Archbishop Of Kuala Lumpur: I Cannot But Educate My People To Respect Peoples Of Other Faiths

At a recent gathering of Religious, political and cultural leaders from around the world who had gathered in Rome for a three- day peace meeting, Pope Francis told the leaders that everyone had a responsibility to contribute to peace through their prayers and their actions but for religious leaders, that obligation was absolute “the commitment of peace is deeply inscribed in the religious traditions we represent”.

Each one of us is called to be a peacemaker, uniting and not dividing, extinguishing hatred and not maintaining it” he stressed.

Indeed, the commitment to peace, the brotherhood of all mankind is embodied in all Religious Teaching as in all Religions we are taught that God or by whatever name we address the Almighty Creator, The Shan Ti, the Brahman, the Maha Guru, the Allah Maha kuasa, created the whole world and all it contains and consequently, all mankind are brothers and sisters.

In the Catholic tradition to which I belong, we recite in our Creed or “ikrar” - I believe in One God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth - the very first article of Faith.

In the official teaching of the Church, the Vatican Council II Declaration, “Nostra Aetate” 1965, it states “all nations are one community and have one origin because God caused the whole human race to dwell on the whole face of the earth. They also have one final end, God whose providence, manifestation of goodness, and plans for salvation are extended to all.”

Against some narrow minded Catholics, it states: “The Catholic Church rejects nothing of those things which are true and holy in these religions. It regards with respect those ways of acting and living, and those precepts and teachings which though often at variance with what it holds and expounds, frequently reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens everyone.”

Further, it exhorts Catholics: “It calls upon all its sons and daughters, with prudence and charity through dialogues and cooperation with followers of other religions, bearing witness to the Christian faith and way of life, to recognise, preserve and promote those spiritual and moral good things as well as the socio-cultural values which are to be found among them.”

It is our teaching that “We cannot call upon God, the Father of all if we refuse to behave like brothers and sisters towards people created to the image of God.” And then a strong emphatic Statement: “The church condemns as foreign to the mind of Christ any kind of discrimination whatsoever between people, or harassment of them, done by reason of race or colour, class or religion.”

With such strong official teachings of my Church impelling me, I as the religious leader, cannot but educate my people under my charge and lead them to respect peoples of other faiths and work towards building brotherhood.

Hence allow me to share a few initiatives and orientations that I urge my people to adhere to:

  1. We have the tradition of celebrating Mothers Day and Fathers Day in our Church. Children would write a loving appreciation Card, present a rose to Mothers or appropriate token to their Fathers. Now I urge them to celebrate Mothers’ Day or Fathers’ Day in their neighbourhood area-groups so they can write loving appreciation cards to Mothers or Fathers - be they Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, Taoists or Buddhists. Why? Because we celebrate God’s gift of Motherhood and Fatherhood.
  2. We have a practise of visiting home-bound especially elderly people and bring them the consolation of God’s presence and compassion. We call them Communion–ministers. I encourage these people to try and visit the elderly home-bound people in their neighbourhood and bring them the consolation of a kind and compassionate friend. An example, I was happy to hear the story of a humble lady who visits her neighbour, a bed-ridden stroke patient, elderly Malay, and helps the wife sponge and powder her husband every week. What an edifying example of human solidarity!
  3. Some years ago, the Pope’s Representative, who at that time lived in Bangkok, made his first visit to K.L. I arranged for him to pay a courtesy call on all the Religious leaders in the MCCBCHST (Malaysian Consultative Council for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism). At the end of each visit I requested the Religious leader to say a prayer of blessing on the Ambassador, which they did graciously. What an impression it made on him who hails from a catholic country! When he returned to Bangkok, he wrote me a note, stating how over-whelmed he was by this gesture of the Religious leaders.
  4. We have the good tradition of holding “open houses” on the occasion of our Religious Festivals. I urge our Catholics to make it a point to visit their neighbours’ homes on these occasions and not go off for a picnic or family outing or church organised programme because it is a public holiday.
  5. In all communities, there will be some Religious Fanatics or Zealots who will advocate Religious fundamentalism and make hurtful declamations. I urge our Catholics to be people who believe in prayer and so pray that God will enlighten the minds and hearts of these bigoted individuals.
  6. Besides the above, we also have an on-going programme conducted by our (AMEIA) or Archdiocesan Ministry of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs body that introduces participants to the teachings, practices and worship found in the major religions practiced in Malaysia. The programme lasts for 6 to 7 evenings and the Talks are given by the various Religious Leaders themselves who also respond to the clarifications sought. This programme has been conducted since 2001 and numerous parishes have experienced it. One fruitful outcome is that some parishes have organised jointly with other religious bodies, blood and organ donation programmes, fund raising for disaster victims, visits to places of worship, etc.

I am sure there are leaders of other Religious traditions who do even more painstaking and strenuous efforts at bridge-building at the grass-roots level to build up a sustainable peace in our country. May God bless their efforts.

Conclusion

May I conclude with the words of Pope Francis who, in his latest Document Evangelii Gaudium issued just last week, states categorically, lasting Peace does not arise from a “negotiated settlement but rather from the conviction that unity is brought about by the Spirit of God which can harmonise every diversity.”

He does not suggest a syncretism of Religions but a clear and joyful reliance on one’s own religious identity and acceptance of a healthy pluralism.

“When we live out a spirituality of drawing nearer to others and seek their welfare, our hearts are opened wider to God.” This indeed is “an obligation that is absolute” (Pope Francis) for us religious leaders. I affirm, that all great religious leaders hold similar or an identical signature tune.

I was heartened by an article that I found in the New Sunday Times some months ago by a local University professor stating that “the new pope will bring greater understanding among people of different faiths and belief as the 266th pontiff”.

His Grace Archbishop Murphy Pakiam
Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur

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