On Friday evening, 21 September 2018, the Parish Ministry of Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs (PMEIA) made a courtesy visit to Saidina Hamzah Mosque in Kampung Batu Muda, Kuala Lumpur located 3kms away from the Church of St. Joseph.
The mosque was built in 1993, on a one-hectare piece of land with the cost of approximately RM7.6 million. It can accommodate approximately 2,500 people during prayers. However, there are about 20,000 Muslims living in the surrounding area. The mosque also conducts an Islamic Religious School for primary students.
Eight members of the PMEIA were welcomed by the Chairman, Haji Shaari Bin Mustafa, Director of Hidayah Center Foundation, En’ Abdul Ghaffar Mohammad Sharif, Ustaz, Imams and Board members, men and women of the Mosque. We expressed our heartfelt happiness and appreciation for the warm welcome accorded by them. After the speeches by the chairman and director of the mosque, followed by fellowship, we were invited to a tour around the compound. Surprisingly, they invited us to enter their worship house. It was my first time entering into a sacred sanctuary (Musalla – a place for Prayer). All this while I had an understanding that non-Muslims were prohibited (haram) from entering their sacred sanctuary. However, we were informed that non-Muslims were actually allowed in, but under certain circumstances.
Our PMEIA has commitment to work closely with members of the Saidina Hamzah Mosque. One of the projects planned is to have a blood donation campaign in their premises. We hope through this collaboration, we may be able to strengthen our social commitment and welfare service for our human family. In the near future, we may invite them to give us a session on Islam in our parish, to learn more about each other’s faith and to improve our relations. In my opinion, our significant engagement brought together a fruitful dialogue session and sharing of our spiritual insights. Thank you to the PMEIA for the effort made in meeting the board members of Saidina Hamzah Mosque.
As Catholics living in a Muslim majority country, it is good to have a better understanding of Islam as well as of other faiths. Mixing and communicating with friends and family of other religions is common place in Malaysia, and it may not be surprising to learn that your fellow friends may be interested to learn more about our Catholic faith, and vice versa. As we engage ourselves in faith discussions, we must be ready to learn from one another, without ignoring the beliefs of each tradition and acknowledging the common ground that we share, as neighbours and as Malaysians.
The Church has always encouraged dialogue and learning with people of other faiths, and welcomed them into our midst. We must show respect and understanding, rather than alienate and ignore. Instead of defining ourselves with what separates us, let us instead embrace that which unites us.
The Second Vatican Council stresses about respecting other faiths and acknowledging “what is true and holy in these religions” along with “fidelity to the mission of the Gospel,” (Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions or Nostra Aetate #3).
We should love our neighbours (people of other religions) as ourselves and share the good news of Christ with them. As Catholics, we should understand that dialogue is a privileged way of “speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect…” (Ephesians 4:15) with Muslims as well as with people of other faiths.
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy.