MUCH has been said about the rowdy behaviour of certain youths who confronted Kuching Catholic Archbishop Simon Poh as he was leaving the court complex after the Federal Court decision on Tuesday that the Syariah Court in Sarawak has jurisdiction in apostasy cases.
Yes, we are shocked and disappointed at what happened, particularly as it appears to be a slap in the face of our much-vaunted multicultural harmony.
But it would be naive to think that such incidents cannot happen in Sarawak or that it must have been orchestrated by outsiders because Sarawakians wouldn’t do such a thing.
We don’t live in a bubble; nor are we immune from unpleasant sentiments or behaviour, isolated though they may be.
Whatever the motivations of those youths, the way they behaved was unwarranted, uncalled for and must not be condoned by right-thinking Sarawakians.
This brings me to my next point. We Sarawakians take pride in being peace-loving and harmonious but this incident is a lesson that we cannot just pay lip service to this notion.
We have to show by our actions that we believe in religious and racial harmony. This was amply demonstrated by those in the crowd who quickly stepped in to shield the archbishop and escort him out of the court complex safely. Thankfully, there were more people who protected the archbishop compared to those heckling him.
We cannot take our unity and harmony for granted but must keep working together to cultivate and uphold mutual respect, understanding, acceptance and friendship among our diverse communities.
This has been commonly practised as a way of life in Sarawak over the years and it’s something we have to make an effort to maintain or risk losing.
The archbishop himself put it best immediately after the incident, telling reporters that he was not rattled and that religious harmony must prevail.
“What’s important is that in Sarawak we work as friends, we are still friends and we maintain the harmony of our state.
“There were many good people around me to make sure that I was okay, including from the Muslim community, so I want to thank them.
“Please focus on the harmony that we are trying to achieve, not the pushing which gives a bad impression that we are fighting. We are not,” he said.
Indeed, the Federal Court decision in this case is not about religious conflict but about a legal question as to which court has jurisdiction to hear apostasy cases.
In light of the apex court’s ruling that the Syariah Court has jurisdiction, the legal issue is now settled.
Let’s not politicise it or turn it into a fight but stand together to uphold the rule of law and preserve peace and harmony in Sarawak.