KUCHING, Nov 25 — The Borneo Evangelical Mission (BEM) finally has land to build its church and community centre catering to 11,000 parishioners in the Sarawak capital city.
Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Abang Johari Openg said the state government approved 1.2 hectares of land in Kuching for BEM based on the universal principle of love and mutual aid and respect.
“If we uphold our value system and everybody upholds it, then we can create a society that is of quality and where there is a peaceful co-existence,” he said at the launch of the BEM Worship and Community Centre for Sarawak at Taman Desa Wira near here last night.
“We are fortunate that Sarawak has that good value system. We mix together, we respect each other and we help each other,” he said.
He urged the public to help each other “irrespective of whatever religious and racial backgrounds they have”.
Abang Johari said the philosophy of his administration is a peaceful co-existence.
“Your religion is your religion. My religion is my religion. Your belief is your belief. My belief is my belief.
“At the end of the day, we must understand and respect each other,” he said.
He said it was based on this philosophy that he formed Unit For Other Religions (Unifor) in the Chief Minister’s Office in 2017, through which the state government can engage with the various religions, including finding ways and means they can understand and help each other.
Abang Johari also said he understands that Christians need their place of worship due to the rural-urban migration, especially to Kuching, the economic hub of Sarawak.
“We can’t allow them to congregate in shoplots to perform their Sunday service,” he said, referring to shoplots being turned into churches.
Abang Johari said he has asked his deputy, Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah, to help BEM Sarawak in building the worship and community centre.
He assured that the state government will give funds to BEM Sarawak to build the centre.
“What is important is that we can work together for the benefit of everybody and let Sarawak be a model for other states in Malaysia.
“We have a high degree of tolerance and we also work together. We don’t follow the people from the other side. It will cause problems for us,” he added.
BEM Sarawak president Reverend Datuk Justin Wan said there is a need for a worship and community centre to be located in Kuching as there are 110 BEM churches and about 11,000 members in the Kuching district alone.
He said BEM Sarawak has expanded since it was established by a group of Australian missionaries in the 1920s.
He said there are more than 700 local churches with about 100,000 registered and another 100,000 unregistered members and 500 pastors throughout the state.
Construction work on the centre is expected to be completed in 2022.
Among those present at the launch were Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah, Catholic Bishop of Kuching Simon Poh, state ministers and assistant ministers.