Panelists made up of NGO representatives shared their thoughts on freedom of religions in Malaysia during a forum titled "Freedom of Religions in Malaysia: We Live in Peace and Harmony" jointly organised by the Islamic Renaissance Front, Pusat Komas and Community Action Network Monday night.
In light of the recent ruling by the Penang government that non-Muslims in the state cannot use 40 "Islamic words", including "Allah", Council of Churches Malaysia secretary-general Reverend Hermen Shastri said that one religion cannot claim exclusive rights to words that aren't exclusive to Islam.
"No other country, where bibles are written in other languages, faces this problem," he said.
"We have to work for peace and harmony and the dignity of all human beings, not just for our own community.
"It has to be an interfaith movement. It has to represent all people in Malaysia," he added.
Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, chairman of the Islamic Renaissance Front, believes that Malaysians are being "terrorised" into silence.
"There are mobs trying to break up peaceful conferences. There are bibles being torched. But nobody is saying anything.
"I am very upset and sad with the current situation. Our friends decided to remain silent and not say anything," he said.
Dr Ahmad Farouk believes that if Malaysians want to achieve harmony, there must be political will from both divides.
"We are either brothers in faith, or equals in humanity. We have to stand together against any form of injustice, whether it be injustice to the Muslims or non-Muslims," said Dr Ahmad Farouk.
Thasleem Mohamed Ibrahim, chairperson for Jihad for Justice, echoes the sentiment of national unity and harmony, saying that the country should follow in the footsteps of Pakistan.
"Although Pakistan's population is 90% Muslim, they recently celebrated 150 years of the Bible Society,” said Thasleem.
Thasleem also said that the issue should not be handled with anger and violence.
"I had the opportunity to meet the Dalai Lama, and I parted with this bit of wisdom: Love and respect all.
"A lot of people are being terrorised here in Malaysia, and we can only take it away by a show of love."
Reverend Father Clarence Devadass, chairman of Archdiocese Pastoral Institute, fondly recalls growing up and playing with his neighbours of different religions.
"Where have all these happy times gone? Where is the respect and harmony. We should learn to respect one another and live together peacefully despite religious differences," he said.
"There is a great mistrust and suspicion among politicians. Christians are painted to be evil with a great master plan to try and convert people. But I haven't seen this plan.
"The road to respect and harmony must begin with mutual trust. People like you and I must begin to build friendships with one another. We are all Malaysians and we are all one."
He said the goal of national unity and harmony is one that is shared by several Malaysians.
"The late Yasmin Ahmad advertisements and movies portray this aspiration of all Malaysians.
"Just go to the stadium or warong and watch a live badminton match, you'll truly see 1Malaysia.
"So let's leave aside the politics and learn how to make friends with one another. We may take a long time to achieve this unity, but we have to start somewhere. If not we, who? If not now, when?
"The solution to our religious division will not be found through our politicians. We are the solution," he said.
"We can't rely on institutions. We have to be the voice. You and I can make the change. If we can live together, love each other, move on with one another, we can be the change."
PETALING JAYA: Representatives of several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) hope to see Malaysians live in peace and harmony despite religious differences.