Sometime in August 2018, a group of five personnel from National Unity and National Integration Department – Jabatan Perpaduan Negara dan Integrasi Nasional (JPNIN) Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur walked into my office. I was shocked at first, and wondered about the purpose of their visit. I welcomed them and we greeted each other. The head of the group, En. Ramli bin Ngah explained the reason for the visit. He and his department staff were then making plans to pay a visit to our Church and a few other religious places of worship in Sentul on 8 September 2018.
Their main objective was to forge a friendly and harmonious relationship with residents of the neighbourhood, initiate religious exposure programmes for their staff and dialogue among the main religions in Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur. This exposure programme is part of their department’s preparation for Malaysia Day celebration on September 16, 2018. They were quite happy when I agreed to their proposal and at once we set the date and time. They, then sent an official letter from the department and later reconfirmed, via telephone, their visit. Our Parish Ministry of Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs (PMEIA) took the responsibility to make the necessary arrangements under the leadership of Eleanor, the chairperson of PMEIA.
En. Sukri, the head of JPNIN of Wilayah Persekutuan and his assistant En. Ramli, together with their convoy consisting of 50 persons (comprising Malays, Indians and Chinese) came to St. Joseph’s Church on Saturday, 8 September 2018 at 11.30 am. Prior to this they had paid visits to the Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu temples in Sentul. After welcoming them with some refreshments at our church hall, we immediately adjourned for a dialogue and Q&A session.
I briefed them about our Church establishment and her history. In turn, they asked a few questions pertaining to Christianity and our beliefs. Among the issues raised were: “Why are there so many different denominations and sects of Christianity?, Who is Jesus Christ?, Why is there a Pope and what is the role of Vatican?”
During this session they also enquired about the works of charity undertaken in our Parish. I explained the role of our Parish Integral Human Development Ministry (PIHDM) highlighting in particular our fortnightly outreach to the poor and the annual School Uniform campaign. I emphasised that our outreach includes all races, the migrants and refugees.
After this dialogue session, they invited a few of our representatives to be present at Masjid Al-Hidayah, Sentul, which is situated 500 meters away from St. Joseph’s church. The Ustaz, political leaders and priests from Hindu, Taoist and Buddhist temples were also present at the mosque. After the speeches by various guests, all were invited to fellowship and lunch.
The PMEIA was formed a couple of months ago in our parish and this meeting with the JPNIN is their second project. The JPNIN’s team’s focus is to build unity, friendship and harmony among residents of neighbourhoods within our nation. Next year our Parish mission will be on Ecumenical and Inter-religious Dialogue as part of our mission towards New Evangelisation 2020. I am glad that our PMEIA has started off on the right foot, having established the necessary connections and must now continue to build the unity bridge with people of other Faiths in our vicinity.
So far we have only 5 members in this ministry and I wish to strongly encourage more of our parishioners to participate. We welcome you parishioners to join in this ministry and to work together towards next year’s vision and mission of our parish.
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy