Borneo Christians in dance and prayer for the "harvest festival"
by Joseph Masilamany

In the predominantly Christian states of Sabah and Sarawak, harvest festivities last for about one month. Songs and tribal dances even in liturgical celebrations. Bishop of Kuching: "It is an occasion to thank God together and to remind us of His promise."


Kuching (AsiaNews) - Songs, dances, festivals and liturgical celebrations, this is how the Christians of the eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak celebrate the annual "harvest festival", which provides for a four-day national holiday (from 30 May to 2 June). In families the joyful atmosphere lasts for about a month. On May 21, in St Joseph's Cathedral in Kuching (Sarawak capital) a special dinner launched celebrations, attended by Msgr. Joseph Salvador Marin, Apostolic Nuncio in Kuala Lumpur, and the archbishop of the city Msgr. John Ha.

The "harvest festival" has different names depending on the state in which it is celebrated. In Sarawak it is called "Hari Gawai ', while in Sabah it is called"Hari Kaamantan". Local churches celebrate the occasion with special masses, in which elements of tribal prayers are inserted, songs and dances. Many parishioners wear traditional clothes and at the end of the ritual local dishes are served, as thanks for the good harvest.

Speaking to AsiaNews on the sidelines of the dinner, the Archbishop of Kuching said: "Since time immemorial communities around the world celebrate the harvest, and from the Old Testament we know that the fruits are offered as a thanksgiving to God". This festival, continues Msgr. Ha, is an opportunity to unite in prayer and to share God's blessings with others: "This reminds us of the promise and the love of God, who gives us the fruits of the land as our food and wellbeing”.

On the occasion of the national holiday, family members return home, often making long trips. The states of Sabah and Sarawak are predominantly Christian. According to the 2010 census, there are 850 thousand Christians in Sabah, of which 190 thousand Catholics. There are 1.5 million Christians in Sarawak, of which 140 thousand Catholics. The population is made up of about 40 different ethnic groups.

(Photo by Danison Manium)

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