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Courage is the Prerequisite to Foster Religious Development

Many people somehow or rather will adopt various beliefs and core values in life. Despite not all will do the same, many will still choose religion as the source of positive guidance. To me, having a religion is very important to create harmonious society. Of course, this is only possible when religion is interpreted positively. I practice Buddhism, believe in doing good but never study Buddhism as it is never taught is school. All my knowledge and beliefs are inherited from my late mother who read religious books, mostly written in Chinese which I can’t read.

Syariah Islamiah and Al-Quran education were widely taught in schools. But I was surprised to know that even Bible Knowledge is also one of the approved elective subject in SPM exam. Despite studying in Convent Primary School during the 80’s, I never heard such subject as Bible Knowledge. Lol… when I tweeted this “so-called discovery”, my friend Lydia actually laugh at my ignorance in her twitter.

Well, I am sure there are more “not so well-informed” people like me in Malaysia, and I am definitely not alone. If Bible Knowledge can also be taught in schools, I am sure there’s possibility for Buddhism education to be treated the same too. Therefore to know more, I started to do a search on Bible Knowledge with the hope that the same model can be adopted to include Buddhism education in schools. As I started to Google for more information, I found many articles on Bible Knowledge are related to Sabah. To make things easier, I get more information from my friend Waky Taim, a very devoted church member in Sabah.

Waky first started to be actively involved in church movement after he assume the position of Youth Commission Secretary in local Catholic Association. One of his main task is to coordinate church activities for local youth. Serving as the Catholic Youth President and Chairman of Catholic Church of Tuaran between year 1991 and 2015, he basically devoted his entire life supporting church development in his hometown. Being in his position, he frequently represents church associations to attend religious forums and conferences in various countries.

According to him, Bible Knowledge as a subject was first introduced in mission schools throughout the country in 1940s, offered in Form 3 & 5 examination. During that time, students taking the exam are numbered in thousands. However the numbers decreased to about 500 candidates in the 1980s and therefore it is no longer compulsory to teach the subject. In 1993, this subject ceased in Form 3 examination and when it dropped to 200 candidates in 1994, it was taken out from Form 5 examination too.

The fate of Bible Knowledge in schools is like a roller coaster journey as the number of students taking the subject fluctuates tremendously. Only in 2011, Bible Knowledge was revived and approved to be taught to Christian students in both government secondary and mission schools as an after school study, thanks to the effort of local leaders especially Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, his team and other religious leaders.

Waky told me other than Tan Sri Bernard Dompok who is famously known to support Bible Education, YB Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau is also actively pursuing and supporting this cause. In fact, Madius is also one of the driver behind Waky’s relentless devotion in church development. It all started when both of them work together during their younger days in Catholic Youth Commission.

When Madius was a university student, he was already actively involved in promoting religious awareness to his local youth. Being in his position as the President of Catholic Student Society from 1981 to 1982 in Universiti Pertanian Malaysia, he often collaborated with Sabah Catholic Youth Movement to organise various church awareness and youth leadership program. Upon graduating, Madius went back to Sabah and led Youth PAKS Commission in Kota Kinabalu to continue his religious mission whereby Waky was then the secretary.

“Madius is a very courageous person. He is extremely vocal and exercise his rights to fight for the Catholic youth. Being young, his persistence was sometimes seen by the elders as not appropriate”, said Waky.

But now, being a Minister of Science, Technology & Innovation, the more charismatic Madius contributes by encouraging and empowering teachers to teach Bible Knowledge in schools, distributes free books to those in need, and this resulting in more teachers willing to teach the subject.

As I Google for more information, I found out that through his effort, approval was obtained from federal government to disburse a grant amounting RM2.5 million for the rebuild of St. John Parish Hall in Tuaran. Waky told me this was made possible when Madius personally brought this matter to the attention of the Prime Minister, during an informal setting.

Well, courage to voice opinion, to take action and even to envision change is really important to make things happen. I salute those who are courageous enough to pursue their beliefs and willing to make appropriate sacrifices to support their cause for the community.

From here, I believe a good leader is the key to make religious education possible in schools. I hope one day, such courageous leader can emerge in Malaysia and make Buddhism education possible. Currently, Buddhism teaching is still a private initiative taught in several institution such as Malaysian Buddhist Institute, Nalanda Institute Malaysia, Nalanda Dhamma School, Malaysian Buddhist Academy, etc.

Personally, I think religious study might be appropriate to replace Moral education in schools as both are imparting similar knowledge. Enabling Buddhism knowledge to be adopted might be a long journey, but if one desires, nothing is impossible. Sometimes local leaders just need to brace up and take the challenge to achieve the impossible. I was wondering who might be the person courageous enough to do this.