Swept up in Yuletide spirit

Joseph (in black T-shirt) and Indonesian girls from Gereja Keluarga Tabgha singing and dancing during the state Christmas Open House 2018 at St Anne’s Church in Bukit Mertajam. — Photos: MUSTAFA AHMAD/The Star

DARK clouds threatened to spoil the Penang state Christmas Open House 2018 at St Anne’s Church in Bukit Mertajam.

However, the organisers were well-prepared for the rainy weather and put up a canopy that could fit the hundreds who showed up for the annual celebration held on the Penang mainland this year.

Unperturbed by the rain, guests revelled in the festivities, watching the exciting stage performances and tucking into the delicious spread of briyani rice, curry and other delicacies.

Keeping the festive spirit alive at the event themed ‘Jesus, God’s Gift to the World’ was singer Joseph Pragasam and band members from the Church of the Risen Christ, Ayer Itam.

They kicked off the show with several upbeat songs including two African Swahili numbers called ‘Yesu Azali Awa’ and ‘Hakuna Mungu Kamawei’.

After the opening prayer by Penang Catholic Diocesan Curia vicar general Monsignor Henry Rajoo, little girls dressed as angels and several youths from St Anne’s Church performed two dances.

This was followed by a cultural dance fusion to the catchy Tamil praise song ‘Boomiyin Rajave’ and ‘Jingle Bells’ in Mandarin by Indian youths from Gereja Rivers of Water, Bukit Mertajam.

Orang asli youths from Tasik Temenggor, Perak, performing a dance.
Orang asli youths from Tasik Temenggor, Perak, performing a dance.

Members of St Anne’s Church later performed a thought-provoking skit in Mandarin, relating how people easily got caught up with the commercial aspect of Christmas and forget about Jesus Christ’s birth.

Next, 40 orang asli youths between 10 and 20 years old from DOA Service Centre in Tasik Temenggor, Perak, mesmerised the crowd with their lively dance songs in English, Malay and a few tribal languages.

Soon, a group of 40 Indonesian girls dressed in colourful batik outfits filled the stage and area below as they harmonised well in an a capella Indonesian song and fast English number.

The girls, who are from Gereja Keluarga Tabgha, later returned on stage to dance to more upbeat songs belted out by Pragasam. They got the crowd on their feet to dance and sing along.

Joining in the dance were Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, exco member Chong Eng, Penang Catholic Bishop Rev Datuk Sebastian Francis, Anglican Church Diocese of West Malaysia Suffragan Bishop Rev Datuk Charles Samuel and many other VIPs.

Youths from R.O.C.K. Church Penang in Ayer Itam also performed a superb dance.

Other churches that gave performances were Bethel Charismatic Centre Bukit Mertajam and Emmanuel Assembly of Christ Simpang Ampat.

Guests enjoying the food at the state open house.
Guests enjoying the food at the state open house.

Italian visitor Glauco Venuti, who oversees the South-East Asian branch of the Focolare Movement for men based in Bangkok, said this was his first time attending the state Christmas open house.

“It is a beautiful show of unity in diversity, with each ethnic group displaying their uniqueness,” he said.

Bernie Patrick from Penang said she never missed the annual Christmas open house.

“We need such events to further promote the spirit of peace in the country,” she said.

Chow said in his speech that many people failed to realise the importance of having peace in their lives.

“Once we have peace in our hearts, we can have peace with ourselves and with God. Then, we can live in peace with all the people around us,” he said.

Chong Eng said the state government gave an allocation of RM110,000 for the event which was organised by the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) Penang chapter.

Also present were state exco members Dr Afif Bahardin and Phee Boon Poh, Berapit assemblyman Heng Lee Lee, CFM Penang Liaison Committee chairman- cum-event organising head A. Arokiadass as well as pastors and leaders of churches in the state.

CFM also gave out donations of RM3,000 each to six charitable organisations — Pertubuhan Kebajikan Pulau Pinang, Pusat Jagaan Sinar Ceria Bukit Mertajam, Pertubuhan Rumah Kebajikan Seri Cahaya Pulau Pinang, Yee Ran Jing Sheh Handicapped Children’s Home, LifeBridge Learning Centre Perai and The Salvation Army Penang Children’s Home.

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