Church of Assumption’s cancelled ‘buka puasa’ event — Lyana Khairuddin

Source: The Malay Mail Online

BY LYANA KHAIRUDDIN

JULY 3 — Members of The Church of Assumption, Petaling Jaya recently came up with an idea to improve interfaith understanding by organising abuka puasa event. The organisers even consulted popular and influential non-governmental individual (NGI), Syed Azmi Al-Habshi on the event.

Prior to the event, the Church members sourced for halal food, prepared a prayer room by removing all Christian paraphernalia from their Sunday School classroom, provide prayer mats (sejadah), provide plastic sandals to ease ablution by Muslim attendees who wish to pray, maps of nearby mosques in the event that Muslims attendees are uncomfortable with praying in a Church, and even asked whether it would be appropriate to play raya songs for the event. The details and extend of the effort by the members of the Church should be applauded. The concern comes when Muslims ourselves do not want to extend our hands in faithful friendship. A police report was lodged, causing the organisers to cancel the event to prevent any potential violence or “trouble”. Nonetheless, to prevent food wastage, the Church urged those who have registered for the event to come and collect the foods and drinks provided. Some attendees even stayed, and berbuka puasa with the members of the Church anyway. Some may say let bygones be bygones, but this incident serves as an embarrassing lesson to Malaysian Muslims. Here we have the best opportunity to extend friendship and have conversations with fellow Malaysians who are non-Muslims, who are genuinely interested in learning more about our faith. And we, through the action of one or a few persons unknown, basically rejected their “salaam”. It is akin to refusing to shake hands and extending goodwill. Worse, it propagates our need to be cocooned within a shell of protection from evils that we ourselves have created.

There is hatred in ignorance, love and acceptance in knowing, understanding, and simply, having conversations. Can we all, for once, believe in the basic human values of kindness without prejudice?

The police report shows how hypocritical we are. To call upon the police for something as trivial as Malaysians eating together; exposes our own lack of faith. Are our faiths too fragile that we cannot visit our friends at their houses, temples, and churches? Are we too ignorant to invite them to our houses, our mosques? Are we too prejudiced to think that their intents are vexatious?

I urge fellow Muslims to ask ourselves how much we know of other faiths. That people of other faiths abstain from food and drink for a period of time, too. That abstinence can be in the form of reducing negative thoughts, reducing being overly-judgemental, having patience and only saying good things of others. That some are vegetarian or vegan due to their religious beliefs and we in return must also accommodate their diets. That some festivities are religious while others are cultural, yet all are steeped in rituals.

That to do good is a universal value.

Friendships require both sides to put in an effort into the relationship. It seems that in Malaysia, we Muslims have long used, abused and oppressed the hands of friendship extended by people of other faiths in our country. We must all ask ourselves, is this the Malaysia we want to live in? A Malaysia that is divided, where we all cannot simply, feast together (ironically, a truly Malaysian past-time!)

This Hari Raya, I urge fellow Muslims to extend invitations to our friends from other faiths. We must bring back the culture of visiting each other during each festive season, kunjung-mengunjung untuk bertanya khabar. Extend our hands in friendship and forgiveness; listen to the common stories across beliefs and socioeconomic classes. Have conversations about our country, our frustrations, our aspirations, our own daily struggles to simply, be Malaysians. Let this Hari Raya be about celebrating humanity, friendships, compassion and goodwill.

To the members of The Church of Assumption, I am openly offering my hand in friendship. Thank you for your efforts, it did not go to waste.

And please, we all should go for teh tarik together very soon.

May peace and blessings be upon us all.


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