On Thursday, 16 May 2019, there was a breaking of fast (buka puasa) occasion with Muslim officials, Christian pastors and their communities at Royale Chulan Hotel Damansara in Kuala Lumpur. It was organised by Global Unity Network (UNITY) and Christians for Peace and Harmony in Malaysia (CPHM). This event was graced by more than 100 people, including representatives from various Muslims and Malay NGOs such as Imams, PERKASA, IKRAM, Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) and the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM). From our Parish – Gabriel (PPC Chairman), Eleanor (Chairperson of PMEIA) and I were invited by Ms Caroline Soon, who is a trustee from CPHM. This buka puasa event has been organised by these organisations for the past 5 years and this was the first time we have attended, on behalf of the Catholic Church.
After hearing the azan call to prayer at 7.20pm by one of the members from UNITY, the guests started breaking their fast. While everyone was enjoying their meal, one of the heads of CPHM, Pastor Lee Min Chong delivered his speech, expressing the beauty of creation and seeing the goodness of all things. When the nation lives in peace, harmony and unity it is a beautiful sight in the eyes of God.
Then, the organising committee invited Encik Shah Kirit, the chairman of UNITY to say a few words. He emphasised that his organisation is making every effort in promoting peace, harmony and unity among people of other faiths. He added that every one of us – regardless of race or religion, should return to God Almighty and pay attention to their spiritual life rather than focusing on the materialistic world.
Apart from speeches, there were also a few activities coordinated by the organising committee. Among them were quizzes pertaining to Islam and Christianity, individual sharing about their faith experiences, their relationships with Muslims and Christians as well as the challenges in the multi-racial country. Muslims and Christians are relatively two major religions in the world and we need to practice our faith freely, without creating tension with each other.
On my part, I shared my personal childhood experiences with my Muslims school friends. When I was in primary and secondary school, I was very close with my Muslim friends – we studied together, played football together, cycled our bikes together and had meals together. On many occasions, I experienced buka puasa with my Muslim friends in their homes. Now, after more than 40 years, I have once again experienced buka puasa and it has brought back some good old memories.
I still remember the national slogan – “Spirit of Muhibbah” (Spirit of Togetherness) to respect each other’s rights and feelings, and to enhance inter-religious relationships in Malaysia’s pluralistic society. Over the years we have lost this wonderful spirit in our nation. Whatever differences we may have, we should continue to engage with one another, building friendships and building our nation with peace, harmony and unity.
The aim of the Church in Malaysia is to promote religious dialogue among faith organisations and foster understanding, mutual respect and cooperation between people of different religions. Today we can see people dialoguing and engaging, to build a living relationship with those of other faiths, in a healthier manner.
Let us make every effort in promoting peace, harmony and unity “through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love…” (The Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions – Nostra Aetate, no. 2, 1965).
Rev Fr. George Packiasamy