A Raya to remember: Seeds of hope sprout

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File photo - People of all faiths joined in solidarity with those breaking their fast at the Acheen Street Mosque in Penang ahead of Raya

As we keep our Muslim sisters and brothers in our thoughts during the Hari Raya season, let us continue to work towards bridging all gaps that keep humanity apart, writes Prema Devaraj.

Selamat Hari Raya to all our Muslim sisters and brothers!

It was a wonderful experience for many of us from different faiths to have shared in the breaking of the fast with our Muslim friends at the historical Acheen Street Mosque in Penang a few days before Hari Raya.

Given this time of religious intolerance, bigotry and misunderstanding, not just in Malaysia but around the world, it is so important that we reach out to one another, cut across political divides, put aside artificial barriers erected for political expediency and see the humanity in ‘the Other’.

There is no need to fear the Other or to put the Other down. There is no need for superiority or inferiority of cultures or faiths. Our similarities far outweigh our differences. As a nation, as a people, when will we realise this simple fact? We are all human.

When we truly embrace our diversity we begin to move forward. The simple act of breaking fast with people of different faiths in a mosque was one step forward. It made many of us feel more hopeful.

Now, many of us find the current state of the nation simply unpalatable. We face another round of allegations of mismanagement of funds as the Felda Global Ventures crisis unravels.

Meanwhile, concerns arise over allegations of interference in the independence of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission investigations.

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And we continue to see the dismissal of revelations of misappropriation of 1MDB funds by the US Department of Justice (see here and here).

As rumours of the impending general election circulate and as three-cornered fights seem inevitable, we wonder whether there is hope for the country.

And yet over the weekend, on the eve of Raya, as the holy month of Ramadan for the Muslims drew to an end, hope emerged again – this time in the form of students taking part in the Malaysian Catholic Campus Students Day 2 (MCCSD2) programme, organised by the Campus Ministry of the Penang Diocese.

Some of the students visited Aliran

Over 800 catholic students from all over Malaysia were immersed in a programme in Penang to help empower them towards a greater social-cultural-political awareness and activism. The MCCSD2 programme was aimed at raising their social consciousness and awareness of their responsibilities to the poor, marginalised, sick, elderly, differently abled, the oppressed and the environment.

The process (exposure-immersion) was to help inspire students to strive to build a more egalitarian society based on the principles of their faith. The students were exposed to a variety of issues including the care of the elderly, children in shelter homes, violence against women, neoliberalism, poverty, voter registration, hospice care, refugees, care for the environment, and consumerism.

Through the exposure programme and later through a reflection period with the students, several Aliran members in Penang, through their involvement in this program, managed to reach out to almost 400 youths!

Other students were immersed into various other NGOs in Penang such as the Women’s Centre for Change

One group of about 130 students identified the following as issues of concern to them: intolerance, corruption, social media addiction, abuse of animals, the exam-orientated education system, abuse of children, abandoned elderly and discrimination against migrants and refugees.

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Based on the teachings of their faith, this group of students were encouraged to makee plans to carry out at least one activity to make a difference on each of the issues they had identified.

That they had a conscience and knew right from wrong was delightful to see especially at a time when dereliction of duty and the lack of integrity and principled leadership seem to be the order of the day. It was our hope that some of these youth would be inspired and empowered through this programme to put their creative thoughts and heartfelt commitments into action.

And finally on Raya day, as millions of Muslims around the world celebrated Hari Raya joyously with their families in their homes, we are reminded of the many Muslims around the world, including those in Malaysia, who are unable to do so.

We especially remember the Muslim refugees who are separated from their families and loved ones, many facing uncertainty and anxiety not only over their lives but also of those left behind especially in conflict areas. Despite all that they have been through, many still hope for a safe place that they and their families can one day call home and a chance to build a future for themselves. We share in that hope.

As we keep our Muslim sisters and brothers in our thoughts during the Hari Raya season, let us continue to work towards bridging all gaps that keep humanity apart. Let’s keep hope alive.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. – Martin Luther King Jr

Prema Devaraj
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
29 June 2017

Thanks for dropping by! The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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TY TAN
TY TAN
30 Jun 2017 7.44pm

I appreciate your article and sincerely hope things will become better. In saying so, I have doubts that by eating together and taking photos together will bring more hope of better racial-religious relation. I wish to identify 3 things that I think would do us good: 1. Education – home and school. It starts with parental perspective on relationship with others that are not the same as us. Then the school must made conscious effort to cultivate love and respect for each other, even with differences. 2. Immoral racial and religious spoke-persons in our midst. Even though we extol freedom of speech, such people must be warned openly and not condoned. 3. 20 years or so ago, we were actively promoting “Muhibbah” culture when all races practice respect and relating cordially. Now we have “ketuanan” culture – each claim to be superior than others.

What happened in your report gives hope. But will this be passed on to the next generation? Or even outside of this group?