KUCHING, Dec 4 — Deputy Sarawak Premier Datuk Douglas Uggah today said he is in the process of forming a long anticipated council to advise the state on non-Muslim religious matters of interest or concern.
He said it will be a forum where issues, including controversial ones, can be discussed amicably.
“We need to guide each other along the way. We are living in a very challenging world of technological advancement including the generative Artificial Intelligence,” he said at the opening of the House of Epiphany of St Thomas’ Cathedral here.
Uggah, who is also the minister in-charge of Sarawak’s Unit For Other Religions (Unifor), said he will call for a meeting to be held on December 7 to propose the formation of the advisory council.
“This council, being consultative in nature, will comprise senior leaders of various religions,” he said, adding that they will come up with guidelines to address issues judiciously.
“We need to preserve the existing racial and religious harmony, unity and understanding which have always been our beacon in a multiracial and multireligious Sarawak,” he said.
Uggah, who is also state minister of infrastructure and port development, said the Sarawak government has always been very supportive and mindful of the needs and welfare of the non-Islamic religions.
He said since its establishment in 2017, Unifor has given financial assistance to the non-Muslim houses of worship[ and mission schools.
He said Sarawak has registered a total of 2,453 non-Muslim houses of worship with a total of 1,694,142 members throughout Sarawak.
He said the state government has allocated RM333,118,000 since 2017, including RM100 million this year, to Unifor to help the non-Muslim houses of worship and mission schools.
“Out of the total allocation, 24.50 per cent or RM81,558,000 were allocated to the Roman Catholic Church supporting 643,503 members and 509 houses of worship.
He said this is followed by the Anglican Church 21.20 per cent or RM70,519,000 supporting a total of 300 houses of worship. He said the Borneo Evangelical Mission Church received a total of RM59,700,000 (17.9 per cent), supporting a total of 635 houses of worship.
He said Buddhist temples received a total of RM37,060,000 (11.1 per cent) supporting a total of 152 houses of worship.
He added this was followed by the Methodist Church (RM27,977,000) and Seventh Day Adventist Church (RM12,026,000).
“Other houses of worship including Confucianism, Taoism and Traditional Religion had received a total of RM10,198,000; Sikh temples RM9,860,000; Hindu RM4,260,000; and many more.
“There is no issue of Unifor not being fair. Before it approves any application, its officers will come to the ground to inspect the project site,” he said, adding that the officers will do their studies based on plans and cost estimates made.
On the opening of the House of Epiphany, he said Unifor had given a grant of RM11.5 million for its construction and refurbishment.
He said it replaces the dilapidated wood and brickwork building constructed in 1953.
He said it will be used, among others,as a theological training college for priests-in-training and to train youth leaders and women ministries.