KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 25 — The Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur today expressed his hope that religious leaders would be sensible in promoting ways to strengthen ties among the people and not drive a wedge between Malaysians of different faiths.
His Most Reverend Julian Leow Beng Kim said religious harmony is the cornerstone of a prosperous Malaysia that must therefore be preserved and defended by Malaysians of all backgrounds.
“We must never allow race and religion to separate and create fear among us.
“It will indeed be a sad day in the history of country if we cannot wish Merry Christmas to Christians or Happy Deepavali to Hindus or Wesak to Buddhist.
“We pray that common sense will prevail amongst religious leaders to promote more ways of strengthening the bonds of friendship among Malaysians and not drive us apart,” he said in a speech at the Christian Federation of Malaysia’s (CFM) annual Christmas Day hi-tea session here.
His speech comes amid the hotly debated introduction of jawi into vernacular schools and controversial Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik remarks about the Indian and Chinese communities that led to police reports against him earlier this year.
Leow, who is also CFM’s chairman, added Malaysia’s unity in diversity was what made the country unique in the world, thus it was crucial for Malaysians to celebrate that unity in diversity to bring the country to greater heights.
He also said Christians were not confined to prayers and good deeds but are called to build bridges, not walls, as they were being challenged to be peacemakers to find common ground and engage in respectful dialogue.
“So, we hope that through this Christmas celebration, we will be inspired to be peacemakers.
“It is not enough to speak about peace, we must put it into action,” he said, adding that all of us should act now in deepening friendship among those of other faiths.
Leow also read out a message entitled ‘Peaceful co-existence the right way’ penned by Federal Territories mufti Datuk Seri Zulkifli Mohamad, who was unable to attend.
In the message, Zulkifli said peaceful coexistence implied mankind’s ability to live in harmony.
“Existing peacefully with non-Islamic beliefs is an essential Islamic principle that is clearly stated in many Quranic verses and that has been practiced by Muslims throughout their history.
There is no contradiction between Islam and devotion to civil society, social culture and co-existence with others,” Leow said.
Also present during the hi-tea session were Malaysia’s first Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church Anthony Soter Fernandez, Primary Industries minister Teresa Kok and Foreign Affairs minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah.
Saifuddin, who also gave a short speech, said a more progressive understanding of knowing each other was not just about tolerance, respect and acceptance but also liking them.
“You can be seated beside one another, but you can just respect and say nothing. But neither will you cooperate and work together.
“It is for us to like the other to enable us to understand and work together. Hence, peaceful coexistence quoted by the KL mufti will then become relevant,” he said.
He also humorously pointed out how Malaysia’s foreign policy emphasised on ‘Prosper-Thy-Neighbour’ that formed the existing basis of peace and understanding among Muslim and Christian believers around the world.
Over 250 people comprised of invited guests and foreign dignitaries were present during today’s session.