Strengthen dialogue to promote religious harmony

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Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily

While the World Interfaith Harmony Week was being launched in the country, two provocative religious incidents took place in Penang, with an attempt to create hatred. Provocative banners were hung outside three Catholic Church while two Molotov cocktails were thrown into another Catholic church. Fortunately, no serious damage was caused.

We deeply regret over these incidents, while severely reprimanding those who deliberately created troubles at this sensitive time. It could cause racial and religious tensions and undermine the harmonious atmosphere that has long been nurtured. Such acts must be stopped immediately or it could lead to serious consequences.

Attacks on churches and Hindu temples can be traced back to 2010 when the racial and religious atmosphere in the country was once tense. Fortunately, the people at that time showed restraint and calmness, allowing the sentiment to cool down. Unexpectedly, some extremists have reapplied the old tricks today, particularly when the “Allah” controversy has not yet been satisfactorily solved, it might further blur the focus of the controversy.

Major religious organisations and the people must patiently wait for the ruling of the Federal Court over the “Allah” controversy, accept and comply with the court’s decision. Any provocative acts will only complicate the controversy.

At this very moment, we must remain calm and make no radical response. We should leave it to the police to investigate, arrest and charge the perpetrators in court. In particular, politicians and some organisation leaders should try soothing the people through dialogues and avoid making unnecessary remarks to gain political capital and personal interests.

As Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup said, the Federal Government and the state government should discuss amending state laws to include Putrajaya’s 10-point solution to the “Allah” controversy. The raid on the Bible Society of Malaysian and seizure of its bibles by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) has triggered a question of whether the state laws or the 10-point solution should be prioritised. As the Federal Government and state government have their respective stands, it confuses the people.

Malaysia is a multi-racial and multi-religious country housing peace-loving people. Unfortunately, the country’s political atmosphere seems to have turned unstable after the 2013 general election. Peaceful demonstrations and petitions are normal in a democratic society and only some are trying to take the opportunity to create social unrest. The BN and Pakatan Rakyat should take such a phenomenon seriously and resort to the democratic means of negotiation to solve the issue together.

It will be very much welcomed if the Department of National Unity and Integration (JPNIN) can organise more inter-religious dialogues to promote religious harmony and understanding. All walks of life should fully use the JPNIN to strengthen relations and sincerely communicate to enhance mutual trust and awareness, as well as to maintain tolerance. There is no better way or mechanism to effectively resolve disputes and differences than dialogue.