A Catholic prelate in Sarawak, Malaysia, called for “harmony and mutual respect” following the country’s national elections that catapulted longtime opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to power.
“It is important that we protect harmony and mutual respect and acceptance in Sarawak,” Archbishop Simon Poh of Kuching told AsiaNews.
The Catholic Church leader said “religious extremism and fundamentalism have no place here in Sarawak nor in Malaysia.”
He stressed the need to “go back to our forefathers’ founding principles of Malaysia” and the Rukun Negara (national principles),” the philosophy on which the idea of a Malaysian nation is based.
“Rukun Negara” were formulated in 1970 at a time of social and political conflict in the country.
Archbishop Poh, head of the Association of Churches in Sarawak, said the aim should be to achieve and foster “better unity” in society and to preserve a “democratic way of life.”
He said “Christian churches in Sarawak want first to ensure harmony and mutual acceptance and reject any extremism or fundamentalism that threatens the fabric of Sarawak and our nation.”
Christians in Malaysia comprise about nine percent of the population and are concentrated in the states of Sabah and Sarawak.
Analysts have noted that Anwar Ibrahim has been chosen to lead the country because he is the only candidate who could possibly unite the different factions in the country, said the AsiaNews report.
In Sarawak, Christian leaders have called on the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (Sarawak Parties Alliance, GPS) not to support and form a government with the Perikatan Nasional, which includes the Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (Islamic Party of Malaysia, PAS).
The GPS later declared that it will join the Pakatan Harapan coalition of Anwar.
Anwar was sworn in as prime minister before the king in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, ending a five-day political impasse after inconclusive polls.
The ceremony at the National Palace closed the chapter on one of the most dramatic elections in Malaysia’s history, after no party managed to secure a majority to form a government for the first time since independence in 1957.
Anwar’s ascension to the premiership caps a turbulent political life, which has not only propelled him into the corridors of power but also landed him inside a jail cell.