It’s a day of three festivals

THE ‘Street of Harmony’ in Penang was congested all day with Christians, Buddhists and Hindus making their way to pray at their respective houses of worship along the street. 

Since the 19th century, Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling has been the site of a mosque, Chinese temple, Hindu temple and shrines and a church. 

On Good Friday, the muhibbah stretch of road saw thousands of people thronging St George’s Church, the Kuan Yin Teng or Goddess of Mercy Temple and the Lord Ganesha shrine.  

The Christians were celebrating Good Friday. For the Buddhists, it was Kuan Yin’s birthday and for the Hindus, it was the Sankatahara Chathurthi.

While Muslims gathered at the 206-year-old Kapitan Keling Mosque for their Friday prayers, parishioners attended the service of meditation at the 189-year-old St George’s Church, South-East Asia's oldest Anglican church. 

The pastor Rev Joel Leow said Good Friday was an important date for Christians because it was held in memory of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.  

First visit:Brian,accompanied by Jessica and Irene(left),taking a closer look at the Kuan Yin Teng stone lion.

“Although Good Friday marks the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ, it is a time to rejoice because if he did not die, he could not be resurrected from the dead on Easter Sunday and Christians would not have eternal life,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the Kuan Yin Teng was bursting with devotees bearing flowers, fruits, joss paper and joss sticks offerings.  

Some were seen setting birds free while children were spotted getting their ears pierced. 

Janet Seow, 40, who was doing the piercing, said her father started providing the service about 40 years ago. 

She noted that parents usually got their children’s ears pierced during Kuan Yin’s birthday because they believed the children would be “tia ua, peng aun and gau thak cheh (obedient, blessed and studious)”. 

Irene Chong, 55, who visited the temple with her daughter Jessica and grandson Brian, said the family had been praying at the temple for three generations.  

“We now live in Kuala Lumpur and are back in Penang for Cheng Beng,” she said.  

It was Brian’s first visit to the temple. 

The wide-eyed five-year-old said he asked Kuan Yin for “po pi peng aun (blessings)”. 

“I prayed to never be sick again and for her to help me study hard,” he said.  

Ooi Cheng Yong who took his son Kai Zhe, 2, to pray at the Ganesha shrine next to the temple, said his son was recently admitted to the hospital for pneumonia. 

“We came to pray for his health,” he said.  

Lord Ganesha devotee N. Kalavathy said during the Sankatahara Chathurthi, Hindus pray to Lord Ganesha, the Elephant-head God, to remove all obstacles.  

“On this day, we visit Ganesha temples to perform the abishygem ritual where idols are bathed in seven, nine or 11 different substances including milk, honey, mashed fruits, turmeric, sandal paste, yoghurt, flour, coconut water, sugarcane water, holy ash and paneer (scented water).  

“The devotees will then garland the idols with flowers and pray for success,” she said.  

About 10 minutes away from Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, Catholics attended the Vene-ration of the Cross ceremony at the Our Lady of Sorrows church in Macalister Road, each taking a turn to kiss the cross during the 4.30pm mass. 

Parish priest Rev Father Michael Thoo said Catholics observed Good Friday to commemorate the passion and death of Jesus Christ. 

“During this significant time, we pray that religious freedom is respected and everyone is allowed to practice their faith,” he said.  

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