Churches throughout the country have rolled out its campaign for the forthcoming general elections known as “Prayer United.” This initiative was mooted two years ago partly in response to various challenges facing the church particularly Islamisation and the erosion of religious liberty.
One in ten persons in the country is a Christian, thus making the church a significant block of votes. Thus it is no surprise that the rallying call is for the church to be “fully awakened, engaged and empowered during this critical season and to understand the urgency and importance of this elections …,” according to Prayer United.
The church is generally conservative and pro-establishment. However, as older church leaders begin to retire, they have been replaced by younger and more articulate pastors and lay leaders. Coupled with their unhappiness over curtailment of religious freedom, the church has been searching for the middle ground with many encouraging congregational members to go into the political arena.
Although the GE13 prayer campaign comes under the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), the umbrella Christian body in Malaysia that comprises the mainline Council of Churches of Malaysia, National Evangelical Christian Fellowship and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, the initiative is by a movement of nine prayer networks and pastors’ fellowship throughout the country.
Churches also see holding the general elections in 2013, the fiftieth year of the formation of Malaysia, as spiritually significant.
As pointed by Prayer United, “This election season is one of the most critical of our nation’s history as it will be held during the Jubilee Year. This is no coincidence.”
Bumiputera Christians make up about two thirds of the some two million Christians in the country mainly in Sabah and Sarawak. It is there that they have been reeling from the impact if Islamisation particularly covert conversion of their young. Another sore point is that they are still not allowed to use the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God even though the High Court has ruled otherwise. That judgement is still under appeal by the Attorney General for four years now.
Given this unhappiness, the Pastors’ Fellowship of Kota Kinabalu initiated a call to prayer in 2011 to prepare for the jubilee year of the church. That soon snowballed into a country-wide movement spearheaded by the NECF to usher in the jubilee in 2012 with a forty-day fast and pray known as the Hope of Jubilee in anticipation that the general elections would be held then.
According to NECF, “Having faced one contentions issue after another regarding the Christian faith over the last 12 months, we await a refreshing touch from God to lift us up beyond our human concerns. Equality and religious liberty are the missing factors that cause many citizens to examine the constitution to seek fairness against injustice and an oppressive system.”
Meanwhile, Christian Federation of Malaysia issued an advisory on 18 July 2012 to Christians for the GE13 entitled “Vote wisely, vote for a better Malaysia.”
It said, “CFM encourages all Christians to be conscious of their political rights—to vote, and to use the power of the vote to elect a government that will ensure justice with equity and the well-being of our nation.”
It took care to point out that CFM is not politically motivated nor is it endorsing any one political party.
With many constituencies won by a wafer thin majority in the last general elections, the Christian vote may just swing the final tally one way of another, especially in Sabah and Sarawak.