Interfaith council in Malaysia aims to heal the wounds of intolerance

Says in Christmas message that peace must be the 'beginning and end' of all interactions among different faiths
Interfaith council in Malaysia aims to heal the wounds of intolerance

(Photo by The Malaysian Insider/Afif Abd Halim)

Amid still-simmering racial and religious tensions, an interfaith council hopes that goodwill among Malaysians will continue to exist although they come from different backgrounds.

“Let us pray and be proactive in promoting genuine acts of care, compassion and healing to this wounded nation still bleeding with mistrust, suspicion, revenge and insulting name-calling,” the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism said in its Christmas message.

The council said there were attempts to destroy the promotion of peace and joy among Malaysians.

The council also said the coming New Year should be an occasion for all to consciously “play our roles to promote peace and harmony”.

"Let us exploit every opportune moment to ensure better understanding, engage in fraternal dialogue to destroy or diminish anxiety, resentment, fear and misrepresentation that have taken hold of our psyches during this past year," it said.

The statement added that every effort must be made to uphold one another in esteem, forgiveness, acceptance and happy co-existence for the love of this unique nation blessed abundantly which few other nations could boast of.

"May the promotion of peace be the beginning and end of every word we say, every act we do and every dream we have, for the positive growth of this our nation we call Malaysia in all aspects of its national aspirations, be they  religious, cultural, social, national, economic or political advancement," it added.

Race and religious relations have frayed further after last year's general election when the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) blamed its heavier losses on the Chinese minority, fuelled by Malay-Muslim groups that seek more puritanical Islamic laws across Malaysia.

On December 8, 25 prominent Malays penned an open letter asking for a rational dialogue on the position of Islam in a constitutional democracy.

"Given the impact of such vitriolic rhetoric on race relations and political stability of this country, we feel it is incumbent on us to take a public position," Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin, former Malaysian ambassador to the Netherlands, said in a statement issued on behalf of the 25 signatories.

The 19-paragraph statement was signed by prominent people, including former secretaries-general, directors-general, ambassadors and prominent individuals.

Noor Farida said she and the others were deeply concerned about the state of the debate on many issues of conflict on the position and application of Islamic laws in Malaysia.

"It is high time moderate Malays and Muslims speak out. Extremist, immoderate and intolerant voices, as represented by Perkasa and Isma, do not speak in our name," she had said.

Relations between Muslims and Christians are also fragile following the controversy over the use of the word "Allah", despite the Federal Court in June upholding the decision that the ban in a Catholic weekly was due to national security.

Meanwhile, Putrajaya had allowed the use of the word in Malay Bibles under the 10-point solution in 2011.

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However, the issue intensified when Selangor religious authorities seized 351 copies of the Malay language Alkitab and the Iban Bible, Bup Kudus, which contained the word Allah, from the Bible Sociey Malaysia office in Damansara on January 2.

The books were returned in November on condition that the distribution, as well as the printing, of Bibles that contain the word Allah were no longer done in Selangor, as it is an offence under the Non-Islamic Religious Enactment (Control Development Among Muslims), 1988.

Barely had the dust settled on the issue of the seized Bibles in Selangor when a Catholic priest in Muar, Johor, was detained for having 30 copies of a hymn book with the word Allah, which were meant for his Orang Asli parishioners.

Father Cyril Mannayagam said although the police decided not to pursue the case against him, the hymn books, titled "Kepujian Kepada Tuhan Allah" (Praise be to God) were seized. The books were later returned to him.

Original story: Preserve Malaysia's peace despite differences, says interfaith group in Christmas message

Source: The Malaysian Insider

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