A group of churches in Sarawak, Malaysia, had urged the region's Christians to unite in praying for safe elections and voting according to their conscience.
The Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) issued the call through a pastoral released in the wake of the 15th General Election (GE15) this Nov. 19.
Content of the Pastoral Letter
Based on Herald Malaysia's report, ACS's recent pastoral letter is the second of its kind calling on Christians in Sarawak to fulfill their obligation to vote in the GE15.
The organization issued its first pastoral letter on Oct. 31, in which it asked Sarawak residents, particularly Christians, to participate in the upcoming polls.
The second pastoral letter is dated Nov. 12, in which ACS explained that voting responsibly in the Nov. 19 elections is both a citizen's right and moral obligation as a Christian.
Archbp. Simon Poh, the chairperson of ACS, and the Bishop of the Anglican Church in Brunei and Sarawak, Danald Jute, co-signed the letter. Jute is also the ACS deputy chairperson.
Archbishop Poh specifically urged the youth to go to the polls and cast their votes as part of their duties as Malaysian citizens.
"ACS as a religious organisation does not endorse any political party but encourages every citizen to pray for safe election and vote according to one's conscience as moral and Christian responsibility to nation and God," Herald Malaysia quoted Archbishop Poh saying.
"By casting our votes, we hold our government and candidates accountable to walk the talk; fulfil promises made to the rakyat; work for the common good and well-being of all; to defend religious freedom for all races and faiths; and to ensure mutual respect, acceptance, harmony and unity in diversity in our nation Malaysia," the letter said.
The group also stressed that Sarawakian voters are entrusting the nation's future into the hands of the people they are voting into the office to serve them for the next full term.
The letter likewise mentioned that voters should factor in the individual candidate's integrity and party affiliation.
It said that Sarawakian voters must consider the candidate's record regarding ensuring religious freedom, upholding citizens' rights, development initiatives, and concern for the citizens.
This year's General Election is bound to be different from the previous ones, with one difference being the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18, which means more Malaysians can now elect their leaders. This will also be the first time there are just three state elections simultaneous with the parliamentary polls, thereby veering away from the usual campaign systems Malaysians are used to.
Other Signatories to the Pastoral Letter
Aside from Archbishop Poh and Bishop Jute, several other high-ranking prelates signed the second pastoral letter.
They include two other Catholic Church bishops: Bishop Joseph Hii of Sibu and Bishop Richard Ng of Miri. The other signatories are Bishop Bonnie Sedau of the Sarawak Iban Annual Conference and Bishop Dr. Lau Hui Ming of the Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference.
Additionally, Salvation Army's Major Francis Ng, Borneo Evangelical Church's Pastor Agong Bina, and Seventh Day Adventist Church's Pastor Semilee Tajau signed their names onto the pastoral letter.