

The moderator for the forum was Dr Helen Ting. She is a Political Science lecturer from the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Bangi.

Four main topics were debated on. They were:

  • Religious Freedom
  • Economic Policy
  • Governance and Accountability
  • Re-balancing Sarawak – Malaysia Relations

All panelists agreed that there should be Religious Freedom in our country. However, there were differing views from both sides of the political divide, as far as the other topics were concerned.

When asked why a Catholic church was getting involved with politics, BSC’s rector, Fr Felix Au explained that it was in response to the Catholic community’s requests.

The ministry’s aim is to help its members engage in the Malaysian public life and contribute positively to the advancement of the country, by serving the common good.

The church remains apolitical. However, faith encompasses all aspects of our life, and that includes politics. The church is able to contribute towards faith formation in a moral and holistic way.

It can inculcate true Christian values. It can educate through knowledge, skills and character building. It seeks to care for, and look after our Christian brothers and sisters. Also, to seek justice and truth in a democratic way.

L-R: YB Wilson, YB Lo, Dr Helen, Archbishop Simon, Fr Felix, YB Chong, YB Baru Bian

His Grace, Archbishop Simon Poh stressed on his message of peace and harmony. As Catholics, we have to become better informed to exercise our democratic duty. He encouraged everyone to pray for peace, and to respond with faith. He advised that we should let love overcome violence…in reference to the recent High Court case, especially at the coming GE14.

Archbishop said it is our moral duty to pray, discern, make good decisions, and to vote with our conscience.

The forum concluded with the organisers’ hope that there would be more of such talks in the future.

Photos by: Stephanie Chua