Amid growing religious tensions, this group walks for peace in Penang
Hours after a mosque in mainland Penang was defiled with a slab of meat believed to be pork yesterday, a group of people visited places of worship in George Town promoting peace and love, reports Looi Sue-Chern.
Dressed in purple – the colour that signifies religious tolerance – the group carried carnations and roses, as well as purple balloons as they walked together to visit the St George’s Church, the Goddess of Mercy Temple, the Sri Mahamariaman Temple and Masjid Jamek Lebuh Acheh.
The group’s mission to promote inter-religious tolerance came some 12 hours after a mosque in Cheruk Tok Kun on mainland Penang was defiled with a slab of meat believed to be pork, which was thrown at one of its entrances.
Social activist Azrul Mohd Khalib from the group said the event, Walk in the Park, by a loose group called Malaysians for Malaysia, is aimed at demonstrating that Malaysians are standing up for their fellow citizens, following increasing concern over tensions related to racial and religious issues.
“We reject violence, aggression, bigotry and discrimination. This is not the Malaysia we want. We can actually exist together in harmony.
“We want to speak for ourselves and stand up against groups like Perkasa and Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) and their prejudice,” he said, addressing the people who had gathered at the Esplanade field at 5.30pm, before setting out on their mission of peace.
Yesterday’s outing in Penang was the second to be organised by the group after its debut event at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre about three weeks ago.
Jenny Liew and Aida Redza, who put together the event in Penang, said it is time to rekindle the Malaysian family spirit to bring harmony to the country, which needs healing and love.
“There is a lot of negativity and silence will just promote more violence and oppression,” said Aida, who is a well-known dance choreographer and social activist.
Diocese of West Malaysia Upper North Archdeaconry vicar Venerable Charles Samuel, who met the group at the Anglican church on Lebuh Farquhar, lauded the people for their display of love and unity.
“On behalf of the Christian community here, I convey our heartfelt gratitude for your wonderful expression of brotherhood and sisterhood and for also showing the love of God.
“We are all called here to live life and we should do it with humility and gentleness. Let us make every effort to keep the bond of peace among us,” he said.
Samuel said every race and religion is intrinsically entwined and though the people may be different in many ways, they also need one another in many ways.
“There are times when we are angry but we should not sin. We must keep the devil away and wipe away all forms of malice.
“May God bless the fruits of your labour,” he told the group before he himself joined them on the walk to visit the other three places of worship.
At the Hindu temple in Little India, temple management committee chairman S Varatharajoo said he was pleasantly surprised when the group contacted him yesterday about dropping by.
He said every religion preaches love and peace and praised the group for what they were doing to promote solidarity among the different faiths.
At the mosque on Lebuh Acheh, Badan Warisan Masjid Melayu chairman Mohamed Yahaya, 75, said he remembered how the community was close-knit and lived in harmony.
“Now people are living like strangers even when they live in the same neighbourhood. There is not much mutual understanding… not like how things used to be.
“We cannot live while being suspicious of one another and we cannot take peace and harmony for granted. They are very important. This is what old-timers like me think,” said the Masjid Jamek Lebuh Acheh committee member.
The group, made up of adults and children, presented a bouquet of flowers to each representative of the places of worship. Members of the group also gave out flowers to members of the public.
The group is planning to organise similar events in Ipoh, Kota Kinabalu and Klang next, but the dates of the events have yet to be decided.
As the country continues to deal with the Allah and Bible issues, concerns about religious tensions are heightening even in Penang. The state was recently hit with controversial incidents involving places of worship.
On 26 January, the Victory Lutheran Church, the St John Britto Catholic Church, the Church of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption Church on the island and the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Butterworth on the mainland had banners reading “Allah is Great, Jesus is the son of Allah” hung outside their premises.
Barely 24 hours later at about 1.30am on 27 January, Molotov cocktails were thrown into the Assumption Church compound.
And today at 5.30am, the deputy imam of Cherok Tok Kun Atas mosque in Machang Bubok on the mainland found a slab of meat, believed to be pork, at one of the entrances of the mosque.