Around 45,000 Christians from Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Evangelical and other Churches marched through the Borneo city of Miri on Saturday (9 December) for the tenth annual Miri Christmas March. Christians from 20 different churches processed to the Miri City Fan, an outdoor venue with seating arranged around four sides of a square stage, where they worshipped despite heavy rainfall. The Deputy Chief Minister of the Malaysian State of Sarawak, which covers the north-western corner of Borneo, Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, and the Mayor of Miri, Adam Yii, were amongst the VIPs who took part in the event.
Saturday’s event, with the theme “Glory to God”, was the biggest since the annual event began. It was a true ecumenical affair with Christmas carols from members of the Anglican churches kicking off proceedings, before a “lively” praise and worship session led by a Roman Catholic church band; traditional dances by a group from the Borneo Evangelical Mission; a Seventh Day Adventist Choir; and a contribution by the Sarawak Baptist Church.
The Anglican Bishop of Kuching, Donald Jute, preached. The Assistant Bishop of Kuching, Solomon Cheong Sung Voon, chaired the organising committee on behalf of the Association of Churches in Sarawak. In an address to the gathering, on behalf of the state’s Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, Embas revealed that the government has approved the use of a 5.8 acre piece of land, adjacent to the Miri Bypass road, for a new Christian Ecumenical Centre.
“I am sure that with the approval of the land, the Christian Ecumenical Centre project will be realised, and more than 120,000 Christians from various denominations in Miri will have a comfortable venue to carry out their courses, seminars and activities,” the Borneo Post reports Embas as saying.
The scheme is one of 12 that had been approved from 77 applications for grants from religious groups in the state, totalling 15 million Malaysian Ringgits (approximately £2.76 million GBP).
In his message, the Chief Minister praised the religious tolerance in Sarawak. “This is not so in other places, especially across the South China Sea,” he said. “We Sarawakians, be they Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindu or others, have always strived to strengthen the friendship and brotherhood among ourselves because we know that unity and social cohesiveness is the pillar of our economic progress and development.
“Sarawakians may have differences in opinion and ways of looking at things, which is only natural, but these do not stop them from making serious efforts to nurture and strengthen unity among them.”