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12/12/2019 Malaysia (International Christian Concern) – According to Sabah Chief Minister Mohd Shafie Apdal, the Sabah government has declared December 24 as an additional public holiday to allow those celebrating Christmas to return to their homes earlier. The matter was decided in the state Cabinet meeting yesterday.

“I hope the additional holiday would benefit those celebrating the occasion,” he said.

Mohd Shafie said the holiday celebrations were a symbol of the solidarity and harmony of the various races and religions in the state.

“Harmony is the key to the development and progress of our country. As such we need to maintain unity for our beloved Sabah state,” he said. “I am not the chief minister for only the Muslims, but also to the Christians. They too voted for me in the 14th general election,” he added.

The state has been observing only December 25 as the Christmas public holiday in the past, and before the 1970s, Sabah used to have two days as holidays — on Christmas and Boxing Day (Dec 26).

With around a quarter of its 3.9 million residents being Christian, Sabah is the second largest state in Malaysia with the most Christians, after Sarawak. Islamic radicalism has been on the rise in Muslim-majority Malaysia in recent years, at times creating tensions between Christians and Muslims. As the official religion of Malaysia, Islam is deeply embedded in the everyday life and political arena of Malaysians. It is therefore rare for Sabah to make this bold decision to honor Christian holiday.

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