PETALING JAYA, June 4 — The spirit of unity was celebrated by some 100 Malaysians today in an interfaith iftar (buka puasa event) at Masjid Jamek Sultan Abdul Aziz at Seksyen 3.
Co-organised by four non-profit groups championing interfaith dialogues and the Church of Assumption here, the four-hour event involved a mosque tour guide, distribution of some 300 packets of bubur lambuk and talks by key representatives.
The participants, mostly church attendees and mosque-goers, shared their meals in a huge tray and ate together right after the Maghrib azan (call for prayers).
Sister Christine Chong, 62, who has been with the Church for 10 years said this was her first time stepping foot into the mosque, albeit located merely 70 metres away.
“It was a beautiful event. I have done missionary works for over 20 years and tonight I am reminded of how hospitable Malay families are.
“Eating together like that and having the opportunity to better understand each other’s religions - it is such a lovely experience,” she said.
A full-time missionary Fiona Biggs, 38, said she was delighted to be given such an opportunity where she managed to learn several things about Islam that she had not already known previously.
“Today I learned that fasting is a tradition that has been practiced for a long time. I didn’t know that there is a verse in the Quran that said, ‘fast patiently like others before you’. It is very interesting and admirable,” she said.
Her 11-year-old daughter, Jada Faustine, who tagged along, said the ambiance inside of a mosque is very similar to that of a church, in the sense that it ‘feels as though everyone is one big family’.
“I will be telling my friends about my experience, it is so fun especially when everyone eats from the same big tray. This is a very fun way to bond,” she said.
Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah, who attended the event briefly, said such interfaith event would help to overcome misunderstandings about various religions in Malaysia, apart from fostering better relationships among each other.
“This kind of interaction needs to be encouraged...dialogues too. It needs to be talked about in a very friendly manner because if we do not talk about it and keep out perception to ourselves, it doesn’t help in building unity,” she said.
She added the success of this event was partially due to the new leadership brought about by the Pakatan Harapan government.
“We come from 60 years of indoctrination using race and religion to divide people. But now we are able to come together, as seen on May 9,” she said.
The groups responsible for organising the event are Community Action Network (CAN), Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (ABIM), Popular Communications Center for Human Rights (Pusat KOMAS) and Friendship Group of Inter-religious Service.
Pusat KOMAS programme director Adli Zakuan Zairakithnaini said he was actually surprised at how smooth the organisation process was for this particular iftar and that the authorities, including Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais), were very cooperative.
“phave had many disappointments in the past where the mosque people or the Islamic authority would give us a hard time or blatantly reject our request.
“I am glad that within a week, the mosque representatives agreed to the event and Jais also accepted our letter with open arms. This truly is a good change,” he said.
He believes the success of this iftar would pave ways for many other organisations to hold a similar event where participants regardless of race and religion are welcomed under one roof.
On Thursday, the Church, the Masjid, together with Yayasan 1Malaysia and Gurdwara Sahib Petaling Jaya will also organise a large-scale bubur lambuk cooking event and have a forum entitled ‘Integration in Various Religions’.
The free-for-all event is expected to draw bigger crowds and is set to serve as a continuity to interfaith events in the area.