Catholic commitment starts first of all with unity with other Christian confessions. For Visitation church pastor, "The power of dialogue advocated by Christians lies in the friendships created between people of different religions, both in everyday life and in the workplace.” In recent years, building a church, buying land or raising a cross has become more difficult in Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – The Church’s contribution to interfaith dialogue in Malaysia is fundamental and Catholics are at the forefront of building bridges with other communities, this according to Fr George Harrison (picture 2), parish priest at the Church of the Visitation in Seremban and assistant at the Archdiocesan Ministry of Ecumenical & Inter-Religious Affairs (AMEIA) in Kuala Lumpur.
“In the dioceses and parishes, we devote a lot of efforts to ecumenical dialogue and exchange with other religions,” said the clergyman speaking to AsiaNews. “Each parish can count on a ministry that deals with these important issues.”
Malaysian Catholics are committed first of all to unity with other Christian confessions. In fact, "Nowadays,” Fr Harrison noted, “the various Christian communities usually organise events or ecumenical prayer sessions.”
This means “that the faithful can also develop a sense of belonging to the nation and can contribute greatly to the country's progress.” The goal is “to instill in the hearts of people a love for others and Malaysia. This way we promote peace and harmony.”
In Malaysia, Christians can count on well-structured and representative organisations, such as the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM). The latter includes the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malaysia (CBCM), the Council of Churches (CCM) and the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF).
"The CFM is the sponsor of many inter-faith events, such as the prayer meeting organised for National Day (16 September) or meetings held on the occasion of Christmas holidays. Plus, forums, conferences and debates to which all are invited.”
"The power of dialogue advocated by Christians lies in the friendships created between people of different religions, both in everyday life and in the workplace. Our goal is to build bridges and Catholics are at the forefront.”
However, "building bridges is not always easy, especially with our Muslim brothers," says Fr Harrison. Likewise, "Sometimes some Christian groups don't get involved enough in dialogue activities. Still, I believe that slowly everyone is doing their part.”
“Another difficulty we encounter is the narrow-mindedness of certain Muslims. Some refuse to set foot in churches or even pray with people of different faiths. They feel superior.”
Like Indonesia, another Muslim majority country in Southeast Asia, Malaysia has been recently affected by more conservative Islamic movements.
"In recent years, small groups have appeared promoting ideologies and teachings that we did not hear about before. Building a church, buying land, or erecting a cross was not a problem once. Now it can create tensions.”
"Even the use of the word ‘Allah’ by Christians was never an issue in the past. But now it is, like interfaith prayer meetings.”
"According to some press reports, Islamic authorities in some [Malaysian] states want to ban Muslims from taking part [in such interfaith activities]. All this is something new for our country.”
"We are sorry for this. For now, nothing official has transpired. I am sure Malaysians will be able to express their opposition to such measures."