Let’s enjoy living in harmony

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Tuesday January 29, 2013

Let’s enjoy living in harmony


It’s not easy upholding peace and harmony in a pluralistic nation like Malaysia. Efforts have been taken by various parties, including the Government, NGOs and civil society entities, to minimise friction due to social differences, be it cultural or religious.

MALAYSIA is a nation that is indeed unique and blessed.

The uniqueness of this beautiful nation, among others, lies not just in its multiracial and multi-ethnicity background but also in its religious diversity.

For Malaysians, their religions do not just shape who they are spiritually, but acts also as a major influence on their culture and social identities.

Belief in God, as the first pillar of the Rukun Negara is an important principle that binds Malaysians together.

From this, it can be understood that religion plays a crucial role in shaping the positive characters of individuals and contributes towards nation building.

It is also a well-known fact that religions shape the world view of individuals. These world views will then be manifested in one’s action towards God, other beings and even towards himself.

Associate Professor Dr Kamar Oniah Kamaruzaman, in her bookReligion and Pluralistic Co-Existence, talks very aptly about the connection between religion and the inter-personal dimension.

She explains that: “True persons of religion understand well their social obligations and responsibilities to one and all, and take these responsibilities seriously. This is because their social responsibilities are part of their religious responsibilities and they are thus as much accountable to what goes in society as what goes within their own selves. Thus the social teachings of their religions make them disciplined, responsible and productive members of society.”

As religion becomes the focal point for most individuals, it is therefore essential to look at the sources of our own religion when dealing with differences.

In Islam for example, there is a clear source of guideline on the matter. One of the verses in the Holy Quran that outlines this is in Surah Mumtahanah, verse 8: “Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) religion nor expel you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly towards them. Indeed Allah loves those who act justly” (Chapter 60: 8).

Another important verse in the Quran that calls for mankind to learn to know one another and accept diversity is discussed in Surah al-Hujurat, verse 13, which states: “O mankind, indeed we have created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” (Chapter 49: 13)

For a pluralistic nation like Malaysia where the social fabric is made up of various races, ethnicity, cultures and most importantly religions, to be able to uphold peace and harmony is not an easy task.

Today, as can be seen, many countries are still finding the right formulae to address the issues of religious diversities and justice.

Instead of looking at the values in each religion that are able to provide the answer, they prefer to concentrate on differences that exist among religions.

Consequently, this will widen the existing gap among people of different faiths and beliefs instead of actually building a bridge of understanding towards living harmoniously with one another.

In Malaysia, efforts have been made by various parties, including the Government, NGOs and other civil society entities, to narrow the social gaps and minimise friction in society due to social differences, be it cultural or religious.

No doubt much must still be done but the policies, efforts and actions that have been taken towards preserving harmony and instilling the spirit of muhibah among the people must also be given due recognition and applauded.

One good example of such collaborative effort is the Jawatankuasa Mempromosikan Keharmonian dan Persefahaman Antara Penganut Agama (JKMPKA) or the Committee for the Promotion of Mutual Understanding and Harmony Among Religious Adherents, set up by the Cabinet in 2010.

Currently, the committee is gearing up by organising activities and embarking on efforts inviting Malaysians to join the celebration of the World Interfaith Harmony Week 2013.

This annual celebration during the first week of February was proposed at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept 23, 2010, by King Abdullah II of Jordan.

It was unanimously adopted by UN on Oct 20, 2010, with the belief that there is a need for dialogue among different faiths and religions with the aim of enhancing mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people.

As for Malaysia, many activities have been planned in conjunction with the World Interfaith Harmony Week 2013.

However, for such an event and celebration, the success and joy come in the form of seeing fellow Malaysians appreciating each other and respecting the religious values and beliefs of others.

Therefore, let us celebrate the diversities that exist in our unique society with the spirit of togetherness and mutual understanding. With the aim of learning to know each other better, the spirit of muhibah and respect should be the underlying principles of our endeavour towards living in harmony in such a blessed nation like Malay­­­sia.