NOVEMBER 15 -- My story starts like most Orang Ulu children — I was raised in an evangelical church set up by Australian missionaries decades before my birth.
I was fed the line that Israel was our Mecca, that the modern day incarnation of the state is the same land that was promised in the Bible.
But that isn’t my land: Borneo is my land, Bakun is my ancestral home. I have no ties to the Levant other than what I was told in church.
Those same evangelicals spread the word of Christ as their civilising duty to the world, to save us from our savagery and sever us from our indigeneity.
I grappled with my faith for many reasons — later on in life I had come to realise that this would be one of them.
Like most Malaysians, I spent most of my life believing that whatever was happening in Israel and Palestine was a matter of faith, that because I was registered a Christian at birth I must take the Zionist stance or risk betraying my community and be accused of taking the side of the conservative Malay elite who wish to systematically marginalise us.
I believed that their refusal to recognise Israel was a personal attack on our religious freedoms.
The older I got, and the more educated I became on matters of colonisation and imperialism, I soon came to terms with the danger of such framing.
In reducing the ongoing occupation of Palestine to a “conflict” that is religious in nature, we lose a sense of urgency — all lives lost are now souls martyred for a spiritual cause, not victims of imperialism.
The conservative Malaysian-Muslim elite are guilty of this association, but so are you: the bible thumper angry that your faith is challenged as an ethnic/religious minority, so much so that you would take the side of another colonising force.
Bethlehem, the birthplace of our Lord and saviour, is occupied territory. Palestinian Christians are facing violence every day for existing on land you were told was promised to you as a fellow Christian.
Just last year, a Palestinian Christian journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh was murdered by the IDF and her funeral was desecrated by their soldiers.
Recently, it was announced that Gaza’s Christian population was facing extinction, with there only being around 800–1,000 of them left. Entire bloodlines dating back to the time of Christ, soon to be wiped off from this Earth.
If you can stand back and watch this happen as a follower of Christ, you should feel all the shame of the world on your back.
I shouldn’t have to invoke religion for you to feel empathy for colonised peoples, but unfortunately, that is the language you learnt to speak.
Jesus will not love you more for cheering on the killing of his other children. As a Malaysian-Christian minority witnessing their genocide, I feel sick to my stomach — all I can picture is my family in their shoes. Not being a Muslim does not mean they will hesitate to bomb you or your church too.
As a society recovering from the legacy of colonialism currently facing marginalisation at the hands of a federal government which refuses to respect our history and (ethnic/religious) demography, we should be in a prime position to offer our solidarity up to occupied Palestine.
But instead, we choose to continue going against the grain, even if it means adopting the language of Western colonialism, the same colonialism that abetted the problems plaguing us today.
Activists and figures who have positioned themselves as the mouthpieces of our struggles are now perpetuating racism and xenophobia in the name of indigenous self-determination by accusing Palestinian refugees of terrorism, the same language Western powers have used to legitimise their genocidal incursions.
This is an act of crude advocacy; it refuses to recognise the racist and colonial conditions that have helped to not only shape the inequalities we care so deeply about, but the violence of imperialism imposed onto everyday Palestinians.
It willfully refuses to understand how we are connected within these systems.
Dear Sarawakians, the fear of Hamas infiltrating our borders and turning us into “another Gaza” is an imagined one, especially when it’s Israel and its allies transforming Gaza into what it is today.
What you should fear is becoming a coloniser, an oppressor. Israel continually justifies its war crimes by reminding us it was once the oppressed.
But given what we are seeing unfold in front of our very eyes, the pipeline between oppressed and oppressor is slippery.
Palestinians don’t want to leave, they want to stay. We should be fighting for them to live on their land on their own terms, the same thing we dream of.
Why talk about “securing borders” over something that may not even, and should not even be happening? Especially when Palestinian refugees were threatened with deportation over in the peninsula not that long ago. It’s been made clear that, despite the federal government’s stance, they are not welcome here.
But to parrot this line is a fascist impulse, and we cannot fall for it — and if this is the hill to die on, then as a Native and someone raised Christian I refuse your advocacy!
You do not speak for me or the many Sarawakian Christians/Natives standing together with the Palestinians and their plight!
Instead of caring about the imaginary bogeymen crossing our borders, focus our energies on the ones who are still fighting for their land.
Let us build solidarity between indigenous peoples across the world. Indigenous activists and communities in North America, Aotearoa-New Zealand, South America, Australia and so on are extending their hands to the peoples of Palestine, demonstrating in their traditional costumes adorned with the keffiyeh, occupying weapons manufacturing sites, and stopping their shipments with nothing but canoes and spirit.
They understand what it is like to live under occupation, to have your land taken from you and determined by someone else. They embody agi idup agi ngelaban.
And we can too — so why can’t we see past our myopic understanding of race, religion, and ethnicity in the country?
The active and wilful refusal to think of the world beyond our intranational, ethno-religious dynamics makes you just as bad as the pro-Palestinian Islamic conservatives you claim to critique, if not worse as you’ve decided to take the side of our former colonisers instead.
The evangelicals have corrupted us, broken us from our history, our heritage, and moulded us in their image— they will not save us.
They will reshape us, destroy us, and then bomb us if given the opportunity, all while cheering hand-in-hand with the people committing genocide against our Palestinian siblings.
From the Rajang river to the Mediterranean sea, our struggles are deeply intertwined. Until Malaysian, and especially Sarawakian, Christians realise that our evangelisation and literal existence is deeply entangled with the Euro-American project that led to the formation of Israel and the desecration of sacred Christian land, we will never be free.
*This is the personal opinion of the writers or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.