Thursday January 17, 2013
Time we learn bridge building
By Marina Mahathir
In the past when mutual suspicion and mistrust increased between Malaysians of different faiths, very little has been done to build the bridge of trust and friendship we badly need.
I WATCHED an extraordinary video the other day.
In it, the imam of the Omar Makram mosque in Cairo, Egypt went with a delegation of 1,000 from his congregation to attend a Christmas service at the Qasr Al-Dubarah Church, also in Cairo.
Invited to speak, the imam sounded a clarion call for tolerance, respect, dignity, humanity and unity amidst difference and tumult.
He also stated that Christians and Muslims must be united against any foreign and internal plots at increasing sectarianism or imposing imperialist / colonialist designs on the Egyptian nation.
When I reposted this video on Facebook, people responded with delighted surprise, both Muslims and those of other faiths.
Obviously we are all hungry for positive actions and messages like this.
A group called MyJihad that aims to reclaim the word Ďjihadí to mean a personal journey and goal to do something good first posted the video.
At the end of it, MyJihad stated that their jihad was to build bridges between faiths.
It struck me that in the past few years when mutual suspicion and mistrust has increased between Malaysians of different faiths, very little has been done to build bridges and create peace.
Everyone, especially politicians and religious officials with a political bent seem keener on burning bridges instead.
Each day another hurtful word is said, another suspicion aroused, another seed of mistrust sowed.
It is only because ordinary Malaysians are far more sensible than their leaders that there has been so little violence unlike say, in places like Pakistan.
For that we have to be thankful.
Yet, it doesnít take much if one were so determined to build up the seeds into a many-branched tree of hatred.
Not only are bridges being set alight between faiths but also within faiths.
Those of us who want to be more respectful, conciliatory and generous are told that we are at risk of losing our faith.
Yet in this video, here was an imam, educated in the venerable institution of AlAzhar, who walks into a mosque, embraces his Christian brothers and states that itís his Islamic duty to be kind and neighbourly to them.
He stresses that what Egypt needs now more than ever is unity between all her people, regardless of faith or creed, because they have so much to do the right the wrongs of the past, and repair the damage done by years of misrule.
It struck me that unity is also what Malaysians need: all of us, not just some.
Once upon a time we stood firm against attempts by colonialists to divide and rule us.
Starting now, we must do so again.
We must therefore find ways to reach out to each other in peace.
I know a lot of people have great ideas on how to do this, especially on neighbourly and community levels which is where it is most needed.
But the idea that struck me most while watching this video is one that seems most obvious.
Just as we have twinning of cities in Malaysia with cities around the world, why canít we have twinned places of worship?
Why canít a mosque and a church pair up and do things together?
For example, they could, like the imam of Omar Makram mosque and the pastor of the church, visit each other especially during special occasions.
At other times, they could do gotong-royong at each otherís premises or have family days.
In this way, the congregation of the mosque and the church can build a relationship with each other to not only understand each other better but also in building that bridge of trust and friendship we so badly need.
Imagine if Masjid Negara twinned with St Johnís Cathedral in Kuala Lumpur?
What a beautiful example that would set!
Maybe the imam could be asked to speak at the Cathedral and the archbishop could be asked to speak at Masjid Negara?
The day that happens I think I would cry, just like the time I weeped after hearing a Muslim imam recite the Al-Fatihah at the cathedral in Perth on the 10th anniversary of September 11.
There is nothing more moving than when you realize that we are all one people on this earth.
However, Iím sure itís not going to happen because some people are determined to stress that they are superior to everyone else.
Even when we are far behind everyone else in innovation, creativity and development in todayís world. Our tiny little kampung seems to be all that matters to them.
Isnít it odd that those who think they are above everyone else have the smallest minds and hearts?
>Marina can be reached at email@example.com