CLOSE to 1,000 people of a multitude of races and religions celebrated National Day by walking side by side around the scenic lakeside at Kepong Metropolitan Park.
The vibrant festival of unity saw six interfaith leaders stand together in solidarity for the third Merdeka Walkathon.
As the voices of participants rang out in unison to Negaraku while the flag was hoisted, a sense of camaraderie swept over the communities who came together from Batu Caves, Selayang and Kepong for the 3.5km walk.
The event organised on the auspicious day by interfaith religious groups had the main purpose of building up harmony among communities regardless of their beliefs, said Buddhist Maha Vihara Temple Brickfields Rev Ven Hemaloka.
“An example at the simplest level is when you go to the jungle you can find different types of trees, birds and animals; it is the same in society and what makes it beautiful are the differences that live together in harmony and unity, which is the spirit and core values we should practise.
“As head of the Hindu temple, we found that our generation now has a fairly good relationship among religions but my fear and hope for future generations is that they must strive to create closer ties and be better than us,” said Thirumurugan Aalayam Hindu temple chairman M. Kumara Pillai.
Kepong’s Taoist temple Tokong Ban Sin chairman Chong Tiam expressed hope that more people would begin attending activities such as the walkathon that united all races.
“I feel relationships are made stronger through sports and sporting events as people come together for one goal or target, which also gives them a chance to communicate and understand each other better.
Selayang Baru Gurdwara Sahib president Gurmit Singh said that in his experience, the talk about religion had been positive. He said he had been doing his part by organising family days for all.
“There was no talk of religion 50 years ago, we would visit each other’s houses and eat meals together but that love for each other is not as strong as it used to be,” said Gurmit Singh.
“It’s our little effort for Kepong and its surrounding neighbourhoods to improve relationships and build friendships through a dialogue with other religions, because we have to start somewhere,” said Fr S. Stanis-laus of Catholic Chapel of Christ the Light.
Meanwhile, the message from Desa Jaya’s Al Faizin mosque deputy administrator Bakri Dahlan is, “Respect each other and be open-minded.”
“We are blessed in this country and although there was a lot of understanding before, there are numerous sensitive issues now, so this kind of event gives us a chance to get to know each other better,” said Bakri, citing open houses as another gathering point for people of various beliefs.
For Merdeka Walkathon committee organising chairman Albert Anthony, the event goes beyond politics.
“The interfaith group was formed 10 years ago to encourage creation of a closer relationship between different faiths, and it is our small way to contribute,” he said of the group of religious leaders coming together with members of the community in memorial of tragedies and during celebrations.
“We are planning to bring people of different religions to the temples, churches and mosques to learn more about each others’ religions and beliefs,” he added.