The Association for Welfare, Community and Dialogue welcomed the statement by the organisers of a Christmas event in Sarawak that it would allow participants to sing the carol O Holy Night instead of Jingle Bell Rock.
The statement was a reaction to the initial statement by the Association of Churches in Sarawak that it would not take part in the event if the hymn was not sung.
According to the organisers, the primary aim of this event was to create a Christmas carol-themed musical event. It featured the participation of 1,500 individuals. The aim was to showcase the essence of unity among Sarawak’s multi-racial communities by embracing differences in race, religion and culture.
The organisers were of the view that understanding and support were paramount. They aimed to organise the event that not only celebrates the spirit of Christmas but also emphasised the unity within Sarawak’s rich and diverse community.”
Some sceptics wondered why the statement came later, only after the initial refusal of churches to take part.
We laud the stand taken earlier by the Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS), who stood firm on what makes up Christmas by rejecting the song Jingle Bell Rock, which is more of a commercial Christmas song.
ACS said Jingle Bell Rock had nothing to do with Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, adding that it would not take part in the event if the hymn O Holy Night was rejected.
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Today, in a world that is increasingly secularised and commercialised there is a tendency to be politically correct when it comes to religious expression. And in places where religion has become an ideological tool for political support, there is a tendency to protest anything that is perceived to be a threat to the superiority of a particular religion.
Sarawak is a unique territory where such problems are a rarity, where ethno-religiosity or secularism does not bare its ugly head.
The short time taken for a solution on the perceived miscommunication over the selected Christian hymn, speak volumes of the strength, coherence and unity of the multi-ethnic and multi-religious population of Sarawak.
Reflecting on this event, we believe that for Malaysia to progress as a unified nation, it is vital that the substance of all religious expressions and teachings be welcomed in the spirit of accepting what is good and honourable in other faiths.
It is only by knowing the main substance of the various religious beliefs that authentic dialogue among religions can be nurtured.
Symbols and scriptural passages that are inclusive of truth, justice and freedom which help forge a common inter-religious theme for societal progress should be encouraged, where the substance of human living and conditions are emphasised instead of mere theological themes
So let’s promote and project the substance of religious beliefs in religious celebrations to build a more inclusive and progressive society.