Malaysia conducts Interfaith servcie for MH370.
ALL of us are saddened by the MH370 tragedy. We are all MH370. And we will continue praying.
People from all faiths are praying, through many programmes and activities, such as special prayers, vigils, wall of hopes, releasing of balloons, etc.
One such programme, which my wife and I had the opportunity to be a part of, was an inter-faith prayer held at the Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Mosque, in Putrajaya, on March 18. It was organised by the Friendship Group for Inter-religious Service (FGIS).
FGIS was established in 2002 as a platform to gather all major religious groups in the country. Its affiliates comprises of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM), the Buddhist Maha Vihara, the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM), Malaysia Hindu Sangam and Malaysian Gurdwaras Council. It is coordinated by the Sathya Sai Baba Central Council of Malaysia.
Its objective is to promote inter-faith harmony and human values by working together in helping the needy and contributing to nation building.
The March 18 programme was attended by about 100 members of FGIS affiliates. It began at 7pm with a tour of the mosque led by Paizan Tukirin, Chairman of ABIM’s Islamic Outreach.
When the magrib prayer was called, the Muslims performed the prayer, followed by a special prayer for MH370. The other FGIS members sat around and watched the prayers.
This was followed with FGIS affiliates’ representatives signing a banner and all of the participants posing for a group photo in front of the main prayer hall.
After that, we proceeded to an adjacent hall at the mosque for dinner. Speeches were then delivered by Amidi Abd Manan, ABIM President and organiser of the programme; Ustaz Hazarudin Baharudin, who is the Tuanku Mizan Mosque Chief Imam; and FGIS advisor Datuk J. Jegathesan.
After the dinner, members of the other faiths offered their prayers led by their respective leaders: Father Philip Thomas, Federal Territory CCM President; Ven B. Sri Saranankara Nayaka Maha Thero, Chief High Priest of Malaysia; and Kavitha Sathasivan, who is Malaysia Hindu Sangam Segambut Division Youth Chief,.
That night’s programme was concluded with an inspiring speech by FGIS President Prof Dr Suresh Govind, who is president of the Sathya Sai Baba Central Council Malaysia, and also a member of the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC).
This is not the first inter-faith programme organised in the country, or the first organised by FGIS. But it is unique because it is quite rare that a mosque administration would give permission for such a programme to be organised in a mosque.
Electronic Billboards in Kuala Lumpur call for prayers for MH 370
Hence, all participants were very thankful and were full of praise to Imam Hazarudin for his cooperation. He not only granted permission; he also attended the whole programme.
In his speech, he said Islam taught Muslims to know and understand other religions. Further, he also invited FGIS to organise more programmes at the mosque and offered to sponsor some of them.
Imam Hazarudin is a graduate of Azhar University (Egypt), a hafiz (one who memorises the whole Quran) and speaks three languages (Malay, Arabic and English). More importantly, he is approachable and open-minded – exemplary Islamic leadership qualities – which is very much needed, especially today, when some are taking a hard line approach towards many issues, particularly when it affects non-Muslims.
FGIS is indeed a “best practice” in the area of inter-faith dialogue. Among its past programmes are: Inter-faith Health Care Camp (in Negeri Sembilan, Perak, Tuba Island), Fun Day for Special Children (in Malacca and Penang), Divine Winds (at four prayer houses in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya), Inter-faith Drama: “The Destiny” and “The Inheritance” (in Putrajaya and Petaling Jaya), Inter-cultural Youth Leadership Camp (in Shah Alam), Celebrating Friendship and Unity (in Kuala Lumpur), Borneo Music Festival (in Putrajaya) and FGIS Orchestra Performance (in Kuala Lumpur and Malacca).
One of the prominent features of FGIS is that there will be inter-faith prayers by all participating religious groups at the start of all of its programmes and activities. This in a way helps to promote the awareness of “unity in diversity” and create a powerful spiritual vibration and bonding for every event.
Besides FGIS, there are also other groups and organisations that are using almost similar approach. These are what that are very much needed in the process of fostering and enhancing unity and national integration. Not those (individuals or organisations/institutions that are independent or a state agency) that are infringing upon other faiths’ God, scriptures, places of prayers and activities, etc.
Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah is CEO of Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) and former Deputy Minister of Higher Education. He is active on twitter at @saifuddinabd
Billboard calling for prayers for MH370